Good Behavior: Workplace Misconduct at Record Low
Employees are behaving better at work. / Credit: Sneaky worker image via Shutterstock

Employees are doing a much better job of staying out of trouble, a new study finds.

Research from the Ethics Resource Center (ERC), revealed that workplace misconduct has reached an historic low, having steadily and significantly declined since 2007. Specifically, 41 percent of employees have observed misconduct on the job, down from 55 percent in 2007.

Additionally, fewer employees felt pressure to compromise their standards, down to 9 percent from 13 percent in 2011.

"Companies are working harder to build strong cultures and implement increasingly sophisticated ethics and compliance programs," said Michael Oxley, ERC's chairman of the board. "The results of the survey are encouraging and show that companies are doing a better job of holding workers accountable, imposing discipline for misconduct, and letting it be known publicly that bad behavior will be punished."

The continued decline in wrongdoing defied a rise in two factors that often accompany observed misconduct: retaliation and pressure to violate rules, which both increased two years ago and seemed to foreshadow an uptick in bad behavior.

"It seems likely that the severity of the recession and the relatively soft recovery have taken a toll on workers' confidence and [have] tempered risk-taking on the job," said ERC President Patricia Harned. "A key question for the future is what happens to misconduct rates when economic growth becomes more robust and widespread."

The study found that managers are responsible for a large share of workplace misconduct, 60 percent, and senior managers are more likely than lower-level managers to break rules.

Those who do observe misconduct said they are hesitant to report the offense because of a fear of retaliation. More than one-third of those surveyed said they declined to tell managers about the misconduct because they feared payback from senior leadership.

The research shows retaliation is not a baseless fear. More than one in five workers who reported misconduct said they suffered from retribution as a result.

The biennial study was based on surveys of 6,400 American employees ages 18 and older who work more than 20 hours a week in companies with at least two employees.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.