This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

April 17, 2013

Crisis in Ethics and What to Do About It

According to the most recent report card issued by The Josephson Institute of Los Angeles, the United States and by extension other areas of the world are still in ethical trouble, but there's reason to hope. In its latest report on American Youth, the Institute found improving statistics in our schools:

The number of students who said they had cheated on an exam in the past year dropped from 59 percent in 2010 to 51 percent in 2012. The number of students who said they had lied to a teacher in the past year about something significant fell from 61 percent in 2010 to 55 percent in 2012. And in 2012, only 20 percent said they had stolen from a store in the past year versus 27 percent in 2010. Certainly, these percentages are going in the right direction, yet the gross numbers for cheating and lying are still very disturbing. What's obviously needed is a major shift in parenting and school involvement in issues of honesty and character.

Is it any wonder that in our global workplaces, there is the same blatant disregard for the truth and integrity? Recently, a couple of Harvard Business School organizational behavior professors Joshua Margolis and Francesca Gino conducted extensive research on promoting ethical employee behavior in the workplace.

It is not surprising that the implication of their research is that "environment and the way in which task directives are given can have a profound impact on employee behavior. " Moreover, this research also begs the question, are all people are created equally when it comes to ethics, thus making them equally susceptible to wrong-doing, given the right situation? According to the research by Gino and Margolis, this may, in fact, be the case.

According to Gino quoted in HRiQ, "This research points to thinking carefully about organizational policies and . . . behavior at the top because those behaviors and policies can really influence the behaviors of . . . employees at work."

We believe that there will be increasing attention to the costs of non-compliance and, by extension, organizations like NAVEX Global out of San Francisco will support employers in this process. However, what's needed is not a Bandaid¨, but as Gino said, a culture that supports high integrity and attention to good ethical behavior.

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