Business Ethics Survey

Sixteen percent of employees who report workplace misconduct utilize an ethics hotline or helpline at some point, according to the recently released 2013 National Business Ethics Survey of the U.S. Workforce. (ERC, 2014)

Overall, observed misconduct is down to a record low of forty-one percent, and pressure to compromise standards down to nine percent. This is all part of the good news in the Ethics Resource Center’s (ERC’s) eighth survey on this topic since 1994.

While acknowledging that the dip in misconduct may reflect a tendency to take fewer risks during a weak economy, the ERC believes that a “continuing and growing commitment to strong ethics and compliance programs is bearing fruit and that ethical performance is becoming a new norm in many workplaces.”

The elements of strong ethics and compliance programs, as highlighted in the survey, include:

  • Written standards of ethical workplace conduct
  • Training on the standards
  • Company resources that provide advice about ethics issues
  • Means to report potential violations confidentially or anonymously [e.g. ethics hotlines]
  • Performance evaluations of ethical conduct
  • Systems to discipline violators
  • Stated set of guiding values or principles

Not all the results are good, however. The survey reveals that managers are responsible for almost two-thirds of workplace misconduct, with a significant percentage of the misconduct attributed to senior managers. In addition, over one-quarter of the misconduct represents ongoing, habitual behavior, with abusive or intimidating behavior and violations of internet policy high on that list. The survey also indicates that over half of observed misconduct is committed by multiple people or is considered a “company-wide” problem. This is particularly true in organizations that have weak ethics cultures. For those organizations with strong ethics cultures, the incidence of company-wide misconduct is rare.

The contributing role of ethics hotlines and other reporting mechanisms to effective ethics and compliance programs and strong ethics cultures continues to be affirmed. Ethical Advocate can help you reinforce your strong ethics culture by providing ethics and compliance training and confidential and anonymous hotlines.


Ethics Resource Center. National Business Ethics Survey of the U.S. Workforce, 2014.