Employers spend an average of two hours a day on private activities

px Old hairdresser sleeping at work

Misbehaving in the workplace

Employers look away, but research out this week reports that employees spend an average of two hours a day on private activities! And it gets worse, according to research published by the Institute of Leadership and Management, who have exposed the widespread nature of unethical behaviour in the UK workforce. For example, the number of employees witnessing bad behaviour in the workplace includes:

  • 72% have witnessed colleagues lying to cover mistakes
  • 72% have witnessed colleagues cutting corners and delivering substandard work
  • 68% have witnessed colleagues badmouthing fellow workers
  • 67% have witnessed colleagues passing the buck
  • 64% have witnessed colleagues slacking off
  • 57% have witnessed colleagues taking credit for other people’s work
  • 56% have witnessed colleagues taking a sickie
  • 54% have witnessed colleagues lying about skills and experience
  • 53% have witnessed colleagues stealing from work

Admittedly some of these bad behaviours shock me more than others, but I am surprised to see how embedded some unethical practices are in the workplace. It suggests toxic working environments are endemic in the UK.

Slacking off is an interesting behaviour because, unlike others, it does not cause direct harm yet, if allowed to fester, it can prove to be extremely damaging to any business. It also runs against the idea of meritocracy, although it could be argued that disappointment in the reality of applied meritocracy – receiving a fair pay for a hard day’s work – is actually motivating this culture of slacking. Work is assumed to fill lives with meaning and purpose, yet to many it is also the source of frustration, compromise and resistance. Some workers slack for reasons of ego and pride – believing that the job is below them or meaningless. Others slacked out of revenge, hoping to get their own back on their bosses who they feel have slighted them in some way. Yet more prevalent in today’s workplace is slacking behind a bluster of soundbites. All too easily we seem to allow ourselves to be seduced by, what we perceive to be, knowledgeable colleagues who can talk-the-talk, as if they have just digested an MBA reading list. This can blind us to the fact that their actions often don’t live up to the hype. Today’s workplace is full of these charlatans offering sound and fury but signifying nothing. The problem with slacking is that it becomes hard to escape once we allow it to be part of the workday. It becomes habit, like all good procrastinators know all too well!

For employers it is important to create a high trust organisation, where colleagues understand the importance of reciprocity. This will push them to work harder for one another, as well as the business – hard work that is reinforced through faith in reciprocity. Building a high-trust culture begins with a stable framework in the form of clear ethical guidelines, such as an organisation’s values or aspirations that all colleagues can assimilate into their day-to-day practices. Employers should also encourage whistleblowing as a way of prematurely exposing bad behaviour for the good of the organisation before it is allowed to spread like rot through the workplace. Above all, organisations need strong leaders to display ethical behaviour and purpose as a way to set the tone of behaviour throughout the business.