Fun Friday: Co-workers caught 'behaving badly'

Professionals admit they're willing to lie, backstab and cheat their way to the top

Fun Friday: Co-workers caught 'behaving badly'

How far would the average person go to get ahead in their career? Very far – according to a new study.

While many of the 1,000 professionals surveyed agreed that some tactics are simply too dirty and unacceptable at work, many admitted their guilt for committing several unethical behaviours.

The study revealed the most common bad behaviour at work, with straight out lying taking up many of the top spots on the list.

Here are the top 10 dirty tactics:

  1. Hiding an issue (66%)
  2. Sucking up to the boss (65%)
  3. Lying to a supervisor (59%)
  4. Lying about abilities (53%)
  5. Snitching on a co-worker (48%)
  6. Lying about an issue (47%)
  7. Taking unearned credit (46%)
  8. Unfairly passing blame (44%)
  9. Lying about a co-worker (41%)
  10. Manipulating a co-worker (41%)

Other dodgy business that made the list include lying to a client, snooping on and pressuring a co-worker, and being intimate with a manager.

Interestingly, Zety’s survey found that 54% of managers and 58% of senior leaders admitted to engaging in at least one unethical behaviour.

And an overwhelming 87% of respondents said they’ve caught at least one co-worker ‘red-handed’. When broken down, only one in five have witnessed poor conduct by a C-suite, versus managers, who have been caught more than half the time (57%).

“Unfortunately, experts suggest that senior-level dishonesty can have a trickle-down effect, creating challenges across a whole company,” said Zety.

READ MORE: How to handle a toxic boss

This also implied that without any admission of guilt, many get away with bad behaviour at work. This was found in the survey itself – only 27% of professionals admitted engaging in unethical tactics. However, when asked about specific unethical behaviour, over 53% admitted to engaging in at least one.

What’s more, the findings indicate that we may be better at monitoring others than assessing ourselves at work.

Those just represent everyday occurrences at the office. Things take an even darker turn when professionals are promised a big reward, such as a big promotion or a six-figure salary:

  • 47% would suck up to their boss
  • 38% would hide an issue/mistake
  • 31% would snitch on a co-worker
  • 23% are willing to be intimate with a manager

“Perhaps predictably, those who had engaged in certain work behaviours were far less likely to regard them as unethical: Of those who sucked up to their boss, just 18% found doing so ethically problematic,” wrote Zety.

“Whatever their ethical objections, however, a fair number of respondents said they’d betray their principles for a big reward.”

READ MORE: Company culture causes stress, employers claim

Thankfully, a significant majority (58%) believed unethical work behaviour was likely to do more harm than good to one’s career over the long term.

On the other hand, plenty of respondents felt their past ethical indiscretions had paid off. Furthermore, people who had committed three or more unethical behaviours made over US$5,000 more per year than those who had committed none.

If these behaviours go unchecked for too long and become the norm, the organisation runs the risk of becoming toxic. One industry expert told HRD it’s up to leadership to avert a culture crisis.

“It’s the responsibility of the leadership team and HR to create the culture playbook and align people to it,” said Ashok Miranda, author and founder at Transform and Transcend.

“When I speak to companies and ask about how they would have done things differently, most would say they would have dealt with culture at the start and set a culture code when they were employee number 20, instead of when the company is at a headcount of 60 or 100. It’s much easier to fix it earlier than later.”

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