Executive meeting

Executive management is a challenging and highly skilled field, that requires a high calibre of candidates whatever the industry. The ascent to executive management is a difficult one, but one rewarded with trust, responsibility, and longevity in a lucrative and engaging career path.

Executive management is a role with unique pressures, both internal and external; managers must effectively chart a course through unpredictable economic landscapes and ever-shifting business needs. But there is one internal pressure that can be a major cause of stress and anxiety – especially for managers new to the position. That pressure is corruption.

The Prevalence of Corruption

Corruption is a catch-all term for the various ways in which leaders and management figures can act against the wider interests of their industry, business or even staff. Corruption is largely defined in terms of the tangible, material costs it can inflict upon businesses and larger industries.

According to leading anti-corruption organisation Transparency International, over £1.2 billion is lost to corruption and corruption-adjacent behaviour in UK markets. Further to that, over £100 billion of corrupt money flows through the UK economy each year.

But the costs aren’t merely financial. Corruption can have direct implications on the health and longevity of businesses, threatening the employment status of their staff members. The effects of corruption can also serve to undermine progressive endeavours and policy, leading to regressive business development with dramatic consequences for local communities and global initiatives – from environmental concerns to hyper-local socio-economic factors.

Corruption is a wide-ranging practice with wide-ranging consequences. But how exactly can it develop within a business, and by what mechanisms can corruption occur?

Signs and Symptoms

Typically, corruption describes the illegal efforts of individuals to impact a business for personal gain. One of the most common forms of corruption is bribery, in which high-ranking leaders and authority figures are paid money by third parties for special treatment, favours, or inside information.

Leadership figures can also use their position of influence and authority to install third parties in other positions of influence, for personal gain or wider industry influence with the same effect. The term ‘nepotism’ describes when authority figures create opportunities for family members, irrespective of experience or aptitude for a role.

There is also a more naked form of corruption, in the form of embezzlement. Embezzlement is, in essence, the misappropriation of business assets for personal gain. This may be the theft of assets, or the naked taking of company money, followed by attempts to cover tracks with business decisions and accounting ‘tricks’.

Protecting Yourself and Your Business

Corruption is a real and present concern for businesses of any size, and management should remain open to the possibility that corruption could develop within their team at any one time. You should ensure your business’ legal standing is airtight and comprehensive when it comes to in-house corruption, in both ways – not only may you need legal leverage to oust corrupt leaders within your business, but you may also need legal counsel to defend against corruption accusations from other businesses.

An open, transparent approach to anti-corruption policy should be held at all times. Not only can this be reassuring to the staff at all levels, but it can also make it harder for individuals to obscure their methods. A whistleblowing policy should also be instituted to protect staff from coming out about potential corruption.