THE BLOG

Employees Behaving Badly

20/11/2014 10:59 GMT | Updated 19/01/2015 10:59 GMT

The corruption of the world's biggest currency dealers was exposed recently, leading to US and UK regulators imposing £2.6bn of fines on six major banks. Although an extreme example, what we have here is a prime illustration of how bad behaviour in the workplace can have incredibly serious consequences for the organisations involved.

ILM did a recent research report on trust and integrity in the workplace. The research showed that unethical behaviours are common place, some more serious than others, but present all the same. Whether one is a journalist, doctor or banker, not a day goes by without a workplace scandal hitting the headlines, and any bad behaviour has the potential to cause issues for an organisation if left undealt with.

While a one-off 'sickie' or a little white lie can seem like a minor issue, regular occurrences can build a culture of mistrust and can have much larger repercussions along the way. It's the job of the manager to tackle these workplace misdemeanours head on and also see that numerous sick days in a colleague may mean they are very stressed about their workload and being pushed too hard; is the answer a sit down conversation to see how they can be supported more or their work load distributed more evenly?

The recent ILM survey of over 1,600 managers found that unethical behaviours are in fact quite widespread within the workplace, with misdemeanours ranging from lying and badmouthing colleagues, to pulling sickies and delivering substandard work.

The 10 most prolific workplace bad behaviours as identified by managers were:

1) Taking shortcuts / shoddy work: 72%

2) Lying to hide mistakes: 72%

3) Badmouthing colleagues: 68%

4) Passing the buck (when you don't get your work done): 67%

5) Slacking off when no one is watching: 64%

6) Lying to hide your colleagues' mistakes: 63%

7) Taking credit for other colleagues' work: 57%

8) Pulling a sickie: 56%

9) Lying about skills and experience: 54%

10) Taking low value items: 52%

While individual occurrences can be seen as minor, if this kind of behaviour remains left unchecked it has the potential to cause problems across the whole organisation. Dishonesty, in particular, is a key issue. Almost three quarters of managers have witnessed employees lying to cover mistakes, while more than half claim their workers have lied about their skills and experience. If managers cannot trust their employees to do their work well and to be honest about any difficulties they may encounter, this can cause serious problems for both the immediate team and the entire workforce, as lack of trust can spread throughout the business.

Our report highlighted that organisations with the highest trust were the most likely to be open and honest about bad behaviours. It is therefore crucial for managers to build an open, transparent environment so that workers feel able to tell them about any issues that have arisen.

In order to develop this kind of workplace, organisations need to clearly identify their ethical values. Our report found that respondents working in organisations with a clear values statement in place were up to 11% less likely to see bad behaviours in their workplace. Example of what is and is not acceptable behaviour can really help overcome issues. It is also important for managers to adopt the principles of their organisation and lead by example, demonstrating the importance of ethical, open and communicative working and encouraging others to mirror this behaviour.

While it can be hard to view small incidents as significant, they need to be seen as part of the whole working culture of the organisation - the bigger picture. If the recent story of market rigging has taught us anything, it is the importance of nipping any kind of bad behaviour in the bud as soon as possible. By building an open and positive workplace, managers can resolve behavioural issues effectively, and go on to reap the endless benefits of honesty and heightened trust within the organisation.