London bosses can’t be trusted, say workers

Dec 20 2004 by Nic Paton Print This Article

More than half of workers in London suspect their bosses of being either untrustworthy or dishonest, a poll from management firm KPMG has suggested.

In the survey a worrying 45 per cent lavished faint praise on their managers, arguing “some were more trustworthy than others”, with one in 10 saying their management did not set a good example when it came to honest behaviour.

An equally worrying 44 per cent said they had witnessed incidents of wrong-doing or fraud, either by colleagues or bosses.

But only 15 per cent said they would definitely do anything about it, such as reporting the incident.

More than seven out of 10 – 77 per cent – said they might, but it would depend on the nature of the incident.

And when it comes to reporting colleagues, it appears there is something of a culture of omerta – the mafia code of silence – in workplaces.

More than seven out of 10 – 73 per cent – said they would not think it was any of their business, and 28 per cent believed it “was not the done thing”.

Three out of ten felt any report would not be taken seriously by managers, and 34 per cent they would fear being sacked as a result.

When asked what sort of incidents they had witnessed at work, more than a quarter, 28 per cent, said theft of stock or supplies, either for personal use or resale, with one respondent saying they had a manager who ran a market staff with the goods.

Fiddling expenses was another favourite, witnessed by 27 per cent of those polled.

Examples included one manager who claimed blacksmith’s costs for his horse and kennel fees for his dog.

Another had used a company electrician to rewire his house and one group of managers had even visited strip clubs on the company expense account.

Again nearly a quarter, 23 per cent, had witnessed monetary theft, ranging from cashing of company cheques to payments to fake companies.

A total of 14 per cent said they had worked at companies where some level of accounting fraud had occurred and a further 8 per cent said they had witnessed tax evasion, accepting back-handers in return for contracts and people running another business using company resources.

Alex Plavsic, head of fraud investigation services at KPMG, said it was up to bosses to set a good example.

“The tone at the top and setting clear codes of conduct is crucial if employees are to make the connection between wrong-doing they see their colleagues up to, and the success of the companies they work for. Employees need to see that fraud costs money, and at its worst, costs jobs.”

Just 18 per cent of firms polled had a confidential hotline where employees could report suspicions, and more than half had nothing at all.

“Companies need to do more to make it easy for staff to blow the whistle on suspected wrong-doing. Coupled with that, mangers must constantly exhibit and reinforce good behaviour so that it becomes ‘the way we do things around here’.

What’s important to management tends to become important to employees,” added Plavsic.