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Weekly Now: The Pandemic’s Impact on Ethical Behavior

March 23, 2021

Pressure is rising on employees to bend the rules, according to a new report from the Ethics & Compliance Initiative, and the pandemic is a big part of why.

In the 2020 edition of ‌The State of Ethics & Compliance in the Workplace [registration], a global study of business ethics, researchers found that while more than a fifth of U.S. employees worked in organizations with a strong ethical culture, 30 percent of employees generally felt more pressured to compromise the organization’s ethics standards, the highest rate reported by the study in more than 20 years, and more than double the rate seen in 2017.

This increase in pressure to act unethically has led to a rise in observed misconduct to 49 percent in the U.S.—although that number is in line with where it was two decades ago. While employees are much more likely to report acts of misconduct (86 percent, significantly higher than in 2017), they are also much more likely to experience retaliation for reporting said conduct, with 79 percent of respondents saying they have faced such retaliation—twice the level as seen in 2017.

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