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Are millennials more ethical leaders in business?

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Millennials are starting to lead worldwide major corporations, and, in some companies, they make up 60 percent of the workforce. As young people take on different types of leadership roles in business, what difference will they make to ethical leadership?

To answer this question, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a U.K. professional services network and one of the largest in the world, used a wide range of analytical and research material. Some specific bits of information included the pressure to misbehave, millennials’ values, the tendency to cheat, CSR influence and the digital divide.

Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank, asked a group of millennials about their priorities. Those questioned did not reply “making money” or “becoming famous.” Instead, they mentioned “being a good parent,” “having a successful marriage,” and “helping others in need.”

The Ethics Resource Center (ERC), a nonprofit organization devoted to the advancement of high ethical standards and practices in public and private organizations, provided a study in June known as Generational Differences in Workplace Ethics.

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The study examined the differences in attitudes toward ethical issues among four generational groups: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials (or Generation Y). According to the study, Traditionalists (born between 1925 and 1945) are hardworking, respectful of authority and value loyalty. Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964) are hardworking, idealistic and committed to harmony. Gen Xers (1965 to 1980) are entrepreneurial, flexible and self-reliant and comfortable with technology. Millennials (1981 to 2000) are tech-savvy, appreciative of diversity and skilled in multitasking.

The study shows that these differences led to a great range of variability in the workplace ethical attitudes. The youngest workers were more likely than previous generations to feel the pressure from others to break ethical rules, since “the pressure eases as workers spend more time in the workforce and learn ways of coping with their work environment.”

As a solution, companies should concentrate more on issues of ethical culture during the orientation of new employees, in order to make them feel more comfortable within the culture of the new workplace.

Another finding in the generational study was that younger workers reported more ethical misconduct in the workplace than their older colleagues, despite the fact that they observed far fewer examples of using company time to conduct personal business than older generations.

The study explained that this phenomenon is related to the tendency of younger workers to integrate their work and personal lives to a greater extent.

While earlier studies had shown that younger workers are less likely to manifest unethical behavior, this latest report showed that they are now on the same level as many of their older counterparts.

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