We've all heard it being said that one bad apple spoils the barrel. We've heard stories across the media and entertainment industries of rogue agents and undesirable, non-conforming elements. But just how true is it? Can one employee acting out of step really corrupt those around them? As a business owner or manager, it's a premise that needs to be considered.
Research published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) proves to be depressing reading. Drawing from a wide sample across multiple workplaces, the study found that misconduct would increase amongst previously exemplary employees if a they were situated with someone committing malpractice. What's worse, cases where malpractice decreased due to positive influence were few and far between, showing that bad behaviour is more easily learned than good.
The HBR used financial advisors as their research sample, particularly cases where firms merged or absorbed smaller competitors and employees would have no say in picking their co-workers. Misconduct was defined as a customer complaint which resulted in a settlement of at least $10,000 or a ruling against them at arbitration.
Financial advisors from different branches of the same firm were compared, as it allowed researchers to monitor behaviour within the same incentive structure across all subjects within the sample.
The effects of a bad apple
Quite startlingly, it was found that 37% of the financial advisors observed were more likely to act out after coming into contact with a co-worker with a history of misconduct.
Such a result implies that there is a social multiplier of 1.59 when it comes to misconduct. Put simply this means that, on average, every single case of misconduct gives rise to a further 0.59 cases of misconduct from a colleague or colleagues.
For a more in-depth breakdown of the HBR's study, you can read their full findings here.
How a whistleblowing service can combat malpractice
The best way to combat misconduct in the workplace is to ensure that a robust and whistleblowing process is in place, and that staff at all levels understand how it works.
A whistleblowing hotline from Safecall will allow anyone who has witnessed or suspects misconduct to reach out to experienced investigators. Our call takers draw on their vast experience to record the salient information while putting the caller at ease. It's our job to get to the root of any complaint, and you can always be sure that we will act impartially and fairly towards all parties.
As well as a whistleblowing hotline, we can also provide training so that employees are confident in their ability to report misconduct and make a difference.
Originally Published 17th June 2020
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.