It's a jungle out there

Mar 06 2009 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Earlier this week British research suggested workers were becoming increasingly prepared to accept longer hours, pay cuts, reduced benefits and even unacceptable behaviour from their managers, as long as it meant they kept their jobs. Now it's the turn of American workers to have their say, and the results are not pretty.

The latest American Workplace Insights from recruitment firm Adecco suggests workplaces are becoming increasingly brutal, competitive places where it is not so much about survival of the fittest as survival of the most ruthless.

In fact, 28 per cent said they would be prepared to do something dishonest to keep their jobs, included blaming co-workers for mistakes, blackmail and even flirting with a superior.

And the most ruthless and desperate of all in this climate were post-1982 Generation Y workers, with more than four out of 10 saying they would be happy to stoop to dishonest behaviour if it meant protecting their job.

And within that generation it was men who were most prepared to lower the behaviour bar, with 44 per cent of those aged 18-35 saying they would be prepared to do something dishonest.

This climate of desperate financial and job insecurity had also led to a sharp rise in the number of U.S workers suffering from stress and anxiety, with a fifth of those surveyed saying the recession had had a negative effect on their mental health.

This finding was supported by research published this week by the American Psychological Association arguing that eight out of 10 Americans are now suffering economy-related stress, and that employers are as a result seeing a surge in demand for counselling and services such as Employee Assistance Programmes.

The Adecco research found nearly half of those polled expected their pay and compensation to stay either the same or decrease this year.

And, surprisingly given the climate of lay-offs, more than eight out of 10 said their managers were not paying any more attention to their work and performance than before the crisis.

Nearly three quarters believed President Obama's stimulus package for the U.S economy would work, yet 15 per cent also said they were now actively saving as much as they could as a defence against possible unemployment.

As people become ever more desperate or, in the climate of lay-offs, angry and disgruntled, the issue of corporate dishonesty is also raising its head.

Research published this week by insurance firm Kroll, has warned British managers that the recession will expose organisations to a heightened risk from fraud and corruption.

The survey also concluded that many companies did not have adequate insurance in place to protect themselves from any claims that might arise as a result.

Richard Abbey, head of Kroll's London financial investigations practice, said: "The recession is contributing to the increase in fraud. Previously honest employees may be compelled to exploit corporate weaknesses as a result of their own financial situation or low morale; or a well-intentioned worker or 'corporate saviour' could juggle numbers to try and mask the company's true financial position from other stakeholders.

"Companies are more likely to pay closer attention to their balance sheets during tougher times, which means that the chances of fraud being uncovered are far greater. While controls help reduce risk, the majority of frauds are still uncovered by accident or as a result of whistle-blowing. This has to change," he added.

Consultancy Deloitte, too, last month reported that more than nine out of 10 UK companies had experienced at least one information security breach in the past 12 months.

In the U.S the Justice Department and the FBI have also admitted that corporate fraud is now moving up their agenda, with more than 530 cases of alleged corporate malfeasance currently being looked into.

The key to keeping fraud (and other dishonest activity) at bay, of course, is managers but, all too often, it is lax or complacent management oversight that is in fact at the heart of the problem.

Back in September, for example, another survey by Kroll directly blamed a sharp increase in fraud and corporate crime on a combination of the tougher economic climate exacerbated by weak controls and complacent managers.

The average company loss to fraud had risen by a fifth over the past three years, it added.