HR Strange But True!
October 29, 2009

With the workplace affairs of David Letterman and an ESPN baseball analyst in the headlines, the question of whether such liaisons are ethical is fodder for water cooler discussion. And a new study by the Ethics Resource Center says while both sexes think these affairs are certainly unwise, sides on the ethics argument may break down along gender lines.

This sixth biennial National Business Ethics Survey by the Ethics Resource Center (ERC) was conducted in July and August, before this recent media attention to the subject. According to a press release on the study, a total of 83.6 percent of respondents said it was unacceptable to date one's boss. Of those who did say it was acceptable, two-thirds were men and one-third were women.

When it came to whether dating a co-worker was unethical, 47.5 percent said it was OK, while 50.6 percent didn't think it was a good idea. Here those thinking the practice was acceptable split roughly equally on gender lines, with 49 percent of men and 45 percent accepting workplace romances among peers. (Note: some respondents had no opinion.)

About 8 percent of respondents said they had personally observed incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace in the last 6 months, but only about half (52 percent) reported it to management or the appropriate person listed in their company's sexual harassment policy.

Explaining this relatively low figure, ERC President Patricia J. Harned, Ph.D. says: “As we put together all the survey findings, we see a clear pattern that fear of being fired in a tough economy is a big factor in determining whether people report ethical transgressions.”

Sources: Press Release via Reuters  

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