Employees Care About Corporate Ethics

According to MSNBC: Corporate ethics growing concern for workers

Unethical corporate managers contribute to lower worker productivity, drive away recruits and make some employees leave, a new survey says.

Ethics is a growing concern among American workers, according to the employee survey being formally released Thursday by LRN Corp., a Los Angeles based-company that works with corporations on ethics issues.

Among the study’s findings:

  • A company’s ethics affects its ability to attract, retain and engage employees.
  • Employees would trade additional pay to work for a company with ethical business practices.
  • A large number of employees have left a job over ethical issues.
  • American workers generally give their employers positive ratings for ethical conduct, yet one-in-four have witnessed unethical behavior.
  • The vast majority of employees who experience unethical behavior on the job are affected by it.
  • A large number of employees receive unethical e-mail at work.

A couple of thoughts:
1) This is one more data-point in favour of the still-controversial “ethics pays” thesis. Employee turnover (and more generally, lack of employee loyalty) is expensive. If poor corporate ethics tends to make employees less loyal, then poor corporate ethics can be expensive. As LRN puts it, “there are real financial benefits for employers to embrace ethics in the workplace.”
2) The survey seems to have left the definition of “unethical” up to respondants. So, one wonders how many of the reported “unethical” behaviours were actually simply behaviours that negatively affected the respondant (e.g., the “unethical” action of passing me over for a promotion). Similarly, one wonders how many of the respondants who say they changed jobs because they thought their employer treated them unethically, as opposed to thinking that their employer unethical in general. As someone who teaches classes on ethics, I’d be worried about asking people about unethical behaviour, without first establishing what they understood the word “unethical” to mean.
3) Here’s a good thought-experiment (and maybe a classroom exercise). How would various kinds of employees at Enron answered this survey?

You can see more details about the study if you register (for free) at LRN’s website.

For a good, balanced overview of the data for and against the “ethics pays” thesis,Value Shift by Lynn Sharp Paine.

(Thanks to blog.bioethics.net)

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