Ethics at Work Index: 80.8
The work environment in Germany seems to have improved in some important ways compared to 2018. Most employees think that honesty is practised always or frequently in their organisation and have not felt pressured to compromise their organisation’s standards of behaviour. The percentage of employees who have been aware of misconduct has also substantially decreased.
However, many organisations in Germany, like in other countries, seem to struggle to encourage employees who have been aware of misconduct to speak up about it. Perhaps this is because the key elements of an ethics programme are still not commonly used in Germany. It is worth noting that the improvements recorded compared to 2018, particularly with regards to the means of reporting misconduct confidentially, seem to indicate that organisations are moving in the right direction. Looking ahead, loss of interpersonal interactions due to the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown is the issue that German employees are more likely to be concerned about.
- In 2021, 89% of German employees say that honesty is practised always or frequently in their organisation, which is a substantial improvement compared to 2018 (69%). This makes Germany one of the countries where employees are more likely to say so, alongside France (89%) and Switzerland (91%).
- The percentage of employees who have felt pressured to compromise their organisation’s standards of behaviour has decreased in Germany compared to 2018 (6% vs 17%). This is the lowest percentage ever recorded in Germany. The main source of pressure for German employees is due to time pressure/unrealistic deadlines (40%) and the need to meet unrealistic business objectives (31%). German employees are also more likely than average to say that they were under pressure because they wanted to help the organisation perform better (27% vs 16% global average).
- Employees in Germany are less likely to say that they have been aware of misconduct at work compared to 2018 (10% vs 25%) and the least likely to say so among all the countries surveyed. This is the lowest percentage ever recorded in Germany.
- In Germany, 56% of employees that have been aware of misconduct at work have spoken up about it with management, another appropriate person, or through any other mechanism, which is in line with the global average (57%). In 2018, this percentage was 57%.
- The main reasons why employees do not raise their concerns are that they felt they might jeopardise their job (29%) and that they did not believe that corrective action would be taken (26%).
- 50% of German employees say that they have experienced retaliation after they raised concerns about misconduct.
- Only 52% of German employees who have spoken up about the misconduct they have been aware of are satisfied with the outcome. The global average is 62%.
The ethics programme
- Less than half of German employees say that they are aware of each of the four building blocks of an ethics programme considered. Written standards of ethical business conduct are the most common and 48% of respondents are aware of this, which is the lowest percentage among all the countries surveyed and 2 percentage points (pp) lower than in 2018.
- Compared to 2018, the biggest increase has been recorded with reference to the provision of a means of reporting misconduct confidentially (44% vs 37% in 2018).
Embedding ethics through a supportive environment
- Employees in Germany have mixed views on their line manager’s commitment to ethics. For example, only 59% say that their line manager supports them in following their organisation’s standards of ethical behaviour, which is below the global average (68%).
- 73% of German employees say that their organisation acts responsibly in all its business dealings, which is lower than the global average (76%), and 70% say that it lives up to its stated policy of social responsibility (the global average is 71%).
- They are less likely than average to say that people in their organisation know what is expected of them in terms of ethical behaviour (72% vs 78% global average), that in their organisation decisions about people are made fairly (57% vs 65% global average) and they are among the least likely to say that issues of right and wrong are discussed in staff meetings (48% vs 58% global average).
- They are also less likely than average to say that their organisation disciplines employees who violate its ethical standards (59% vs 63% global average).
Current and future issues
- 17% of employees in Germany say that, considering their organisation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, their opinion on how ethically their organisation behaves has improved. This figure is significantly lower than the global average (37%). Only 8% say that it has worsened, while 72% say that it has stayed the same.
- With regards to the future of the workplace, loss of interpersonal interactions due to the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown is the issue that German employees are more likely to be concerned about (29%), followed by increased surveillance and monitoring in the workplace (28%).
- Germany is behind the global average in the adoption of AI (18% vs 25%) and in the dissemination of AI ethics guidelines Germany is below average (46% vs 61%).
- In general, AI-related topics are not the most prominent types of unethical conduct at work (only 6%). German employees are less likely to have concerns regarding unethical behaviour related to the use of AI than the average.
- In general, German employees who personally interact with AI tend to have more AI-related concerns than the average.