Key Findings: NBES of the U.S Workforce

Pattern of Ongoing Misconduct
The survey shows that a significant amount of misconduct involves continuous, ongoing behavior rather than one-time incidents: Employees say that more than a quarter (26 percent) of observed misconduct represents an ongoing pattern of behavior. Another 41 percent said the behavior has been repeated at least a second time. Only one-third (33 percent) of rule breaking represents a one-time incident.

Most Misconduct Committed by Managers
Managers – those expected to act as role models or enforce discipline – are responsible for a large share of workplace misconduct (60 percent) and senior managers are more likely than lower-level managers to break rules. Surveyed employees said that members of management are responsible for six of every ten instances of misconduct and they pointed the finger at senior managers in 24 percent of observed rule breaking. Middle managers were identified as the culprit 19 percent of the time and first-line supervisors were identified as bad actors 17 percent of the time.

Retaliation

Reporting and Retaliation
More than one in five workers (21 percent) who reported misconduct said they suffered from retribution as a result, nearly identical to the 22 percent retaliation rate in NBES 2011. Retaliation has not always been so widespread: The rate was only 12 percent in 2007, the first time it was measured in NBES. Asked why they kept quiet about misconduct, more than one-third (34 percent) of those who declined to report said they feared payback from senior leadership. Thirty percent worried about retaliation from a supervisor, and 24 percent said their co-workers might react against them.

Furthermore, among those who did choose to report, those who experienced retaliation were less likely than those who did not experience retaliation to say they would report misconduct the next time they see it: 86 percent compared to 95 percent who say they would report.

Additional results of the 2013 NBES:

  • The percentage of companies with “strong” or “strong-leaning” ethics cultures climbed to 66 percent in 2013, compared to 60 percent in the previous survey;
  • The percentage of companies providing ethics training rose from 74 percent to 81 percent between 2011 and 2013;
  • Two-thirds of companies (67 percent) included ethical conduct as a performance measure in employee evaluations, up from 60 percent in 2011;
  • Almost three out of four companies (74 percent) communicated internally about disciplinary actions when wrongdoing occurs.
  • Extremely serious forms of misconduct such as falsifying company financial data and public reports or bribing public officials were observed less frequently in 2013: Three percent of employees said they were aware of misleading information on financial reports and two percent stated that they observed somebody in their company who had offered bribes to public officials.

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