Some Good News and Bad News From The Ethics Resource Center’s 2011 National Business Ethics Survey

The Ethics Resource Center recently released the results of their 2011 National Business Ethics Survey. Long term readers of this blog and my Weekly Ethics Thought will know that I am always impressed with their research methods and clarity of reporting. This year's study is no different in that regard.
While, as always, I heartily recommend downloading a copy for closer personal review, here – with a little added editorializing – are the key points from their executive summary in the meantime:
  • Since their prior survey two years ago, the number of employees in their sample who witnessed misconduct at work fell by four percent. That would be great news except that the new number is still a stunning 45 percent.
  • Those reporting misconduct, once seen, rose two percent. Certainly good news but, again, not-really-so-good in that the improved figure is only 63 percent making reports in this sample.
  • Alarmingly, retaliation against employee whistleblowers rose significantly to 22 percent. While the form and intensity of that retaliation can be all over the map from worst-case to relatively benign, that any type of retaliation should be reported in that high a percentage means that organizations need to work far more diligently to train on and rigorously enforce non-retaliation policies.
  • Reports of pressure to compromise standards rose five points to thirteen percent – also a significant cause for alarm, it seems to me.
  • Perhaps of the greatest overall concern, the percentage of companies in their sample with weak ethical cultures climbed back to "near-record" levels – an astounding 42 percent. If that isn't a call to re-double our efforts to build and maintain cultures of organizational ethics, I don't know what is.
So, did ethics improve in the last two years according to this study? A little. Kinda. In some ways. However, sorry to say, from my view the road ahead, overall, remains longer than the road behind.


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