Shifty Behavior in the Workplace

Since last fall’s meltdown of the financial system, public trust in business has ebbed. Now, the latest edition of a recurring poll by KPMG, fielded July-September among employees in multiple industries, gives reason to think consumers are right to be wary.

The survey found that on-the-job misconduct — ranging from deceptive sales practices to kickbacks to violation of environmental standards — is common in many sectors. Employees in a number of industries were asked whether they’ve had firsthand knowledge of misconduct at their company within the past 12 months. Eighty percent of respondents in the auto industry answered affirmatively, as did 76 percent of those in communications/media, 75 percent in real estate/construction, 73 percent in healthcare, 70 percent in pharmaceuticals/life sciences, 68 percent in electronics, software and services, 67 percent in insurance and 65 percent in banking.

And it’s not just penny ante stuff. A follow-up question asked whether respondents had personal knowledge in the past 12 months of misconduct serious enough that it would cause a “significant loss of public trust if discovered.” Majorities answered “yes” in banking/finance (60 percent), healthcare (57 percent), insurance (52 percent) and pharmaceuticals/life sciences (51 percent).