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Is workplace change giving rise to more misconduct?

New analysis draws a nexus between substantive workplace upheaval and an increase in employee misconduct and greater compliance risk.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 03 November 2020 Corporate Counsel
Is workplace change giving rise to more misconduct?
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According to a survey of 1,000 professional services employees – conducted by global research and advisory firm Gartner – workers are facing a higher frequency of “career moments” (i.e. a significant workplace occurrence), which can be and are closely correlated with incidences of misconduct.

Such career moments, Gartner senior research director Chris Audet explained, “can take many forms, and examples include layoffs, organisational restructuring changes in leadership, or changes in job responsibility”.

Analysis from Gartner, based on the survey, shows that there is a nexus between an increase in such career moments – not including promotions – and rates of observed misconduct and negative views of corporate integrity.


The average employee who has experienced five to 10 career moments in the last year, Gartner outlined, is more than 10 percentage points more likely to report having observed misconduct recently.

The survey also highlights, the firm continued, that the frequency of career moments has “increased significantly” over the past eight years, which it says has “dramatic implications for observations of misconduct and negative perceptions of corporate integrity”.

It found that 29 per cent of employees have seen lay-offs of team members in 2020, compared to 21 per cent in 2012. Half (50 per cent) have seen significant organisational restructures this year compared to 20 per cent eight years ago, and 41 per cent have witnessed substantial change in senior leadership in contrast to 18 per cent in 2012.

Moreover, 32 per cent have seen a change in their direct manager compared to 17 per cent in 2012, 28 per cent have witnessed hiring freezes this year while just 15 per cent saw this eight years ago, and 29 per cent have had a significant change in their job responsibilities in 2020 in contrast to 14 per cent in 2012.

The findings, Mr Audet surmised, “should be ringing alarm bells” for compliance leaders.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has redirected a lot of focus to addressing urgent tactical issues, but the high levels of change and disruption have created a precarious situation for the ongoing fight against misconduct in many organisations,” he said.

Gartner identified three approaches to address such concerns:

  1.   Integrate compliance messaging at key moments
“Because moments tend to drive down integrity, early intervention is crucial,” the firm espoused.

“Addressing low employee perceptions of corporate integrity before key moments, such as corporate, role or team changes, doubles the mitigation rate from approximately 50 per cent to near 100 per cent when compared to intervention after the moment has passed.”

  1.   Equip managers to lead through such moments
Employees who feel they get the right amount of support from their managers during a career moment, Gartner continued, are 62 per cent more likely to report misconduct than those who are neutral.

“To boost managers’ ability to handle these conversations compliance leaders need to create tools and frameworks that enable them to make ethical decisions in the workplace and route concerns appropriately for compliance visibility,” it said.

  1.   Create moment-relevant messages
In a mirror image of the above point, employees who believed they received the right amount of information following a career moment were 62 per cent more likely to report misconduct than those who were neutral.

“An increasingly remote workforce can impact employees’ perceptions of climate and culture; it is harder to maintain team connections in this setting, and employees can’t see what their peers are doing. Creating the right messaging around compliance issues is essential at this time,” Gartner concluded.

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