Do you think it’s fair to take a colleague’s milk?

by | May 19, 2017

Share this article

Facebook Open Graph

City Editor Neil Martin takes a look at some ethical questions about office behaviour which have arisen from a new Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) study.

As to whether it’s fair to take a colleague’s milk, personally, I wouldn’t give it second thought, especially if that colleague wasn’t looking, but then again I’m journalist!

But, this was one of a number of questions asked in the CISI survey on ethical behaviour in the UK workplace which, they say, has revealed some surprising public attitudes to everyday work dilemmas.


CISI points out that it was the first financial services professional body to introduce an integrity test for members. Began in April 2013, over 50,000 global candidates have now completed the IntegrityMatters workshop and test.

This latest CISA survey on workplace behaviour shows that respondents found misdemeanours to be more acceptable when it was less clear who was being disadvantaged as a result. For example, whilst the survey showed that only 10% of women and 8% of men thought it acceptable to go to a communal fridge and take another staff member’s milk, 49% of people felt it was acceptable to take a low value item (such as a pen, pencil or post-it note) from their workplace.

What’s more, when people were asked “How acceptable is it to make up to 10 photocopies without paying?” almost three in five (59%) of people found this acceptable. Age proved to be a distinction in responses, with seven out of 10 (72%) of 18-29 year-olds saying this was acceptable and 50% of 50-59 year-olds.


Interestingly, the responses differed when the value of items was increased. When asked whether it would be acceptable to take “medium value” items from work, for example a hole-punch or stapler, only one in five (20%) of people thought this was acceptable and for “high value” items, for example a computer keyboard, mouse or monitor, only 3% of people indicating this was acceptable.

Other responses are shown in the chart below.



Colleague impact

% of people who thought this was acceptable
How acceptable is it to go to a communal fridge, get lunch and take some of another staff member’s milk or other item?


9% (10% women and 8% men)
How acceptable is it to divulge confidential information at work about a colleague to that colleague? 21% (23% men vs 18% women)
How acceptable is it to find money in a communal bathroom at work and keep it rather than hand it to HR? 61% said “never at any amount”.

35% would keep £1 or more

29% would keep £2 or more

23% would keep £5 or more

12% would keep £10 or more




Commercial entity/business impact

% of people who thought this was acceptable
How acceptable is it to make up to 10 photocopies without paying? 59% (60% men vs 58% women) 72% 18-29 yr olds and 50% of 50-59 yr olds
How acceptable is it to take low value items from work? 49% – 20% for medium value and 3% for high value


CISI Ethics and Integrity Manager Rebecca Aston said: “The survey results suggest that, on the whole, our feelings of allegiance and commitment to our work colleagues are paramount when the issue of trust arises.

“A variance of behaviour seems to occur when people are faced with everyday decisions, which could lead, in effect, to the stealing of nominal sum items from their employer. In these scenarios, individual behaviour indicates that there is a sense of entitlement, in that an employer should carry a certain amount of commercial loss.”

The CISI has been promoting integrity and ethics in financial services since its foundation in 1992, with 2017 being the Institute’s 25th anniversary. It has undertaken this research as part of its remit to provide thought leadership for financial services on the topic of integrity and ethics. The CISI believes that integrity and ethics are key components of professionalism, which it defines as the effective combination of knowledge, skills and behaviour.

Share this article

Related articles

UK businesses record a 55% increase in sick leave

UK businesses record a 55% increase in sick leave

New analysis of over 1,700 businesses has revealed that the average business has seen a sharp rise in sick leave - with 55 percent more days lost in the last four years due to short and long-term illness. The Sick Leave Report 2024, conducted by HR systems...

Sign up to the IFA Magazine Newsletter

Trending articles

IFA Talk logo

IFA Talk is our flagship podcast, that fits perfectly into your busy life, bringing the latest insight, analysis, news and interviews to you, wherever you are.

IFA Talk Podcast - listen to the latest episode