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Fiona Pollock

Zostera Ltd

Learning Consultant & Coach

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“It’s only some stationery” – the role of L&D in business ethics

default-16x9 you see the results of the CMI research last week?  29.4% of managers say they behave unethically at work.  29.4%! That’s nearly a third.  (You can read more of the findings here:

The reason given by these managers for their behaviour is to get ahead professionally, this appearing to be more important to them than behaving morally.

On top of that 42.6% of non-managers said they have felt pressured into working in an unethical way (presumably by those manager’s who are looking to progress their own careers).

This is backed up by recent research by the CIPD ( which shows that 24% of managers are forced to put the organisations interests above the interests and well-being of their teams.

But at what cost is all this unethical behaviour?  Does it really matter?

An ACCA research report says that it does.  This multinational survey showed that those companies which built a culture of ethics were more likely to succeed financially (

More than this though, companies which are regarding as having no ethics, or believed to have been behaving in an unethical way often find that their reputation suffers and consequently so do their sales – especially in today’s environment where people can share their experiences and views with such a large audience so quickly.

Interestingly, these companies have also been found to struggle to attract high quality candidates for vacancies as they aren’t see as a company that would be good to work for.

If that wasn’t bad enough, companies that have ethics and values which they live by are also reported as having higher levels of employee morale, which means they also get all the benefits associated with that too (such as higher levels of productivity, lower levels of turnover, lower levels of absenteeism, higher innovation and creativity and so on).

So with all this at stake, why do manager’s feel that it’s ok to behave unethically?  And what can Learning & Development do about it?

Could it be because individuals are usually reluctant to “tell on” a colleague who is behaving in a way which doesn’t meet the company expectation? If so, this is more a culture issue than a knowledge or skills one.  If this behviour goes uncorrected it can breed resentment and can cause conflict amongst the team.  Worse still, if someone is seen to “get away” with unethical behaviour then it’s more likely to spread across the workforce, causing further problems.

As with many business issues, L&D may be part of the solution, but it is certainly not all.  We can play our part by ensuring our own behaviour is ethical and by bringing this topic into focus through our learning solutions.  Research shows though that ethics and behaviours in companies are driven from above, so the trick is to get the very top behaving ethically (and not tolerating unethical behaviour) and this should – by enlarge – cascade down through the heirarchy.

How does L&D help your company operate ethically?

Author Profile Picture
Fiona Pollock

Learning Consultant & Coach

Read more from Fiona Pollock

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