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.
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.
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 be.