UK managers ditch workplace ethics to get ahead

Almost a million business managers are working in a way they say is unethical, research finds.

Nearly a third (29.4 per cent) admit to regularly ditching ethics in the workplace, compared to just 13.3 per cent of staff in more junior positions, according to a study by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

When quizzed, managers are most likely to put behaving unethically down to job progression being more important than behaving morally (cited by 41.2 per cent).

In contrast, non-managers are most likely to say they feel pressured into working in an unethical way (42.6 per cent).

White lies are a constant in UK workplaces with almost one in three workers (30.4 per cent) reporting they tell at least one white lie a day at work, and 10.3 per cent help themselves to company stock for personal purposes.

Managers are more likely than other workers to mislead people at work with 35.4 per cent bending the truth once a day or more, compared to 25.3 per cent of other staff.

Workers are confused about where to turn for guidance, with just 17 per cent saying they’re aware their company has a values statement and they know what is in it.

Some 40.3 per cent of employees believe setting ethical standards at work is the responsibility of every employee, rather than just up to managers or the CEO.

However, managers are more likely than other workers to think it is important to be seen as ethical at work (66.4 per cent compared to 54.0 per cent).

CMI chief executive Ann Francke says, ‘When it comes to integrity, leading by example is key so managers need to re-focus on principles, not personal gain. We’ve seen company after company fall foul of ethical scandals and the costs can be huge – not only financially, but in the damage that’s done to hard-won reputations.

‘It’s time for employers to step up and confront unethical behaviour and commit to developing management cultures where strong ethics are rewarded.’

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Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.