Duplicitous bosses set a bad example

May 19 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Mistrust between managers and their subordinates is endemic, according to the poll of 600 UK employees commissioned by Liquid HR. Most workers believe that they are more honest than their managers. But more than half also say that the bad example set by their bosses, coupled with poor pay and long hours, are justifiable excuses for workplace dishonesty.

A lack of clarity about their employer’s rules and policy was cited as a mitigating factor for dishonesty by more than four out of ten respondents.

Most believed that it is easier to behave dishonestly at the top of an organisation than at the bottom. More than nine out of ten employees believe that top executives are concerned only with their own self-interest, something that the behaviour of the UK’s fat cat directors only seems to confirm.

And the view that managers tend to be more dishonest than their subordinates was borne out by a global survey by Ernst & Young published earlier this year. It found that more than half of the companies interviewed had suffered a 'significant' fraud in the past year, the overwhelming majority of which were committed by recently-promoted managers.

Last year, a report by Ceridian Centrefile found that nearly half of employees did not trust their employer while two-thirds of senior HR people admitted that employers only pay lip service to the mantra 'people are our greatest asset'. The reality, they sad is that they are talking about an elite few - the rest are expendable.

In this atmosphere of mutual mistrust, nearly half of respondents to the Liquid HR poll said that it is sometimes acceptable to pretend to work at home while taking the day off instead, with similar numbers taking the same attitude towards making personal calls from the office and job hunting on company time.

A mere six per cent admitted fiddling their expenses, although a quarter suspected their manager of fiddling claims. More than one in 10 admitted to taking the odd ‘sickie’, but a quarter said their manager did the same thing without a proper excuse.

But more than half of employees said that they would “never” moonlight on company time, use the franking machine to send personal letters or over-claim holiday.

Smaller firms appear to have particular problems with dishonesty, while younger workers aged between 18 and 24 were most likely to be dishonest. Employees aged between 45 and 54 are the least likely to engage in dishonest behaviour.

Unsurprisingly, the survey also found that the more valued an employee feels the less likely they are to cheat their employer.

Derek Kemp, chairman of Liquid HR, which commissioned the survey, said: "Workers come out of this survey relatively unscathed as far as dishonesty is concerned.

"The extent to which people suspect their managers of dastardly deeds is worrying and points to a breakdown in communication."