Here is a little something in slightly expanded form from the latest Weekly Ethics Thought. I want to make it clear that I have not yet personally seen the report on which these comments are based and so I am relying on several usually credible sources who have provided essentially similar readings of this study. Should I discover any inaccuracies in my understanding of these data, though, I will be sure to print a correction here.
In Walker Information’s latest study of ethics in the workplace, they surveyed approximately 2500 employees from public and private sector organizations having at least fifty employees. Though their findings were heralded in some circles as showing tremendous progress in workplace ethics, it seems to me that their findings are actually quite alarming.
In their sample, apparently 64% of employees reported positive feelings about the ethics of their organization and 58% believed that their leaders were ethical. 25% of their sample knew or suspected unethical practices in the prior two years but only 54% of that group reported the ethics lapses they observed or suspected. This was apparently a 14% improvement in the rate of reporting from two years earlier although I have not seen the prior study either and cannot speak to any similarities or differences in their sampling or statistical techniques.
Perhaps this makes me a ‘glass half empty’ type, but I read these data as saying that 36% of their sample did not have positive feelings about the ethics in their workplace and a whopping 42% did not believe that their leaders are ethical. Add to this that an entire quarter of their sample were aware of ethical problems or suspected problems in the prior two years and suddenly this looks like the reaffirmation of a disastrous climate for ethics in today’s workplace.
Have you surveyed your department, division, or company for their perceptions of the ethics climate in your organization? Doing so can be a bit tricky given the nature of the data for which you will be asking. Interviews are especially helpful in gathering this type of data but many employees are likely to be hesitant to be fully candid unless an annonymous data gathering scheme is developed.
Regardless of the depth of data you are able to gather, though, you may well be surprised by what you find. Whatever the nature or depth of your findings, the information you obtain will be extremely helpful in determining what you need to do to continue to build a culture of ethics in your company or association. Consequently, no matter how tricky it may be to develop an effective study, it is likely to be a process well worth initiating.