The Institute of Business Ethics has expanded its Ethics at Work survey to cover Australia and New Zealand (in addition to Europe), and surveyed over 2,000 employees to provide insight into employees’ views on ethics across all sectors and job roles.
The survey shows employees are aware of ethical issues and are sensitive to ethical dilemmas in their workplace. But one in ten say they felt pressured to compromise ethical standards and a quarter of employees have been aware of misconduct during the past year at work.
We are seeing this pressure across all countries surveyed by the IBE, pressures of resource, like lack of time, following the boss’s orders or peer pressure to be a team player.
As employees face increasing pressure, what are their organizations doing to support them?
In Australia, New Zealand and the UK, over a third of employees are aware of their organization offering all of the building blocks of a corporate ethics program — a code of ethics, a reporting line, and advice line, and ethics training.
However, 11 percent think that their organization offers none of these building blocks.
One key component of an open and supportive ethical business culture is the freedom to raise concerns. While 61 percent in Australia and 56 percent in New Zealand are aware of a confidential means to report misconduct, of the 25 percent who have been aware of misconduct in their workplace, over a third did not speak up or raise their concerns.
Their reasons ranged from fearing it might jeopardize their job (32 percent), to not believing corrective action would be taken (30 percent), or that they might be alienated from colleagues (25 percent).
It’s clear, that, although employees are aware of the mechanisms available to them, much still needs to be done to ensure they feel safe in actually using them.
IBE’s Ethics at Work survey shows is not so much the differences between employees’ perceptions in different countries, but how much they have in common. Employees want to do the right thing, it is up to all organizations to support them so they can.
The IBE’s Ethics at Work 2018 survey of employees in Australia, New Zealand and UK is available as a free download here.
Philippa Foster Back CBE is the Director of the Institute of Business Ethics. She sits on the board of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) and on the advisory board of RAND Europe. She’s a Visiting Fellow of the Said Business School at Oxford University. London-based IBE is a registered charity that promotes high standards of business practice based on ethical values.