An alarming number of people are feeling driven by pressures in the workplace to act unethically or even illegally on the job. A recent study, Sources and Consequences of Workplace Pressure, conducted by the American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters & Chartered Financial Consultants and the Ethics Officers Association, an organization of ethics officers from major corporations, found that 56 percent of the workers surveyed feel some pressure to act unethically or illegally in their jobs, and 48 percent reported they had engaged in one or more unethical or illegal actions during the past year.
That doesn't mean your work force is essentially dishonest, says Edward H. Miller III, the society's president and president of Miller & Associates Inc., an insurance firm in Indianapolis. He offers the following advice:
- Establish clear standards for ethical behavior and lead by example. It doesn't make sense to tell employees not to steal from the company if you're taking home office supplies.
- Make the consequences known. Be sure employees know what will happen if they perform an unethical or illegal action, and be consistent about enforcement.
- Offer resources for employees with problems. Let employees know they can come to you with an ethical dilemma without fear of reprisal, and find out what outside support there is in your community to help your employees deal with stress and pressure.
Miller believes in second chances, compassionate management, and helping people who have made mistakes move forward. Even so, he says, "There is a point where the ultimate responsibility lies with the individuals."
American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters & Chartered Financial Consultants, 270 Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19019, (610) 526-1000