As Major League Baseball (MLB) pitchers and catchers report to spring training this week, new research finds that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the players involved in the Houston Astros cheating scandal should be punished for their actions. Ninety percent of Americans say that players on the team who broke the rules should be punished. There was a slight variation among gender, with 94 percent of women in agreement and 86 percent of men in agreement.

On the issue of holding Astros leadership accountable, less than half (48 percent) of Americans say the punishments handed down to leadership will result in changing player behavior. But, 74 percent say that the leadership punishments indeed will motivate changes to the organizational culture that enabled the cheating.

When it comes to the role of whistleblowers in outing bad behavior, 86 percent of Americans are in favor of employers strengthening whistleblower programs to encourage early identification of problems.

These findings are from a national poll of Americans conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting on the heels of one of the biggest scandals to hit professional baseball in more than 100 years. After a whistleblower account was published by the news media, MLB investigated an extensive cheating scandal by the Houston Astros that determined the rules violations were “player-driven and player-executed.” Yet, punishments were levied by MLB only against team management and leadership. No players were punished for breaking the rules as part of a deal to encourage players to disclose what happened.

“The results show that Americans understand that it’s critically important to hold both leadership and employees accountable for unethical actions. Whether in sports or business, just holding leadership accountable may not correct employee bad behavior,” said Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill president and CEO.

Part of MLB’s rationale for the punishments was that the scandal stemmed from a failure by the leaders “to adequately manage the employees under their supervision, to establish a culture in which adherence to the rules is ingrained in the fabric of the organization, and to stop bad behavior as soon as it occurred.”

“Leadership ultimately is accountable for a toxic culture that allows bad behavior, and it is leadership’s responsibility to right the ship. The difficult task leaders face, however, is aligning the stated culture with the day-to-day behavior of employees. Culture can be measured and managed – from incorporating it into performance reviews to fostering an environment where employees can report problematic behaviors before they escalate and permeate the organization. Otherwise, organizational culture failures can result in financial losses and reputation damage, a lesson the Astros learned the hard way,” Jezior said.

The polling research found that:

• Nearly all (90 percent) of Americans polled say that players who broke the rules should be punished

• Only 48 percent believe that holding leadership accountable for player bad behavior will result in correcting the behavior.

• Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) indicate that punishments will motivate leaders to change the organizational culture that enabled cheating.

• The vast majority (86 percent) say that employers should strengthen whistleblower programs to encourage early identification of problems.

The survey was conducted online on January 30-31, 2020, and included more than 1,000 respondents from a random sample of American adults across the United States.

Americans say Houston Astros players should be held accountable for cheating.