Crime Prevention through Effective Management

By Marisa Broughton, MCHT, MNLP
Internal theft is a growing concern with both small and large businesses. Most employers operate from an assumption of trust especially if the employee appears dedicated and trustworthy. No one wants to believe that their friend and loyal employee are stealing from them.

Employees steal for numerous reasons. Contrary to popular belief, the   top reason for theft is opportunity, not financial need. Criminal opportunity is present in practically all organizations and management s level of loss prevention awareness determines the outcome of that opportunity.
Loss prevention involves recognizing and taking measures to prevent loss or misuse of company resources which include: money (expense accounts, bank accounts, stocks, cash), intellectual information (company plans, ideas, research), customer information, company property (vehicles, computers, desks, supplies) and time (sick days, internet, coming in late, leaving early and extended lunches).
In the past, it was believed that the only way to combat internal crime was to tighten controls and security measures. Although doing this to some extent is always a good idea, we must not forget the human element involved in prevention and deterrence.

It is important to recognize that some of the more subtle issues such as decaying corporate loyalty are as much of a threat to a company s prosperity as more obvious threats, such as cash flow and credit difficulties.
During economic slow periods, companies tend to downsize and reduce costs by either laying off personal or not replacing vacant positions. While remaining employees, will often accept a larger workload, it can only be for a short term. If the employee is expected to do more work, at the same level of pay, without an end in sight - the decaying seed takes root and that employee's future with the company is compromised. As soon as you lose the employee's loyalty, the opportunity for company loss increases.
To the shortsighted manager high employee turnover appears not to be an issue of concern because it does not directly appear to affect company profits. What they are failing to realize is that the company loses money through loss of productivity because of the interruption in company flow. It takes time for a new staff member to learn their job and get good at it. It takes resources to recruit, interview, train and monitor new hires. Loss of time = loss of money.

I have seen the economy go through a few cycles of prosperity and down turns and what I ve noticed is that many companies tend to be shortsighted in how they handle these economic fluctuations. When the economy is low, companies tend to treat their employees poorly because the risk of the employee quitting is low. However, when the economy picks up, those employees who were over worked, stressed, and yes, abused by management are the first to leave. (BTW, the more disgruntled the employee, the greater the risk of sabotage or loss to the company.) Suddenly the company finds itself short of workers and having problems recruiting new ones. They end up having to pay more for those new employees and unless management changes how they treat the employees, they will have problems keeping them.
Develop an ethical corporate culture.

A corporate culture is the personality of the company. In a sense, it is the established norms and acceptable culture of the company. For example, a company may have a relaxed culture in that employees are allowed to dress casually, work on flextime and communication is open & lateral (as opposed to having to follow a chain of command).

An ethical corporate culture must be established from top management, who set the example and act as models for the rest of employees to follow. Modeling is similar to mentoring and gives employees an example to follow. An ethical culture means no cheating on expense accounts, no accepting elaborate gifts from clients and no robbing the stationary cabinet for personal use. To a security-minded individual, all of these things are considered theft; however, in most company's unwritten culture, they are considered "job perks".

Improve interoffice communication.

Not every employee reads memos and if they do read it, there is no guarantee that they understand the message or agree with the message. The reason that understanding and/or agreement is import is compliance. It's simple, those who do not agree with a directive, will not follow it.

It's important to let those who don't understand or agree to have a place to voice their questions and concerns. They may in the end still have to comply with the directive; however, they will understand why that decision was made and why they need to follow it. Blind obedience only works (and barely) in a military organization and really limits an employee's capabilities.

A good leader knows that in order to get people to move in the direction s/he wants them to, s/he must convince them of three things. The first is that this leader is worth following because s/he is looking out for the best interests of both the employees and the company (and in that order) and that its they will benefit from that direction. The third criteria are that this is the best direction.

Good leadership is conveyed through both verbal and nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication, involves the actions taken by the leader, the attitude demonstrated and consistency in action. Verbal communication involves listening skills, rapport, tone of voice and demeanor
Promote Ethical Behavior by doing the following:

Address ethics and expected behavior in orientation or staff meetings;

Managers - Lead by example. When employees see supervisors or managers engaging in unethical  practices, they follow suit.

Get to know the people who work for you.

Take the opportunity to establish trust and rapport by getting to know your employees. Be approachable so that your employee feels comfortable enough to approach you with problems s/he observes in the workplace, illegal activities witnessed or personal problems he or she may be encountering. While, you, as a manager are not expected to resolve personal problems of your employees - it does allow you to encourage them to get professional help. It really pays off to know these things because an intervention is possible before things get out of hand.

Workplace violence and spousal abuse are two crimes that affect the entire workplace. Even though spousal abuse does not normally occur on site, its detrimental emotional effects will affect your employee's performance and ability to do an outstanding job for you. In addition, there is a safety factor involved for other employees because there is little from stopping the spouse from taking the problems to the worksite.

Workplace violence is another ugly situation that can deteriorate quickly. By knowing your staff members, again, you are able to nip the situation in the bud and take immediate action. Often employees do not report workplace violence because they either fear for their jobs or they feel comfortable approaching H.R. or their boss. Providing your employees with a safe, comfortable environment to work in will also prevent a lawsuit against you, were a situation to get violent.
©2010 Broughton, M
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