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Whistleblowers face most corporate retaliation ever in 2011

More employees than ever before turned whistleblower against unethical behavior last year, but they also suffered the highest amount of backlash in history from their bosses.

Nearly half of all workers witnessed some sort of misconduct, according to a report from research group Ethics Resource Center. Of those, 65% reported the wrongdoing – a record number. Also at an all-time high: the 22% of whistleblowers who said their companies struck back at them for spilling the beans. 

Companies tend to act differently in uncertain economic times, taking more risks as the business environment improves, according to the ERC.

More than four in 10 survey participants said their businesses have a weak ethical culture – the highest percentage in a decade. Just 62% said they were confident in their firm’s senior leadership team and, in an all-time high, 34% said their managers don’t display ethcial behavior. 

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And 13% of employees said they felt pressured to compromise ethical standards in order to do their jobs; 23% said they felt unprepared to handle potentially sticky situations. Both measures are worse than in 2009 – the last time the survey was conducted.

In a sign of the times, workers who heavily use social networks are more likely to engage in potentially unethical behavior – 42% compared with 11% of non-networked co-workers – such as keeping copies of confidential work files to use at future jobs, using the company credit card for personal use and taking home company software.

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