The Integrity Crossroad: New Study Reveals The Potential Repercussions Of Working In A Dishonest Job Environment

Share Article

New study by reveals that upstanding employees who have witnessed dishonest behavior in previous jobs may be more tempted to engage in dishonest behavior themselves.

Being exposed to dishonest behavior can be corrosive.

The importance of honesty in the workplace is something that needs to be strongly emphasized.

When a good person goes bad, parents, teachers, and other authorities tend to look to outside influences for a logical explanation, only to discover that in many cases, the individual seemed to have fallen in with a “bad crowd.”

While this doesn’t imply that negative influences can create a turncoat of everyone, research from suggests that being exposed to dishonest behavior can be corrosive, and cause certain vulnerable individuals to become more tolerant of deceit and dishonesty.

Evaluating data from 1,609 people who took their Integrity and Work Ethics Test, researchers at PsychTests focused their analysis on people who had never been fired for deceitful acts - like breaking rules or theft - and who were rated as being fairly honest people. Researchers then split the sample based on one crucial factor: whether they had witnessed dishonest behavior in previous jobs.

The group that had been exposed to dishonest behavior was more likely to:

  • Perceive humanity as being more dishonest in general (score of 45 for the exposure group vs. 31 for the non-exposure group). (Note: Scores run from 0 to 100. Higher scores indicate a more lenient attitude toward dishonest behavior).
  • Use internet access at work to surf the web for personal interest during work hours (score of 50 for the exposure group vs. 40 for the non-exposure group).
  • Work less time than they were being paid for by, for example, taking longer lunches, making personal calls, web surfing, or slacking off (score of 49 for the exposure group vs. 35 for the non-exposure group).
  • Attempt to cover up their mistakes or otherwise lie to get out of trouble at work (score of 25 for the exposure group vs. 16 for the non-exposure group).
  • Rationalize acts of dishonesty if the person who committed the act had been treated poorly by employers or colleagues (score of 27 for the exposure group vs. 21 for the non-exposure group).
  • Cover up for dishonest colleagues (score of 33 for the exposure group vs. 30 for the non-exposure group).

Looking in more detail at the attitude and behavior of the exposure group, PsychTests’ honesty study also revealed that:

  • 39% of the exposure group believes that the majority of employees lie to their boss on a regular basis (vs. 20% for the non-exposure group).
  • 30% of the exposure group thinks it’s justifiable to use a sick day for reasons other than illness, like taking a personal day to relax or run errands, for example (vs. 17% for the non-exposure group).
  • 21% of the exposure group spends at least half an hour a day surfing personal interest sites while they are supposed to be working (vs. 9% for the non-exposure group).
  • 40% of the exposure group has stolen office supplies and computer equipment from their company (vs. 27% for the non-exposure group).

“It’s important to understand that not every honest employee will become dishonest as a result of bad influences in the past,” explains Dr. Jerabek, president of PsychTests. “However, employers need to see this as a wake-up call, especially if their organization has been a victim of dishonesty on the part of employees, management or stakeholders. Although using pre-employment assessments to weed out unscrupulous people is a good first step, the importance of honesty in the workplace is something that needs to be strongly emphasized. Being exposed to dishonest behavior at work can rock the foundation of a person’s values, principles, and morals. They may begin to question whether being a good, honest employee is worth the effort. A bad attitude may not always translate to bad behavior, but it certainly has a strong influence.”

PsychTests offers the following tips to employers to encourage honesty in the workplace:

  • CLEARLY OUTLINE WORK RULES: Hand out a document outlining work rules from the moment a person is hired, and indicate in a straightforward, easy-to-understand language the repercussions of rule-breaking. Post the rules in visible places. This could discourage dishonesty from the start, and clear up confusion for current employees. Remember, not all dishonest acts are intentional – some employees may be unaware that certain acts or not permitted, like using the photocopy machine for personal use, taking lunch breaks at a different time of day, or sending personal emails from the office mail server.
  • SET A GOOD EXAMPLE: It’s difficult if not impossible to encourage integrity in the workplace if you don’t follow the rules you set. If employees witness their manager breaking rules, they may see it as a green light to commit the same act themselves, or develop a resentful attitude toward management, which can also lead to deceitful acts as a form of retaliation. Be the person you want your employees to be. The “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” justification rarely works on children, and certainly won’t work on adults.
  • REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOR IN THE WORKPLACE: If an employee willingly and honestly admits a mistake, goes out of his/her way to help a colleague without being ordered to, voluntarily works overtime to complete a project, or is clearly trying to improve a problematic behavior that you have brought to his/her attention, acknowledge this person’s efforts. Make praise and rewards a staple of your managerial approach. When employees feel unappreciated or treated unfairly, they may use management’s indifference as fuel for dishonest acts.

Want to assess your level of integrity at work? Check out

Professional users of this test can request a free demo for the WINT – R (Work Integrity Test - Revised) or any other assessments from ARCH Profile’s extensive battery:

To learn more about psychological testing, download this free eBook:

About is a subsidiary of PsychTests AIM Inc. is a site that creates an interactive venue for self-exploration with a healthy dose of fun. The site offers a full range of professional-quality, scientifically validated psychological assessments that empower people to grow and reach their real potential through insightful feedback and detailed, custom-tailored analysis.

PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see The company’s research division, Plumeus Inc., is supported in part by Research and Development Tax Credit awarded by Industry Canada.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Ilona Jerabek, PhD
PsychTests AIM Inc.
+1 514-745-3189 Ext: 112
Email >
since: 10/2012
Follow >
since: 10/2009
Like >
Follow us on
Visit website