Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Multinational Report Finds Fear and Apathy Keep Many HR Professionals From Addressing Workplace Misconduct

Behavox Study Reveals HR’s Refusal to Act on Illegal, Inappropriate Employee Misconduct Heightens Enterprise Risk for Compliance, Legal, IT, Security, Exec Teams

Behavox, which uses AI to enable enterprises to organize and refine their data into actionable information that protects and promotes business growth, released a second round of findings from its Enterprise Conduct & Risk Report that found that although HR professionals are aware of remote workers engaging in illegal, harmful misconduct during the pandemic, a significant percentage are unwilling to address it for reasons ranging from liability concerns to apathy — reasons that present unnecessary risk to regulatory compliance, legal, IT, security, and executive teams.

The Behavox Enterprise Conduct and Risk Report examines the extent of harmful and illegal misconduct occurring among remote workforces during the COVID-19 pandemic, assessing the impact on corporate risk management at a time enterprises cannot afford disruption to their business continuity and brands. The study incorporates findings from 3,000 white-collar workers and 600 HR professionals in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

In the first installment, The ECR Report examines the impact indefinite work-from-home conditions have on employee behavior, discovering widespread misconduct resulting from loosening professional standards and lack of managerial oversight. Findings include illegal misconduct, such as employees willingly breaking security policies, theft, and corporate espionage, as well as harmful behavior like racism, sexual harassment, and bullying.

The latest findings reveal HR’s awareness of misconduct doubles that of employee respondents, and yet it is apparently not enough to convince a significant percentage of HR professionals to take action. Their reasons are striking.

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Key Findings: HR’s Awareness of Employee Misconduct

  • Nearly 3 out of 10 HR respondents believe fewer incidents of harmful misconduct are occurring during the work-from-home period compared to a typical office environment. However, employees believe differently, as only 1 out of 100 employees believe fewer incidents of sexual harassment, racism, and bullying are happening when compared to work environments before the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Almost 3 out of 10 HR respondents admit non-employees listen in to meetings, breaking compliance regulations and posing serious security concerns around protecting material non-public information (MNPI).
  • More than one in five (21%) HR respondents are aware of racial slurs on employee channels. This is particularly disturbing, considering the study took place during 2020’s well-documented racial and social unrest.
  • HR respondents believe pedophiles work within their ranks. Six percent believe employees view child pornography on work devices. Closer to double (10%) the number of employee respondents expressed this belief.
  • More than one in 10 (11%) HR respondents report work communication channels being used to buy illegal drugs. This is higher than what employees report (8%).

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Despite their concerns, many employee respondents said they do not report misconduct because they lack confidence in HR to address it. For example, almost 3 in 10 employee respondents believe HR is afraid to take action, while a third said HR is unreliable. Unfortunately, many are correct in their assumptions. More than one in five HR respondents said they are hesitant to address misconduct. Here are their reasons:

  • Half (50%) worry about legal implications of addressing misconduct.
  • Two of 5 (42%) said they are conflict-avoidant.
  • Three of 10 (30%) admit they are too busy.
  • One in 5 (22%) say they are just not committed to addressing misconduct.

“The refusal to address employee misconduct exposes a vivid reality of risk caused by HR teams chartered to mitigate it,” said Neil Wu Becker, Chief Marketing Officer of Behavox. “As firms bring back employees to the office later this year or allow hybrid work models, executives, managers, compliance, legal, and security teams must work with their HR counterparts to acquire visibility into the extent of misconduct within their ranks and remove toxicity in favor of greater employee productivity and culture. Their business and brand depend on it.”

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