Stress and Long Hours Prompt Employees to Lie, Cheat and Steal

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A combination of stress, long hours, and an inflexible schedule is the main driver of bad behavior in the workplace, according to a new survey.

Among more than 1,000 employees polled nationwide in February by Harris Interactive for Deloitte & Touche, the vast majority cited work-life balance as having a bigger impact on fostering good behavior than enforcing harsh workplace rules and penalties, the survey found.

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As many as 91 percent of respondents said employees with a healthy work-life balance were more likely to act ethically on the job, while just 10 percent ranked strict penalties for code of conduct violations as a key element in fostering good behavior.

Conflicts between work responsibilities and personal life were largely seen as causing stress and job dissatisfaction, which in turn led to poor decisions and bad behavior — whether it's stealing office supplies, lying to co-workers and managers, or passing along company secrets, the survey found.

"If someone invests all of their time and energy into their jobs, it may have the unintended consequence of making them dependent on their jobs for everything — including their sense of personal worth," Sharon Allen, chairman of the board of Deloitte & Touche USA said in a statement.

Flexible schedules were cited by more than half of the respondents as a key factor in job satisfaction.

Still, beyond a work-life balance issues, upper management has an important role to play, the survey found. As many as 78 percent of respondents said managers and supervisors were the top two influences on the overall ethical culture of the workplace.

Allen said it was important for managers and supervisors to live the values they preach, rather than simply enforcing strict rules and penalties, in order to maintain a "culture of ethics" in the office.

"Corporate leaders have a duty to build and foster a values-based culture that thrives on high ethical standards and makes corporate and social responsibility a top priority," she said.

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