New Insights on the State of Misconduct

For years the Global Business Ethics Survey (GBES) has provided a wealth of fascinating information. Survey participants are asked to provide insight into the strength of the ethics culture in their workplace, the instances of misconduct they have observed, and what, if any, efforts are underway in their organizations to promote integrity. The most recent report came out recently, and it is chock-full of interesting information.

The GBES includes data from 14,000 employees of a cross-sector of industries surveyed between August 2019 and September 2020. The data is fascinating, as it shows the movement from a stable business environment to one upended by the global pandemic.

The insights from a year like no other give precious information on how employees managed last year, and more importantly, how we can support them going forward.

The Highest Pressure in 20 Years

The highlights:

  • Employee pressure reached the highest level since 2000. U.S. respondents indicated a sharp increase in employee pressure which indicates employees are experiencing more pressure to violate their organization’s ethics standards than in previous years. This is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic which caused significant organizational changes.

  • Observed misconduct surges when employees are under pressure. Consistent with the findings of previous reports, the correlation between the increase in employee pressure and observed misconduct continues to surge upward.

  • Employee perceptions of retaliation after reporting misconduct escalated to a record high. In the U.S., rates of retaliation have more than tripled since 2013 and globally, they have almost doubled since 2019.

Tripled? Employee’s perception of rates of retaliation has tripled in the US since 2013? That’s terrible, but the good news is that we can help to fix that.

The Interview

I sat down with Dr. Pat Harned, CEO of the Ethics & Compliance Initiative, the organization responsible for the GBES report, to get her advice for compliance officers on what to do to reverse the disturbing trends indicated by the data from the GBES.

KGH: For years the data has shown a correlation between the increase in employee pressure and an increase of observed misconduct. 2020 had the highest scores for employee pressure in 20 years. What was driving this pressure?…