Executives and integrity (according to their assistants)

Young professionals and consumers, in particular, were found to hold their respective firms to high standards as far as integrity is concerned.

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The Secret Power In The Office is a collection of responses from 200 executive assistants regarding the questionable behavior they’ve witnessed over the course of their careers.

An alarming 48% expressed a first hand-account of “serious misconduct” within the last year alone. Abuse of company resources, sexual assault, mishandling of confidential information, and operations that pose a conflict of interests made up the majority of the breaches indexed.

Young professionals and consumers, in particular, were found to hold their respective firms to high standards as far as integrity is concerned. This means, in a bid to ensure a healthy pool of potential employees and acquired targets, employers purport a degree of ethical behavior that they rarely observe.

The report states that 30% of upper management never, seldom, or occasionally upheld to the ethical standards they professed, with a little less than 20% claiming to abide faithfully. These reports speak to a developing enmity between workers and CEOs – leading to a depletion of faith in leadership and decreased productivity.

According to the report, the pervasive failure to properly abide by certain policies is fueled by a fear of not meeting fiscal expectations and buttressed by a lack of concrete understanding of what ethical standards actually are.

Many of the instances of misconduct mentioned were believed by many to be par for the course for the corporate world – 13% of executive assistants stated that “lying and cheating”  is simply part of the culture.

What can be done?

The report used the data to attempt to conjecture several methods of remedying the ethical challenges plaguing the economic community.

One of the things proposed was eradicating the link between compensation and targets. Many have suggested in the past that incentive-driven targeting adversely impacts value creation. Additionally, key performance indicators seem to be the nucleus of much of the misconduct detailed.

Accounting for every conceivable form of misconduct by creating policies for all of them obscures the aim.

As the report states: “A higher number of policies produces more incentive to bend the rules or find loopholes. It also takes away people’s own responsibility.”

Lastly, the report suggests all firms exercise muscles of discussion. Instead of excessive reprimanding and surveillance, habitual discussion on the topic of ethics and integrity with executive consultants should be a preferred method in order to change the culture from within.

CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.