What makes an honest employee engage in dishonest behaviour? This question has baffled HR recruiters and psychologists for as long as the history of employment has existed.
In today’s world, no one can truly afford losses caused by internal theft to simply go by. Unaccounted losses may not seem like a lot at first, but are you aware that a total of about $16 billion of revenue is lost to dishonest employees on a yearly average? That’s about 43% of all losses combined!
With how much is at stake by letting fraudulent employee behaviour continue, allowing it to continue would be akin to flushing money down the drain; but then, how can it be stopped? What pushes someone into stealing from one’s place or employment? Is there something that differentiates a perpetrator of white collar crime as compared to a common criminal?
The Cultural Deviance Theory explains why some people commit crime but the story of the thieving employee does not fit into that. This creates an enigma for psychologists, who cannot equate someone who steals company merchandise to a person who commits armed robbery.
The Cultural Deviance Theory also states that cultural forces can result to crime. This translates to expecting a higher prevalence of crime and deviant behaviour from the group of less affluent individuals – so why is it that we often hear of employees who are being paid higher wages being found to be stealing as well?
If there’s one thing that’s a constant for real hardened criminals and the office thief, it would be the fact that both exhibits low self-control. It seems that no matter what an individual’s economic or social status is, it is the lack of control that drives someone to engage in unsavoury behaviour.
Possible Dishonest Employees – A Profile
Below are the universal character traits of people with low self-control who may be more prone to committing white collar crime:
- Unable to form meaningful and persistent attachments
- Selfishness (not caring about the rights and privileges of other individuals at all)
- Unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s actions
- Poor judgment and planning in achieving goals
- Incapacity to take responsibility for failures
- Being non-dependable
- Propensity to create drama over petty things
- Not caring about social group maladjustment
The list of character traits above gives us a better understanding of who may commit retail crime behaviours so that they can be stopped – but why have this list in the first place? Since all employees have an equal opportunity to steal, actually doing the act means that the individual has made the decision to do so. The deciding factor is an internal one (character) rather than an external one (opportunity).
Preventing and Deterring Employee Theft
Because a person with low self-control will most likely take advantage of an opportunity to steal, having a consistent warehouse or store presence as well as implementing awareness programs is the way to go to prevent this from happening.
Examples of establishing consistent presence can be through store security visits, monthly audits, and having a mystery shopping program. Basically actions that convey that operations are being continuously monitored.
As for training and awareness, having meetings and perhaps an employee newsletter featuring your policies and theft-busting measures that are being implemented are effective deterrents for employees with low self-control.
Reducing cases of theft and fraud in your organization does take time and effective risk management. Armed with the right information on identifying dishonest employees and on how you can deter them from committing fraud, you can transform your organization into a fraud-free zone.