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A ‘speak up’ culture can still be hard to find

Nearly a third of employees in Singapore were aware of misconduct at work during the past year but many of them didn’t report it to management.

Forty percent of the Singapore respondents who were aware of misconduct never raised their concerns with management or through another appropriate mechanism, according to a new survey released by the Institute of Business Ethics.

Of those employees who were aware of misconduct at work and decided not to speak up, the main reason was because they didn’t believe corrective action would be taken (41 percent).

Awareness of misconduct was higher among Singapore employees than Swiss (16 percent) or UK respondents (12 percent), the IBE said.

The most common types of misconduct reported were unethical treatment of people (50 percent) and misreporting hours worked (37 percent).

Those Singapore employees who did speak up, however, were more likely to be satisfied with the result (71 percent) than employees in any other country surveyed.

The Institute of Business Ethics (a London-based NGO founded in 1986) started surveying British employees in 2005. Since then it has also surveyed employees in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland, as well as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

In Singapore it asked employees whether they witnessed misconduct, whether they reported it, and what, if anything, stopped them from doing so.

IBE director Philippa Foster Back said: “The results of the Ethics at Work survey in Singapore show the impact managers have on employee behavior, with a third saying they felt pressured by their bosses to compromise ethical standards.”

“However, it also shows the positive impact of effective speak-up procedures on employees. If organizations demonstrate their commitment to addressing concerns, employees will be more inclined to speak up about misconduct,” she said.

The Singapore survey was conducted by ComRes on behalf of the IBE and the Stewardship Institute. The final report, authored by the IBE’s Guendalina Dondé and Katja Somasundaram, along with Loic Frank of the Stewardship Institute, compares the Singapore results with those from Switzerland and the UK.

The IBE’s “Ethics at Work: 2018 Survey of Employees: Singapore” is available for download at no cost here.

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