Poll: Most Teens Think They Can Make Ethical Business Decisions, Yet Many Also Believe it is
Okay to Lie and Cheat
Paradox Underscores Continued Need for Training in Ethical Decision-Making
(CSRwire) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - February 11, 2009 - In large numbers,
teens today express a troubling contradiction when it comes to ethical readiness for the workforce. At the same time they
express confidence in their preparedness to make the right choices in the future, they freely admit to unethical behavior
today. Those are among the key findings of a new national poll from Junior Achievement and Deloitte, the results of which
reveal considerable ethical confusion among teens regarding what types of behavior are appropriate in order to succeed.
What the Findings Mean:
- Eighty percent of teens either somewhat or strongly agree that
they are prepared to make ethical business decisions when they join the workforce, yet more than a third (38 percent) think
that you have to break the rules at school to succeed.
- More than one in four teens (27 percent) think behaving violently
is sometimes, often or always acceptable. Twenty percent of respondents said they had personally behaved violently toward
another person in the past year, and 41 percent reported a friend had done so.
- Nearly half (49 percent) of those who say they are ethically
prepared believe that lying to parents and guardians is acceptable, and 61 percent have done so in the past year.
- Teens feel more accountable to themselves (86 percent) than
they do to their parents or guardians (52 percent), their friends (41 percent) or society (33 percent).
- Only about half (54 percent) cite their parents as role models.
Most of those who don't cite their parents as role models are turning to their friends or said they didn't have a role model.
- Only 25 percent said they would be "very likely" to reveal
knowledge of unethical behavior in the workplace.
What Is the Solution?
- Teens' feelings about accountability, coupled with self-reported
unethical behavior, raise a potential concern among employers because ties within a community, school, work environment or
social network often guide behavior. If teens lack accountability to others, the data suggests that their choices may be driven
purely by self-interest and not by interest in the greater good.
- An absence of adult role models can leave a vacuum of ethical
guidance as young people enter adulthood. With a significant number of teens reporting they don’t have an adult role
model for ethical behavior, the data raises even more questions about why adults are not viewed as role models and what can
be done to fill the gap.
- Teens seem to be experiencing a sense of ethical confusion
and relativism — an endemic ethical attitude of "the ends justify the means." Given that in a few years these same individuals
will be performing our hospital lab tests, repairing our cars, teaching our children and investing our money, the survey results
raise concerns for employers about how ethically prepared their future workforce will be.
- To provide tools to teens to help them become better ethically
prepared, Junior Achievement and Deloitte offer "JA Business Ethics(TM)" as part of a $2 million initiative.
- "JA Business Ethics" was developed in response to the needs
of high school students; it provides hands-on classroom activities and real-life applications designed to foster ethical decision
making as students prepare to enter the workforce. Students examine how their beliefs align with major ethics theories and
learn the benefits and advantages of having a code of ethics.
- Additionally, Junior Achievement recently updated the original
"Excellence through Ethics(TM)" program, which is available online at www.ja.org/ethics free of charge and provides age-appropriate lessons for students
in grades 4-12.
- Attributable to David W. Miller, Ph.D., director
of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative and professor of business ethics at Princeton University:
is a troubling incongruence between the degree to which teens feel ethically prepared to enter the workforce, and the unethical
behaviors in which they engage. The survey results do prompt concerns about teens' future workplace behavior and forecast
serious challenges to businesses around how they will need to prepare and train these future leaders."
- Attributable to Sean C. Rush, president and chief
executive officer of JA Worldwide:
"The results of the survey reveal considerable ethical relativism among teens
and raises questions about their ability to make good decisions later in life. We're understandably concerned about these
results but recognize that they do point to a major learning opportunity."
- Attributable to Ainar D. Aijala, global consulting leader,
Deloitte, and Chairman of JA Worldwide:
need training in ethical decision making, practical tools and role models that help them understand not only how to make the
right choices, but how those choices will impact their personal success and the success of the organizations they join. That
is why Deloitte continues to support ethics education in collaboration with Junior Achievement."
This report presents the findings of a telephone survey conducted
by Opinion Research Corporation, among a national sample of 750 teens comprising 375 males and 375 females 12 to 17 years
of age, living in private households in the continental United States. Interviewing for this TEEN CARAVAN(R) Survey was completed
during the period October 9-12, 2008. The survey's margin of error is +/- 3.6 percent.About JA Worldwide(R)t (Junior
Junior Achievement is the world's largest organization dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people
to succeed in a global economy. Through a dedicated volunteer network, Junior Achievement provides in-school and after-school
programs for students which focus on three key content areas: work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. Today,
137 individual area operations reach more than four million students in the United States, with an additional five million
students served by operations in 123 other countries worldwide. For more information, visit www.ja.org
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a Swiss Verein, its member firms,
and their respective subsidiaries and affiliates. As a Swiss Verein (association), neither Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu nor any
of its member firms have any liability for each other's acts or omissions. Each of the member firms is a separate and independent
legal entity operating under the names "Deloitte," "Deloitte & Touche," "Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu," or other related names.
Services are provided by the member firms or their subsidiaries or affiliates and not by the Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Verein.