The only way is ethics

The Ethics Research Center (ERC) based in Arlington, Virginia, has just published its latest National Business Ethics Survey® (NBES) - the ‘barometer of workplace ethics'.  (You can download the full report, free of charge, here).The current findings have taken the ERC by surprise - all the metrics have diverged from the patterns of previous years and some interesting mixed messages have emerged.  In particular, the ERC notes that two key influences stand out in the unusual shift in trends highlighted in the report:The economyThe survey's findings show that companies behave differently in economic hard times and that these behavioural changes are perceived by employees as ‘a heightened commitment to ethics'. More than four in 10 employees (42 percent) say their company has increased efforts to raise awareness about ethics.  Employees respond by adopting a higher standard of personal conduct.  While misconduct witnessed by US workers is at an historic low, reporting is at a near high.Active social networkers in the workplaceActive social networkers are defined by the ERC as those who spend 30%+ of the working day engaged in social networking activity.  Key findings suggest members of this group have a distinctly different view of ‘ethics' to those of 'non-active' colleagues.  They are more likely to report negative experiences in the workplace, and are more likely to experience pressure to compromise ethical standards.  At the same time, they are more tolerant of what others may consider ‘questionable' activities.  For example, 42% of them stated it was acceptable to blog or tweet negatively about their employers, compared to just 6% of non-active social networkers.  46% felt it was acceptable to take company software home to use on a home computer (compared to just 7% of ‘others').Employers beware!The report, which is sponsored by large businesses including BP and Walmart, suggests that employers may need to find new ways to work with new types of employees - those who may ignore social media policy but who are equally willing to whistleblow when they are unhappy with the organisation's own ethical behaviour.  As 'work' and 'life' merge, it seems that some employees at least are setting their own ethical frameworks in the workplace - organisations ignore this group at their peril.