According to an online report in HR magazine, the Institute of Business Ethics has found that 84% of British staff always – or ‘frequently’ – try to display ethical behaviour in the workplace, compared with only 80% in 2005. Only 11% claim they compromise their organisation’s ethical standards. This is down from 2005’s figure of 19%. More than half of the organisations surveyed (55%) offer staff training in ethics – up from 50% three years ago – and two thirds of businesses now have a written code of ethical practice. In addition, more than nine out of ten staff (93%) think it is unacceptable to ‘fiddle’ their expenses; 55% would not contemplate stealing pens and pencils from work, and 48% think it is wrong to make personal calls from their office phones. Public-sector workers were found to be more honest than their private-sector counterparts (89% compared with 81%).


Comment: A number of questions about this research spring to mind.


For one thing, did the researchers ask the same people as they asked in 2005? If so, maybe these people now knew what answers were expected of them. If not, maybe the researchers just found, randomly, a ‘more honest’ group of workers to survey. In any case, circumstances have changed since those happy days of 2005 – when England actually won the Ashes and we partied through an idyllic summer.


Maybe people are more worried about keeping their jobs in today’s economic climate – and so they will choose the more ‘honest’ answer when asked. After all, do employers want to employ people who confess to stealing their pens and who fiddle expenses? Paradoxically, by stating that they are more honest, these survey respondents are, actually, likely to be being less honest. Maybe – and cynics might cite the public versus private sector honest findings to support this – they are just more convincing liars these days.