PRmoment Leaders PA Mediapoint PA Assignments PRCA PRmoment Awards Winners North Creative Moment Awards 2024 PR Masterclass: AI in PR

Many businesses are weakening their brands by putting pressure on employees to act unethically, claims research

Last week, we highlighted how important it is for companies to take a moral stand but it seems many businesses are weakening their brands by putting pressure on employees to act unethically. This is according to analysis by Reboot Digital Agency of the latest statistics from the Institute of Business Ethics, which surveyed UK employees to see if they had compromised their organisation’s standards of ethical behaviour and if so, what were the ‘pressures’ that pushed them to do so. The survey found that 12% of workers have broken their current organisation’s standards of ethical behaviour.

UK employees feel pressure to act unethically in their organisation because...

Key findings

  • An organisation being under-resourced is the biggest factor which influenced employees to act unethically in their workplace at 35%
  • One-third (34%) of employees have committed to taking unethical actions and decisions due to the time-pressures that have been placed upon them to complete and deliver on their work
  • Over one-quarter (28%) admitted to breaking their organisation’s values on ethical behaviour because they were following their boss’s orders
  • Over one-quarter (26%) broke moral grounds as they were asked to cut corners by other individuals (such as fellow colleagues)
  • The motive for 11% of workers for being unprincipled stemmed from them viewing their company’s culture as one that is already unethical

Lessons for brands

Discussing the findings, Shai Aharony, managing director of Reboot Digital Agency, says: “The findings from this research are shocking and do provide businesses with great lessons. The biggest one being the importance of assessing their current capabilities to ensure they are not-overstretched. This includes providing teams/departments with the adequate equipment, software, expertise and support to ensure they have the resources and competencies required to tackle any projects/tasks and challenges without feeling the need to take shortcuts.”

Outlining other ways companies can stop unethical employee behaviour, Aharony says: “Considering a lot of employees act unethically due to the negative influence of senior figures within their organisation, managers need to be provided with guidelines as to how they could better support those employees who are stressed and/or burdened with work/responsibilities. As opposed to directing them towards an immoral pathway. As managers they need to be realise they can better manage the expectations they set for their employees – so targets and objectives are realistic, measurable and achievable.”

Aharony concludes that the most important consideration for organisations should be to have an internal mechanism/system where feedback can be relayed within and between individuals and departments about work progress and any problems they may be facing. “This way key decision makers are aware of the difficulties their employees are facing and can adopt strategies to resolve them. The idea is to strive for continuous improvement by involving employees at the heart of changes/decisions which will enable them to work more effectively and efficiently. Doing so, will drastically reduce the need for individuals to take unethical actions.”


Analysis was by Reboot Digital Agency of the latest statistics from the Institute of Business Ethics, which surveyed 764 UK employees.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free to our twice weekly editorial alert.

We have six email alerts in total - covering ESG, internal comms, PR jobs and events. Enter your email address below to find out more: