When employers play favorites among employees or look the other way on some questionable behaviors, they are doing more harm than they realize in an already ethically challenged society. They are setting a tone of unethical leadership within an organization.
With most of the attention these days focused on high-level accounting frauds, a recent survey shows that most employees find hypocrisy and favoritism to be the most egregious of workplace ethical breaches. The survey of 1,200 workers was conducted by The Business Roundtable, a group of influential CEOs from companies including General Motors and Proctor & Gamble.
The group has undertaken an effort to work ethics into work—to get business people thinking more about ethical decisions and integrity.
"The newsworthiness of the few who are dishonest puts out of proportion what's going on for the average employee," Ilene Gochman, head of the employee survey practice at Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a blue-chip human resources consulting firm that conducted the research, told Newsday.
The survey found that most employees notice when bosses play favorites or fail to notice people leaving early or coming in late. They notice when the best assignments go to the favored few. They notice when politics are at work in decisions or when a tightly knit group within an office keeps information from others.
"It's a sense that different standards are being applied," Gochman told Newsday.
The survey also found that one-third would leave their companies if a better offer came along. About 1 in 10 said they often or almost always feel pressured to breach their own code of right and wrong; just over 60 percent said they see hypocrisy at work; and 60 percent, favoritism. Just 8 percent said they witness dishonest financial dealings; 2 percent see insider trading/SEC violations, Newsday reported.