- Date: December 31st, 2008
- Author: Michael Krigsman
Michael Krigsman takes a look at the results of a recent survey about the recession’s effect on work ethics. He advises employers not to underestimate the level of stress the recession causes workers.
This is a guest post from Michael Krigsman of TechRepublic’s sister site ZDNet. You can follow Michael on his ZDNet blog IT Project Failures, or subscribe to the RSS feed.
With a major recession in full-swing, someone had to come up with a survey covering the ethics of office workers in three countries. The punch line: a large percentage of folks surveyed would steal confidential company data in the event of layoff rumors. The results are fairly ugly, painting a negative picture of ethics in the workplace.
Security firm, Cyber-Ark, conducted the survey, called The Global Recession and its Effect on Work Ethics. The company interviewed 600 workers in the US, UK, and the Netherlands.
When asked how far respondents would go to keep their job, 15 percent of Americans said they would consider blackmailing their boss! At first, I thought this was a joke, but it appears to be serious after all.
Unfortunately, the answers are not a positive reflection upon my fellow citizens:
Gaining advance access to a termination list seems to be an almost-universal desire:
Although customer and contact lists are also popular targets:
And the most popular way to steal employer information? The ubiquitous memory stick. Since email comes in second, it appears these data thieves are relatively unconcerned about leaving tracks behind them:
Key takeaways for me:
- Employers should not underestimate the level of stress the recession causes workers. Treat your folks with respect and dignity and they’re more likely to behave decently back toward you.
- Once workers learn they may be targeted for downsizing, their ethics may erode. Employers should be aware of this and enhance security accordingly.
- A small number of workers are just plain dumb. Threats of blackmail? You’ve gotta be kidding.
What do you think the results say about workers in the three different countries studied? Share your thoughts in the discussion.
A Specious Argument
- Physiological needs – needs of the flesh (i.e. oxygen, food, water, environmental comfort),
- Safety and security – no threat of external damage or loss due to social environmental forces (i.e. rioting, extensive plague),
- Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness – the ability to feel love and affection are able to be freely expressed. This is necessary to overcome loneliness and alienation (both of which are often in major supply in some of the most successful organizations BECAUSE it keeps people dependent on the corporation to provide safety. An artificial dependence is engendered by the corporation (whether this condition is a conscious choice on the members of the corporation or not is another question),
- Needs for Esteem – humans have a need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others
- Self Actualization can only be achieved when all the others are met. Self Actualization is that state when a person feels they are doing what “they were born to do”. “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write.” These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.
The hierarchic theory is often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for self-actualization. Maslow believes that the only reason that people would not move well in direction of self-actualization is because of hindrances placed in their way by society (poor education, consumerism, “affluenza”, reality television). He states that education is one of these hindrances. He recommends ways education can switch from its usual person-stunting tactics to person-growing approaches. Maslow states that educators should respond to the potential an individual has for growing into a self-actualizing person of his/her own kind.
Life Imitates Art (People Reflect their Environment)
I question the entire argument of this original post in that I can respect that corporations, as engines of employment, have an expectation to pay a wage and expect that certain responsibilities are to be met by its workers. But I also believe that the corporation, as the employer, has the implied “Noblesse oblige” (an expression used to imply that with wealth, power and prestige come responsibilities, particularly to those dependent or less fortunate than the noble or in this case corporation) to ensure that its workers are given every opportunity to prosper along with the corporation when times are good and to suffer as little as possible during times of duress and shortage. “Noblesse oblige” also implies that the rich and powerful should provide examples of behavior above and beyond the minimal standards of decency in order to encourage it in everyone.
And to be fair, Maslow posited what would be necessary to address the real issues of people. I will also list them because ultimately until corporations embrace these ideas, they will continue to have the same issues (lack of loyalty, corporate espionage, staff instability) because people’s real issues have not been met. The ten points Maslow thought needed addressing were:
- We should teach people to be authentic, to be aware of their inner selves and to hear their inner-feeling voices.
- We should teach people to transcend their cultural conditioning and become world citizens.
- We should help people discover their vocation in life, their calling, fate or destiny. This is especially focused on finding the right career and the right mate.
- We should teach people that life is precious, that there is joy to be experienced in life, and if people are open to seeing the good and joyous in all kinds of situations, it makes life worth living.
- We must accept the person as he or she is and help the person learn their inner nature. From real knowledge of aptitudes and limitations we can know what to build upon, what potentials are really there.
- We must see that the person’s basic needs are satisfied. This includes safety, belongingness, and esteem needs.
- We should re-freshen consciousness, teaching the person to appreciate beauty and the other good things in nature and in living.
- We should teach people that controls are good, and complete abandon is bad. It takes control to improve the quality of life in all areas.
- We should teach people to transcend the trifling problems and grapple with the serious problems in life. These include the problems of injustice, of pain, suffering, and death.
- We must teach people to be good choosers. They must be given practice in making good choices.
West Publishing Company, New York, 1987