More than third of managers lie to staff daily, CMI reveals

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Friday, 27 September 2013 - Jermaine Haughton

White Paper shows significant proportion of UK bosses are willing to betray ethics to achieve career progress


Ambition in the workplace is something to be cherished, and is often most present in aspirational workers at the peak of their careers – during their late 20s and 30s. However, amid often intense pressure and competition, the drive to reach the head of a division, company, board or even industry can lead those spirited workers to misguidedly act in an unethical manner, according to a new Chartered Management Institute (CMI) White Paper.

Based upon the results of a survey on workplace ethics, Managers and the Moral Maze has revealed that an astounding 35% of managers, from all backgrounds, say they lie to colleagues pretty much every single day. Almost 30% of the managers surveyed claimed that they often abandon ethics when faced with a moral dilemma, if the lapse is likely to boost their career prospects. This suggests that managers are willing to bend the rules to get a glamorous promotion or salary rise.

While some managers have enjoyed success through that process, unethical behaviour in the workplace is a sure-fire way to build resentment and frustration among lower-level staff. Indeed, the CMI findings showed that 80% of workers view their manager as a poor moral example, with two-thirds citing their bosses’ decisions to break the rules for their own ends as one of the main reasons.

Nonetheless, 13% of workers in lower levels of the workforce also break moral codes – less than half the proportion of unscrupulous executives. But while bosses often resort to unethical tactics to boost their careers, frontline staffers often compromise themselves because they feel pressured to do so.

However, evidence shows that professionalism and trust are vital to establishing successful working environments. With that in mind, CMI has devised three simple steps designed to create a more ethical management style:

1. Lose the lies

Foster a culture of openness and transparency. Be honest and acknowledge when mistakes are made – but commit to resolving them quickly and decisively.

2. Champion accountability

Reward people for doing the “right thing” – particularly if it would have been easier for them to do otherwise. Hold people to account where standards slip.

3. Set standards

Use common benchmarks for behaviour so everyone can be clear about the conduct that’s expected of them. Communicate them clearly and check that you have been understood.

Download a full PDF of Managers and the Moral Maze

Related story:

Communication key to upholding ethics, says IoIC

Image of Pinocchio model courtesy of nevenm / Shutterstock

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