Ethics Going Downhill at Work, Executives Say

Disturbing news: Four in ten executives said they've left jobs because of unethical business practices.
Lisa YoonSeptember 12, 2002

Apparently, investors and class-action lawyers aren’t the only ones expressing disappointment and outrage over the recent parade of corporate scandals.

A recent survey conducted by online executive-career resource ExecuNet shows that many executives disapprove of corporate shenanigans at their own companies. These executives say they plan to take extra care in future job hunts to join a company with integrity.

In the survey of 340 executives nationwide, ExecuNet found that more than half of respondents reported that workplace ethics have gotten worse over the past five years.

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Even more disturbing, the research also showed that about four out of every ten executives in the survey said they left a past job because of unethical business practices.

Not surprisingly, most (75 percent) left with their lips sealed on the ethically questionable behavior. But after the all the business scandals that emerged in the past year, about a third say they would respond differently if it happened today.

Given those numbers, it’s no shocker that the majority of respondents said they plan to be more careful when entertaining job offers.

In response to the recent scandals, 69 percent of the respondents said they will examine the books of potential employers with a fine-tooth comb. Abut six in ten said they plan to dig deeper into a prospective employer’s culture and value system — before accepting an offer.

“Working for a company with a questionable reputation can compromise your professional development,” says ExecuNet CEO and founder Dave Opton. “To prevent possible setbacks, it’s critical to learn as much as possible about a potential employer long before accepting an offer.”

Of course, any job applicant can look at a financial 10-Qs. Assessing a company’s corporate culture presents a more daunting task.

Opton advises job seekers to try to talk to people who work at a company, or worked there in the past. Ask questions about the company’s culture and values. Opton says a job candidate should take note of that person’s body language and tone during the Q&A. “Ask yourself, ‘Is this person role-playing or do they really mean what they’re saying?’” he advises.

Also, pay attention to what that person focus on when talking about the company. “Is the first thing they talk about competitive advantage, how they’re the market leader? Or do they say something like, ‘when times were tough they really tried to encourage everyone and boost morale?’”

Finally, Opton says job seekers should read what kind of coverage a company has received in the press. A good thing to notice is how the employer dealt with setbacks in the past. For example, says Opton, look into how they’ve reacted to things like product-liability issues.

CFOs on the Move

>> TippingPoint Technologies Inc., which develops active-network defense systems, appointed Geoffrey W. Kreiger CFO. Most recently, Kreiger served as CFO of DTM Corp., a manufacturer of prototyping equipment that was sold to 3D Systems Corp. Kreiger replaces acting finance chief James E. Cahill, who will go back to his regular gigs as VP, general counsel, and secretary … Monolithic Power Systems, a supplier of power management IC solutions, hired Brian McDonald as VP of administration and CFO. McDonald joins MPS from Elantec Semiconductor, Inc. where he was VP of administration and CFO.

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