Millenials Suffer Ethical Lapses at Work

It seems in recent years that it has become almost politically incorrect to make negative observations about younger generations.  In fact, there are many stereotypes that are made about all generations that are not based in the truth but have become accepted “wisdom” in the business world.  As a result, I watch for data-based reports that might get to real issues.

In June, the Ethics Resource Center (ERC) published a new study that conclude that America’s youngest workers are almost twice as likely as Baby Boomers to buy personal items with a company credit card, almost three times as likely to blog or tweet something negative about their company, and about two and a half as likely to take company software home for their own use.  

But, before anyone gets too excited about these conclusions, I find that many of the questions were worded in a manner that allowed for multiple interpretations and that the gap between Millenials and their older colleagues was not very significant on many questions.

For instance, the report concludes that the youngest employees were more likely than their older colleagues to feel pressured by others to break company rules.  But when you look at the numbers, we are talking about 15 percent of Millenials reporting pressure to compromise standards compared to 13 percent of Generation Xers and 9 percent of Baby Boomers.  Not exactly a significant number in either absolute or relative terms.

The other aspect that was not addressed in the report was whether this particular cohort of young workers – the Millenials – were particularly challenged in regards to ethics or whether this is simply a recurring issue where younger workers are almost always prone to workplace deviance – a fact that is pretty well established in research literature.

So, while I am always interested in seeing research in our areas of interest, I don’t find this report to be particularly useful.  If you’d like to read more about it, click here.



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