Wealth Shift: The Decline of Ethics in America
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#2 - Mental Health Days, Extra-Long Lunches, and Tardiness

In another Careerbuilder.com survey, 32% of workers surveyed admitted to taking regular “mental health days”. Two of the excuses that actually flew with employers were, “My favorite contestant on American Idol got voted off and I’m too upset to work,” and “I’m not feeling very well today; I want to rest up so I can come to the company party tonight.”

When asked to identify the primary cause for coming in late, 31% of the Careerbuilder.com respondents surveyed attributed their tardiness to traffic, 16% cited falling back asleep, and 8% pointed to getting their kids ready for school or day care as the main reason for running behind schedule. Broken down by gender, males are less likely to be late, with 41% saying they have never been late for work in their current position (compared to 37% of females). Males are also less likely to lie about why they're late – 22% compared to 28% of women.

While the majority of hiring managers surveyed didn’t typically question the validity of the reasons provided (or punish the offenders), 27% said most of the time they didn’t believe the excuses given.

In the same survey, hiring managers provided the following top ten examples of the most unusual excuses employees have ever offered for arriving late to work:

1) Someone was following me, and I drove all around town trying to lose them.

2) My dog dialed 911, and the police wanted to question me about what “really” happened.

3) My girlfriend got mad and destroyed all of my undergarments.

4) I woke up and thought I was temporarily deaf.

5) I just wasn’t “feelin’ it” this morning.

6) I was up all night arguing with God.

7) A raccoon stole my work shoe off my porch.

8) I super-glued my eye thinking it was contact solution.

9) I was putting lotion on my face when my finger went up my nose causing a nose bleed.

10) A prostitute climbed into my car at a stop light, and I was afraid my wife would see her and think I was messing around... so I got out of the car.

Again, a certain measure of tolerance is necessary in any corporation that wants to be understanding of the issues its employees deal with. But, in retrospect, many managers wish they had never opened this particular can of worms. Most managers now feel that by allowing their employees to take an inch, they’ve lost a mile instead. One manager got so fed up with the excuses she was being given that she began making house calls to all the questionable people who were calling in sick. Another manager tried calling his “sick” employee at home, and, when told the employee was at the beach, called her cell phone and left an irate message in which he fired her on the spot. (The employee later complained that this was not an appropriate way to terminate a person’s employment and actually went so far as to claim compensable damages from the experience!)

Right now we are experiencing a static economy. In a static environment where upward mobility is limited and peak performers are rewarded comparably with poor performers, the incentive to show up on time and work hard evaporates. According to the second key ethical influence (which says that demonstrating good ethics must be rewarded and demonstrating poor ethics must be punished if we want to maintain an ethical environment) we have lost the “carrots” of advancements and raises. And if we fail to replace those lost carrots with other, far more tasty carrots, then all we are going to be left with are mulish employees, worn-out sticks, and calloused hands.

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