A lack of pay rises and constant change are behind a rise in bad behaviour in Australian offices

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Change fatigue and the lack of pay increases has had an impact on the behaviour of Australia’s office workers.

Generally, Australians are sticking to their current jobs, keeping their heads down and working harder, according to the latest CEB Global Talent Monitor survey.

However, CEB, now Gartner, has detected a flow on effect from a combination low wage growth and restructuring — there’s been a rise in employee misconduct, including pretending to be sick to have a day off.

Workers have become disengaged and apathetic, reasoning that if their managers keeping changing and if they don’t get a pay rise, why should they care?

CEB’s third quarter survey shows 20% of employees reporting a high willingness to go above and beyond at work, which is 3.5% higher than the global average.

And 41.6% are highly committed to staying in their current job, which is 5% higher than the global average.

However, Australia currently has a high incidence of restructuring and changes in leadership.

Australians are nearly 15% more likely to have changes in senior leadership and 8% more likely to have been part of an organisational restructure in the past 12 months, more than any other country in the world.

This, combined with low wage growth, has created the perfect storm for an increase in employee misconduct.

According to CEB, high-change work environments, where employees experience multiple career moments during one year, such as changes in leadership, M&As or pay freezes, can have up to three times the amount of misconduct compared those in stable work environments.

“Certain career moments are more likely to lead to higher rates of employee misconduct than others,” says Aaron McEwan, HR advisory leader at CEB, now Gartner.

“While changes in senior leadership and organisational restructuring are among the top forms of disruption, layoffs, wage freezes and a change in direct management can all impact employee behaviour.”

Flat salaries also unsettle employees.

Employee expectations of pay dropped by just over 1% cent in the September quarter, according to the CEB survey.

“The findings are quite clear — workplace disruption has left employees disengaged and apathetic to the impact their behaviour could have on the organisation,” says McEwan.

“Their attitude is that if leadership is unstable or their team keeps changing, who’s going to notice or even care if they do something they shouldn’t.

“All it takes is for one person to get away with something once, and it snowballs from there.

“We see misconduct ranging from chucking a sickie to watch the Ashes to more serious behaviour such as theft, harassment or ethical breaches.”

McEwan says employers can curb misconduct by planning, preparing and supporting employees through times of disruption.

“By stabilising the rate of change within the work environment and reducing emotional hotspots that can lead to poor decision making, leaders can dramatically reduce the risk of employee misconduct,” he says.

Global Talent Monitor data is drawn from the larger CEB Global Labour Market Survey which is made up of more than 22,000 employees in 40 countries.

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