Nearly a third (31 percent) of U.S. workers have witnessed co-workers engage in ethical misconduct, according to a Hudson survey on workplace ethics. However, only half (52 percent) of those witnessing unethical or illegal acts reported it to anyone in authority.

Despite these figures, nearly eight in ten U.S. workers (78 percent) state that their companies clearly communicate what they consider unethical and ethical behavior in the workplace. And three in four workers (74 percent) express confidence in the leadership of their organization, indicating that senior leaders of their company generally behave with honesty and integrity.

However, among those who have witnessed their colleagues’ transgressions, the percentage of those believing that their leaders are honest drops to 61 percent.

“Workplace ethics is not an abstract concept, but a critical part of a healthy company,” said David Rhind, general counsel North America, Hudson Highland Group. “Even with clear ethics policies in place, companies must create a culture of integrity throughout the organization by providing both the means and the mandate to report concerns. When senior executives lead by example, employees are more likely to follow suit.”

Other key findings include:

• Government workers are more likely than their entrepreneurial and private enterprise counterparts to report that they have seen coworkers engage in unethical or illegal behavior (38 percent compared to 29 percent and 31 percent, respectively).
• On average, those making less than $40,000 annually are less likely to feel their company’s leadership behaves with honesty and integrity: 65 percent compared to 74 percent nationally.
• Men under the age of 40 and African-American workers have witnessed significantly more ethical misconduct by co-workers (42 percent and 36 percent respectively).
• Only a quarter (26 percent) workers over age 50 have witnessed unethical behavior, and nearly eight in ten (77 percent) believe that their leaders behave with honesty and integrity.