Georgia Private Investigators | Employee Theft | Astinel Security & Forensics – Atlanta, GA
Trust to Reduce Theft
An article recently circulated about how a saw mill was losing $1m annually in equipment theft and was considering the installation of a surveillance system. Instead, they enlisted the services of an organizational psychologist. The psychologist determined the employees were stealing for the thrill. The stolen equipment was taking up space in their homes. It was further learned they were plotting to steal the surveillance cameras if installed. Ultimately, the saw mill instituted a “loaner” and anonymous “return” program, and truckloads of equipment were brought back to the company. Wives were thrilled to regain their garage space. The author promoted the concept of reducing the benefits of stealing; that surveillance systems send a message of distrust, etc. This theory has been around for a while and the article received overwhelming accolades from my human resource friends.
The author wanted to focus on the attributes of motivation and leadership. As fraud examiners, we’ve encountered cases of theft by rationalization of a bad boss. We can also confirm the benefits of high morale and the correlation to an honest workforce.
Let’s examine some dynamics which may have been present at the saw mill. Assume management made poor decisions and an adverse culture was in place. Then, one or two employees start to talk about how easy it would be to remove equipment – just for the thrill; and soon other employees join the collusion. Now, they have committed a crime, likely a felony. What explanation did they give their families when the equipment took over their homes? What will happen the next time there is a perceived workplace injustice? There is a need / greed factor which can, and will trump the very best workplace cultures. What happens if employees of the saw mill go to another company? People tend to bring their value systems with them.
I’m happy the saw mill recovered their equipment and management took a turn for the better. But every time an organization swings to the “trust reduces theft” posture or applies a single theory strategy, they are eventually victimized. Personally, I like the “trust but verify” approach.
Zane Kinney, CFE, PI