Weekly Now: The Pandemic’s Impact on Ethical Behavior

A new report from the Ethics & Compliance Initiative finds a surge in rule-bending over the past year. Also: Lessons in community management from a New York Times group that’s being set aside.

Pressure is rising on employees to bend the rules, according to a new report from the Ethics & Compliance Initiative, and the pandemic is a big part of why.

In the 2020 edition of ‌The State of Ethics & Compliance in the Workplace [registration], a global study of business ethics, researchers found that while more than a fifth of U.S. employees worked in organizations with a strong ethical culture, 30 percent of employees generally felt more pressured to compromise the organization’s ethics standards, the highest rate reported by the study in more than 20 years, and more than double the rate seen in 2017.

This increase in pressure to act unethically has led to a rise in observed misconduct to 49 percent in the U.S.—although that number is in line with where it was two decades ago. While employees are much more likely to report acts of misconduct (86 percent, significantly higher than in 2017), they are also much more likely to experience retaliation for reporting said conduct, with 79 percent of respondents saying they have faced such retaliation—twice the level as seen in 2017.

The report noted that much of the pressure to bend rules came as a result of the pandemic, with 44 percent of U.S. employees reporting more work-related pressure than they were pre-pandemic.

“The findings discussed in this report illustrate that employee conduct around the world has been drastically impacted against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report concludes, adding that there are opportunities to use the moment to build a stronger ethics and compliance program.

Other recent headlines:

A great American comeback. In the early days of the pandemic last year, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation offered a lifeline to its industry: an event called The Great American Takeout, which encouraged people to buy from restaurants during a time when many were closing their doors for what would turn out to be months. Nowadays, most restaurants that survived the pandemic have reopened, but the industry is still facing major struggles, including lasting job loss. And The Great American Takeout is back for another round on Wednesday, March 24, with the event’s sponsors by offering donations of $10 each to the foundation and CORE: Children of Restaurant Employees for each takeout meal shared on social media (up to $550,000). Sponsors include PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Tyson Foods, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association, and many others.

Nearly a million nonprofit jobs lost. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled by the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University, more than 926,000 nonprofit jobs have been lost in the past year since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, a 7.4 percent loss overall. Sectors such as arts and entertainment (34.7 percent) and educational services (14.6 percent) suffered the deepest declines in employment, while healthcare (3.7 percent) and social services (7.5 percent) saw comparatively modest declines. Religious, grantmaking, civic, and professional groups hit somewhere in the middle, with a 10.1 percent decline.

Online Communities: Don’t Forget the ROI

Running an online community isn’t easy, and The New York Times is throwing in the towel, at least on Facebook.

The newspaper last week announced that it would give control of a popular Facebook-based cooking group to the community of more than 77,000 members, stating that the group had moved beyond its initial goals. Part of the reason? The group wasn’t closely tethered to the original mission, according to Nieman Lab.

“The Facebook group, which never required a Times subscription as a prerequisite for membership, had come to feel increasingly separate from the NYT Cooking product,” the outlet stated.

All in all, it offers a great lesson on community management and tying such a community to ROI.


After a year of free virtual conferences, many associations are looking at ways to price their events in 2021, Samantha Whitehorne writes.

The right piece of collaboration software for your organization has nothing to do with how trendy it is.

What’s going to happen to the office after the pandemic? Rasheeda Childress highlights findings from a new report.

(SPmemory/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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