Are You An Honest Business Executive?

Annual Gallup Poll On Honesty And Ethics of Professions Due Out Soon

How would you rate the honesty and ethical standards of business executives you know?

Every year The Gallup Poll asks a cross section of Americans to rate “business executives” on honesty and ethical standards. Gallup has conducted this poll since 1976. The highest rating in the past 10 years came in 2001, when the Top 2 Box for business executives was 25%.

Top 2 Box means 25% of Americans rated business executives as “very high” or “high” in honesty and ethical standards. That also means 75% of Americans rated business executives as “average,” “low” or “very low” on these characteristics.

In 2011, Americans gave business executives a Top 2 Box of only 18. But that’s a big improvement from 2008, when only 12% rated execs highly.  What will it be this year?

Who Are These Business Executives?

As a business executive, I find this information troubling. It seems so inaccurate a portrayal of the majority of brilliant, hard working, honest small business leaders that add so much to our society every year.

Most of the business executives I know have extremely high standards for honesty and ethics. Most are honest with their customers, or they would not be in business long. Most are honest with their employees, or again, how could they succeed?

Where Does This Negative Attitude Toward Business Executive Arise?

As marketers, we know these attitudes must be driven by negative news in the media. This demonstrates that it’s human nature to generalize about a category from isolated incidents that occur in the news. And that’s why we’re always driving for “good PR” for our brands.

Does any of this bother you? I think The Gallup Poll needs to rethink their objectives with this survey. Does it really matter what “Americans” think about this issue? I would rather know what “all Americans” think about my brand, or other brands. But it does call to attention that the term “business executives” is a kind of brand too.

I understand that a survey of the general population makes a good news story during a presidential election. But how did Gallup do this year? The final Gallup Election Poll predicted that Romney would beat Obama 49% to 48%. They reported big leads in the polls for Romney weeks before the election.

I Question The Honesty of The Gallup Poll

It would be much more useful to see segmented ratings for groups like “recently jobless” or “chronically jobless.” How about segments called “homemakers,” “retireds,” or “grandmas that have never held a job outside the home but still hold the strongest of opinions about the state of the economy.” Of course they will give negative ratings.

I guess all business executives have moved or want to move all of their businesses to China to make maximum profits without any concern over how many employees were laid off. What bull! I know plenty of executives that practically die when they must lay off.

Those business leaders that moved their production to China usually did it out of total necessity. The Bain Capitals of the US are a minority. Powerful, but absolutely in the minority of employers in this country.

Why care about everyone’s opinion? The herd has its day every two years on election day. I bet if Gallup limited their survey on Honesty and Ethics in Professions to people that voted in the last two elections, we’d see a dramatically different result.

I venture, at least, that “advertising practitioners” (11), lawyers (19) and members of Congress (7) would double their Top 2 Box score. But does any of this matter?

The only opinion we should care about, as business executives and business leaders, is that of our customers. By caring about your employees’ opinions, you help deliver a superior experience to your customer. That’s a key to success for all of us.

How does The Gallup Poll make money on this stuff? Do they sell consumer profile information? Or would that be a breach of ethics?

Do You Think Business Executives As A Group Deserve A Low Rating?
Drop me a line.


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