Have you called in sick on a breezy spring day? Taken credit for a colleague's idea? Lied to a customer, a boss or an underling? If so, you're far from alone.
Despite a booming interest in corporate ethics in the last decade, Boy Scout honesty in the workplace seems as rare as a dress-up Friday. Nearly half of workers engaged in unethical and/or illegal acts in the last year, according to a survey to be released Monday.
The pressure-cooker atmosphere at many workplaces may be to blame, according to the Ethics Officer Assn. and the American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters and Chartered Financial Consultants, which carried out the survey of 1,324 workers.
Faced with the demands of overtime, balancing work and family and downsizing, workers said they feel more stress than five years ago, as well as more pressure to act unethically.
"Daily pressures are extreme, and it's those pressures that may be driving unethical practices," said John Driskill, vice president of the underwriters society and financial consultants.
Still, the survey found that 60% of those surveyed felt that ethical dilemmas can be reduced, mostly through better communication and a serious commitment by managers.
Those working both in corporations and in the growing field of business ethics were not surprised by the survey results.
"There's still a great deal of work to be done," said Michael Daigneault, president of the Ethics Resource Center, which helped create some of the first corporate ethics offices in the '80s.
He and others stressed, however, that the recent focus on corporate ethics has not been taken in vain. Rather, it shows the growing need for such attention, he said.
Firms with ethics codes of conduct jumped 13% to 73% since 1994, while firms with training programs rose 7% to 40%, according to a yet-unpublished survey of 747 companies by the Ethics Resource Center. Firms with ethics officers stayed about the same, at 30%.
James K. Baker, a vice chairman and former chief executive of auto parts maker Arvin Industries Inc., experienced corner-cutting from top executives at three Fortune 500 companies during his first years in office.
"At the start of my time as CEO, I felt like I was entering hallowed ground," he said. "In the first year or two, I was shocked."
According to the survey of workers to be released Monday, 48% of workers surveyed said they had engaged in one or more unethical and-or illegal actions during the last year.
The most common behavior involved cutting corners on quality (16%), covering up incidents (14%), abusing or lying about sick days (11%) and deceiving customers (9%).
Some 4% of workers reported taking credit for a colleague's idea, and 5% lied to or deceived superiors on a serious matter and 3% did the same to an underling.
The workers who had transgressed reported overwhelming stress in the workplace--from balancing work and family, overwork, poor communication, downsizing and other sources. Most cited at least six stresses.
Nearly 60% of workers also feel more pressure than five years ago, and 40% feel more pressure than last year, the survey found.
Some 56% of workers reported pressure to act unethically or illegally on the job, said the survey, with mid-level managers particularly feeling the pinch. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.