16 February 2014

The results of the 2013 State Services Integrity Survey are to be published next month. Employees in 40 of the 160 or so agencies in the State services were invited to participate – 15000 responded.  The 2013 survey has a broader focus on workplace behaviours than surveys SSC  conducted in 2007 and 2010. Those previous surveys were closely aligned to the US National Business Ethics Survey which the Ethics Resource Center undertakes biennially.

The results of the 2013 National Business Ethics survey were published last week. A finding is that worker misconduct is being seen less frequently in United States workplaces than for many years. Respondents saw 14% less misconduct in their workplaces in 2013 than they did in 2007  – down to 41% in 2013 compared with 55% in 2007.

Only 9% of employees felt pressure to compromise their standards in 2013, down from 13% in the previous survey in 2011.

The drop in observed misconduct can be attributed to employers doing a better job of applying the “6 trust elements” – and in particular, expecting compliance with integrity standards, taking action where breaches occur, and staff knowing that there will be consequences for misconduct.

According to the survey, the percentage of companies with a “strong” or “strong-leaning” ethics culture increased to 66% in 2013 from 60% in 2011. Organisations now provide more ethics training than in previous years and a greater number include ethical conduct as a measure in performance evaluations.

A concern is that too many managers are not “walking the talk” and don’t model ethical behaviour. “Ethical lapses” were more common at the upper levels of businesses, and senior managers appear to be more likely than lower-level managers to break rules. According to the NBES, in 2013,  60% of misconduct was committed by managers -with senior managers committing 24% of observed misconduct, middle managers were identified 19 % of the time and first-line team leaders identified 17 % of the time.

It would be surprising if this level of misbehaviour were to be reported next month in the State Services integrity survey.