Workplace Conduct South Africa benchmark study April 2019

Workplace conduct issues permeate every industry and company, and on average, companies are not taking a ‘leader’ role on these issues.

This online survey was conducted in February 2019 among 1,000 employed South African adults over the age of 18 who work outside the home.

The survey found that workplace conduct issues are prevalent across a broad segment of industries in South Africa (SA). Over a third of employees indicated having seen or heard of an incident of workplace misconduct within their organisation in the past year, while about half believe this is happening across most of corporate SA.

Companies have an opportunity to demonstrate greater leadership on these issues.

Employees’ high expectations for how companies should handle workplace conduct issues presents an opportunity for leadership to strengthen and change the culture inside their organisations. Our research found that 65 percent of workers in SA believe the CEO role includes setting the company’s moral tone, and that 96 percent want to hear from leadership about respect in the workplace.

When responding to an internal allegation of sexual misconduct, employees expect leadership to address the problem quickly, and with transparency.

The South African workforce believes there is more progress to be made to address workplace conduct issues and are notably keen for more communication and transparency about workplace conduct. Highlighted is that only one in five employees have attended training in their organisations on workplace misconduct in the past 12 months.

Generally, there is a strong sense that leaders must bridge a perception gap about workplace respect with employees in non-leadership roles. Currently, 41 percent of employees in non-leadership positions say they do not feel respected in their daily work environment, compared to 13 percent in leadership positions who say the same.

It should be noted that the survey results demonstrated that SA employees, both in leadership and non-leadership roles, do not view their companies as leaders in workplace conduct, with 13 percent of workers saying they do not know where to turn to report an incident.

The majority of those who have experienced harassment or assault in the workplace do not believe the HR department prioritises the company over employees, and nearly half believe they would face retaliation if they reported an incident of misconduct.

Itumeleng Mahabane, Brunswick’s Africa lead partner for Business, Politics and Society said: “The results suggest that South African companies have a profound opportunity to better manage issues related to workplace conduct. Narrowing the expectation gap between employees and leadership strengthens employee engagement and improves risk mitigation."

Download the full report here