WORKPLACE ETHICS ... The ethical climate at Palo Alto City Hall is generally sunny, though many city workers feel the city can do better when it comes to rewarding strong performance and encouraging employees to speak up about ethical violations. Those are results of a survey of more than 300 employees that was recently conducted by the Office of the City Auditor. The survey asked both management and non-management workers to consider a variety of statements and give each a score between 1 and 10 (Examples: "In my local government, I am expected to tell the complete truth in my work for the agency" and "The executives in my local government treat the public with civility and respect."). The city then received a score between 1 and 100 from the management group and, separately, the broader employee group, with 75 to 100 connoting a "strong ethical environment" and 0 to 49 indicating that the agency's "culture needs significant change." Palo Alto's scores were good but far from spectacular. The employees' anonymous answers added up to a score of 75.1, placing the city in the lowest tier of "good," The managers were more critical, collectively giving the city a score of 70, which signifies room for improvement. Many employees said they are not being encouraged to speak up about "ethically questionable practices." Only about 30 percent put "always" as their answer to this question, with another 30 percent saying "rarely" (the rest were either "almost always" or "sometimes"). When asked if they're surrounded by coworkers "who know the difference between ethical and unethical behaviors, and seem to care about the difference," only about 30 percent responded "always." Among the managers, the statements that scored the poorest related to whether executives "create an environment in which staff is comfortable raising ethical concerns"; "appreciate staff bringing forward bad news and don't 'shoot the messenger' for saying so,"; and "appoint and reward people on the basis of performance and contribution to the organization's goals and services." These statements received scores of 6.1, 6.1 and 5.6, respectively, on a 10-point scale. The two qualities that don't seem to be an issue at all are civility and avoidance of corruption. A vast majority of managers gave the city high marks (8.7) for whether executives "treat the public with civility and respect" and "refuse to accept gifts and/or special treatment from those with business before the agency."
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posted Friday, August 2, 2013, 12:00 AM