Happy employees are more engaged, loyal, creative and productive Image Credit: Getty

Dubai:  You’ve probably heard about it or witnessed it yourself: a colleague falsifying an expense report; a manager abusing his staff for his own personal gain, or a rank-and-file employee lying to his supervisor.

A lot of professionals do whatever it takes to achieve money and status in the workplace, or win business. And in many cases, they compromise on ethical conduct.

According to a new survey by professional services firm EY, nearly half (40 per cent) of people in the UAE and the rest of the region are willing to “act unethically” to improve their own career progression.

About two in five also believe that their co-workers would be prepared to do the same just for the sake of advancing their career, while 36 per cent are willing to offer cash payments in order to win business. And while many people are aware of their  colleagues resorting to ethical misconduct, they’re opting to stay silent about it.

The findings of the EY fraud survey which apply to UAE and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, is a clear indication that, despite campaigns against unethical practices, business organisations continue to face the challenges of fraud, bribery and corruption.

“Our survey reveals that unethical conduct and mistrust among colleagues are key characteristics of today’s workforce, particularly among younger generations. Worryingly, those individuals who have concerns are either hesitant, or do not know how to come forward,” the EY report said.

There’s also a lot to be done in fostering a culture of ethical behavior in many companies, with nearly six in ten (57 per cent) of respondents from various organisations admitting that their management doesn’t promote the importance of high ethical standards.

The findings were based on the responses of 4,100 employees from large businesses in 41 countries across Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA).

While some companies have now set up hotlines to report incidents of unethical behaviour, many people in the workplace are opting to stay silent. According to the study, 50 per cent of employees in the region would refrain from reporting an incident due to concerns about career progression.

“Reporting incidents of unethical behavior still remains an issue. Employees are either unaware of the correct channels, or more worryingly, are apprehensive to highlight wrongdoing, which shows a lack of leadership from senior management to tackle the issue,” said Michael Adlem, EY Mena fraud investigation and dispute services leader.

“Companies need to create more awareness about their whistleblowing channels and communicate appropriate processes to ensure employees know where to go when they encounter unethical practices.”