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Workplace Ethics Begin with the Boss


Corporate honesty is the subject of our Wednesday report on the workplace. A new study examines employees who embezzle and co-workers who don't behave.

NPR's Chris Arnold reports.


CHRIS ARNOLD: There's plenty of bad behavior that goes on inside companies, from sexual harassment to smaller potatoes: employees who steal post-it notes, bags of coffee or computer gear. Workers interviewed for the survey said the top factor promoting ethical behavior was the example set by their managers.

SHARON ALLEN: I think we were even surprised at how overwhelming the survey came back on the impact that managers and supervisors have.

ARNOLD: Sharon Allen is the chairman of the board for the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, which did the survey. She says a surprising number of workers observed their supervisors doing something pretty bad. Twenty-one percent saw them harassing other workers either verbally, sexually or racially. She says when you combine that with the manager's influence...

ALLEN: Then it really does accumulate into something very significant, I believe, to all of us in thinking about how we act in the workplace, how we set an example for those around us, particularly if we're in a supervisory role.

ARNOLD: Topping the list of bad behavior: managers who played favorites and took credit for other people's work. Allen says another big factor was what she calls a healthy work and life balance. She says overworked and overstressed employees are more likely to get into trouble.


Chris Arnold, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.