U.S. News

Work-life balance boosts workplace ethics: survey

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Employees say workers are more likely to steal petty cash and commit other unethical acts when they are dissatisfied and see their own superiors behaving badly, according to research released on Monday.

A trader talks on the phone in a file photo. The behavior of managers and direct supervisors were said to be the most significant factors in encouraging or discouraging good behavior at work, according to research released on Monday. REUTERS/File

A good work-life balance and high levels of job satisfaction, on the other hand, were thought to promote ethical behavior among employees, said the poll of more than 1,000 U.S. adults who work full-time.

Sixty percent of those surveyed said job dissatisfaction was a leading reason people make unethical decisions at work, second only to lack of personal integrity, according to the “Ethics and Workplace” survey conducted for Deloitte & Touche


Also, 91 percent said workers who enjoy a good work-life balance are more likely to behave ethically, it said.

“To the extent that they are dissatisfied, they also get disengaged. When they get disengaged, perhaps, they just don’t take the time or energy or think fully about making the good decisions,” said Sharon Allen, chairman of the board of directors of Deloitte & Touche USA.

The behaviors of managers and direct supervisors were said to be the most significant factors in encouraging or discouraging good behavior at work, the survey said.

“They reinforce the importance of setting the tone at the top,” Allen said. “What they do matters, and what they do makes a difference, and they are always in some way being observed, and they are being used as role models, whether they know it or not.”

Showing preferential treatment toward certain employees, taking credit for other people’s accomplishments and rewarding employees who behave badly were the most frequently cited examples of managers behaving badly, the survey showed.

Examples of good management were giving proper credit where due, being straightforward and honest and treating employees equally, the survey said.

Criminal penalties and ethics training were thought to do little to deter unethical workplace behavior, the survey showed.

Cited as unethical behavior at work were stealing petty cash, cheating on expense reports, taking credit for someone else’s accomplishment, lying on time sheets, coming to work hung over, telling a demeaning joke and taking office supplies for personal use.

The survey was conducted for the auditing, accounting and financial services company by Harris Interactive online between February 20 and February 22 among 1,041 adults employed full-time. It had a sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points.