Some of the most common types of observed misconduct were the following:
• Conflict of interest: 27 percent
• Lying: 28 percent
• Abusive or intimidating behavior: 25 percent
The employee’s poor perception of management results in fewer complaints being made. Employees are afraid of retaliation. They have the perception that nothing will be done about it anyway. Most reports of misconduct are made to the immediate supervisor not through whistle blower hotlines.
The high rate of observable misconduct and the poor perception of senior management increases the feeling of futility, which leads to a lack of reporting ethical violations.
The survey disclosed that 21 percent of government employees feel that leadership is not held accountable for violations of ethical standards, 25 percent believe that upper management tolerates retaliation against those who do report misconduct and 30 percent do not believe that top leaders keep their promises or commitments.
What this boils down to is that more than two-thirds of the public work force observes misconduct. Between one-fourth to one-third of the work force do not trust upper management.
I worked for one government agency where a survey revealed that 73 percent of the employees thought about quitting their job on a daily basis.
How much motivation would you have to do your job well, if you saw your boss regularly abusing the system? Worse yet, if you point out a problem, you know you could be subjected to discipline. Even if there are regulations prohibiting retaliation, an employee can be put through the ringer to protect his job.
So what is the solution? How can we raise the level of ethical conduct among our public entities?
First, we need elected officials that care. This really has to be fixed from the top down. Second, we can encourage the public employee unions to raise these issues with management. Then it won’t be a single individual, but a group at large that is raising the issue.
Local 4041 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is doing just that. The Union is pushing for more accountability of managers who commit misconduct.
With the help of some of our elected officials we may be able to change the trend of government misconduct.
Governmental employees are in a prime location to help stop the misconduct. They should be encouraged to do just that.
Jeff Blanck is an attorney in private practice in Reno. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.