US workers are prepared to steal proprietary information to get promoted

Have you ever compromised your values for professional gains at work? Some of your co-workers certainly would.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

Working from home has become the new normal as we struggle to adjust in these challenging times of COVID-19. But should companies be concerned about employees engaging in morally-questionable behavior while working remotely?

In February 2020, Poland-based career site Zety asked 1,001 American workers across the industry -- including tech workers -- if they would compromise their values for professional gains.

It discovered that whilst most workers agreed that certain maneuvers are unacceptable, many were also guilty of significant transgressions.

The study asked whether they had engaged in unprofessional conduct or had seen a co-worker doing this. Only one in four (27%) respondents admitted to engaging in unethical work behavior.

However, over half (57%) later admitted to engaging in at least one unethical behavior. Responses showed that two out of three workers would hide an issue (66%), suck up to their boss (65%), or lie to a supervisor (59%).

US workers are prepared to steal proprietary information to get promoted zdnet

Half would lie about their abilities (53%), snitch on a co-worker (48%), or take credit for something that they had not done (46%).

Almost nine out of 10 respondents had caught at least one co-worker engaging in at least one unethical behavior, with almost three out of five (57%) in a supervisory or managerial role, one out of three (34%) in a senior manager or director role, and one in five (20%) observing the president or CEO doing this.

Almost nine out of 10 (89%) believed that lying about a co-worker, unfairly passing blame (87%), or taking unearned credit (86%) is unethical. Seven out of 10 (71%) believed that hiding an issue or snitching on a co-worker (70%) is unethical would be prepared to do so for a big reward.

To get a big promotion or six-figure salary, almost two out of five would hide an issue, one in three (31%) would snitch on a co-worker, and almost one in four (23%) would be intimate with a supervisor for that reward!

Respondents who valued financial success were more likely to believe that unethical behavior would benefit their careers.

Four out of five respondents (80%) reported benefitting sucking up to their boss, two out of three (64%) benefitted from lying to a supervisor, and half (51%) benefitted from hiding an issue.

Unfortunately, most professionals perceived dishonesty among the upper ranks of their companies, indicated that unethical behavior is often advantageous to their careers.

Perhaps these results make a case for greater transparency among leaders across businesses. If leaders are open and honest about their own errors, other workers may feel more comfortable being honest about their own.

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