What’s the worst thing you’ve witnessed at work?
Perhaps you noticed your cubicle mate updating his personal blog on company time or listened as employees in a nearby office gossiped about someone’s personal life (or worse, yours!). Maybe you’ve heard stories of a co-worker doing something unhygienic in a kitchen or laboratory; downloading porn on their work computer; or telling a tasteless, racist, or sexist joke.
Possibly you’ve even done some of those things yourself. If you have, you’re not alone. We asked 2,000 people in the U.S. across a variety of industries which bad employee behaviors they’d witnessed on the job – and which they’d participated in themselves. Turns out, the majority of workers are pretty naughty.
CRINGEWORTHY CO-WORKER BEHAVIORS
The most common, unethical employee actions witnessed by co-workers include consistent lateness to the office, gossiping behind someone’s back, and taking a sick day when the worker most definitely wasn’t sick.
Even more concerning, 51 percent of those surveyed say they’ve witnessed one of their colleagues actually yelling at someone in the office.
Luckily, more outrageous behaviors – like viewing adult content or drinking on the job, stealing company property, or sleeping on the clock were comparatively infrequent. We asked about these things too, but they were mostly statistically insignificant.
BOSSES BEHAVING BADLY
As you might have guessed, it’s not just junior and midlevel professionals pushing boundaries. Bosses have also been known to make their employees uncomfortable. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed say they’ve seen their boss publicly yell at someone. About 21 percent say their boss uses foul language. Nineteen percent have seen their boss gossiping behind someone’s back. And 17 percent say their boss socializes excessively.
SUSPICIOUS SICK DAYS, BY INDUSTRY & JOB
Have you ever taken a sick day when you weren’t really ill? According to our survey results, it’s a pretty common practice. Especially in the education, manufacturing, and retail industries as well as for employees in customer service, support, or trained professional roles.
Only slightly less likely to take a fake sick day (or at least less likely to be suspected or get caught) areadministration, upper management, and middle management positions as well as thenonprofit, marketing, and energy and utility industries.
BAD EMPLOYEE BEHAVIOR: INADEQUATE INDUSTRIES
It’s not just suspicious sick days that vary by industry. There are top offenders in every category.Education and utilities rank high for consistent lateness. Manufacturing and – interestingly –nonprofits take the cake for gossip. Government and retail industries are the top culprits for excessive socializing. Manufacturing and government lead the pack when it comes to taking a sick day without an appropriate reason. And manufacturing and retail work must be stressful because employees in these industries are the most likely to yell at someone on the job.
THE WORST WORKPLACE INFRACTIONS
Gossiping, swearing, and feigning illness pale in comparison with some employee behaviors. When asked if they’d ever really pushed the envelope, people ’fessed up to some fairly serious infractions. Among respondents who admit they’ve committed at least one of these acts, over half said they’ve stolen something from the company, and around one-fifth have taken drugs at work.
Talk about co-worker conflicts: 8 percent have harassed someone, 5 percent have made threats,and 7 percent have actually gotten into a physical brawl. Though less common, some of the behaviors are worthy of the big screen: blackmail, embezzlement, fraud, sharing or selling company secrets … it kind of puts that fake sick day in perspective.
ERRANT EMPLOYEES, BY REGION
So how do these rude employee behaviors vary by region? Are some parts of the U.S. more likely to gossip, swear, or scream at colleagues? Yes.
Some regions report a lot more of these behaviors than others. And it may not be the areas you’d expect. Turns out, the South and Midwest lead the pack for co-workers who are always late, with 37 percent and 24 percent of survey respondents saying they’d seen it happen.
For gossip, the Midwest takes the lead, with 50 percent saying they’d heard someone gossiping at work (compared with only 7 percent in the West and 9 percent in the South).
And as for colleagues who socialize excessively? The South wins by a landslide, with 37% percent of those surveyed saying they’d seen it before. The runners-up were the Midwest and Northeast, with 25 and nearly 19 percent respectively.
JOB MISCHIEF, BY GENDER
Yes, certain industries are more likely to show up late or take a long lunch. Particular regions get more flack for being overly social. And as it turns out, there are some behaviors that men are more prone to and others where women are the top offenders. How do the genders stack up?
When it comes to taking a phony sick day, women are more likely than men to fake a cough.Cursing at the office? Men lead the way when it comes to a foul mouth. Unkind whispering at work? Women have an 11 percentage point lead. And viewing adult content at work? That’s nearly the sole territory of “gentlemen.”
There’s only two category where the genders tied: lying to the boss and being consistently late.
Our survey results show that it’s common for people to take too-long lunches, use their sick days as floating holidays, arrive late, socialize too much, or even yell at each other in the workplace. And let’s be honest: We’re probably all guilty of at least one of those things at some point in our careers.
But the good news? We’ve all probably done some really great things for our employers too – staying late to make a deadline, encouraging co-workers, taking clients to lunch instead of taking a break, learning a new skill in our free time, or contributing an idea that tipped the financial scale in the company’s favor.
At the end of the day, there’s a balance to our bad habits and our ability to go the extra mile.
Feel free to share the images found on this page freely. When doing so, please attribute Better Buys by providing a link back to this page, so your readers can learn more about this project and the related research.