Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Poll: Most Teens Think They Can Make Ethical Business Decisions, Yet Many Also Believe It Is Okay to Lie and Cheat

/PRNewswire/ -- 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.

Key Findings:

-- 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 the Findings Mean:

-- 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

What Is the Solution?

-- 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 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:

"There 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:

"Teens 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."

Related Links:
Junior Achievement's online Ethics Center
Downloadable Photos
Related News
Ainar D. Aijala bio
Sean Rush bio
David W. Miller, Ph.D. bio


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.

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