Employees are twice as likely to experience pressure if they are top-management than compared to line-level employees, according to the Ethics & Compliance Initiative’s ™ (ECI) latest Global Business Ethics Survey Report ™ (GBES).
The data suggest that the higher up the “totem pole” an employee is, the more likely they are to experience pressure to bend the rules.
Overall, about 1 in 5 employees experience pressure to bend the rules.
Pressure to bend the rules, as defined by the GBES report, can be caused by meeting performance goals, attempting to save one's own and others' jobs, supervisory pressure, advancing one's career or financial interests, and demands from people who support or invest in the organization.
According to the data, of those that experience pressure, 30% are top management employees, 25% are middle management, 22% are first-line supervisors and 17% are individual contributors.
The first 2020 report of ECI’s premier, longitudinal study on global workplace behavior, published four times per year, also found that when top management show a strong commitment to ethical leadership and organizational values, their employees are 3X less likely to experience pressure.
“The data continue to suggest that high-pressure environments are not only stressful for employees, but they can actually cause a negative ROI when it comes to ethical behavior,” said Patricia Harned, CEO of ECI. “Expanding KPIs and stretching financial goals may result in a short-term gain, but the long-term consequences to the organization is a net negative.”
Other Findings and Key Indicators of Pressure
The report found that employees experiencing pressure was linked with the prevalence of observing various types of misconduct found in organizations across the globe, all of which were about twice as likely to occur in pressure environments versus non-pressure environments.
Employees are twice as likely to observe misconduct in organizations where they feel pressure to compromise ethics standards.
“As companies around the globe respond to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the important research in ECI’s Global Business Ethics Survey (GBES) report presents a timely and accurate overview of pressure in the workplace,” said Michele M. Brown, SVP, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer and Deputy General Counsel, Leidos.
“These findings provide best practices to balance organizational change while upholding the highest ethical standards. Leidos is proud to support ECI research, which is helping the member community build and maintain strong ethical cultures.”
Download the latest GBES report at ethics.org/gbes
The 2019 GBES is the 15th iteration of the GBES (formerly the National Business Ethics Survey). In 2019, the GBES surveyed over 18,000 employees in 18 countries (approximately 1,000 employees per country).
ECI established the survey questions and sampling methodology.