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June 02, 2005

Dishonesty at Work: How employers can minimise dishonesty by their employees

Posted by Michael Mosbacher

The right recruitment - and exit policies are far more effective than any CCTV camera in minimising dishonesty by staff, finds a new study

Dishonesty and deceit are increasing in the workplace. Employee theft, it is estimated, is responsible for 30% to 40% of all business failures. In the retail sector, theft by staff accounts for an estimated 50.8% of all "shrinkages".

In Dishonesty at Work, published tomorrow by the Social Affairs Unit, John Taylor and Adrian Furnham offer employers a practical guide to minimising employee dishonesty. Taylor and Furnham explain the most important things employers should and should not do to prevent dishonesty by their staff. The authors base this advice on their many years of experience. John Taylor is now an independent consultant to international companies and government organisations, having worked for many years in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Adrian Furnham is Professor of Psychology at University College, London and has been acknowledged as the world's most productive psychologist for the last twenty years.

Taylor and Furnham argue that the way ahead is not for employers to trust their staff less and less. Loyalty is a two way street: employers who show their staff little loyalty can expect less in return. Commitment and loyalty come from the right recruitment and exit - policies, not from CCTV cameras.

Getting It Right Getting It Wrong
What employers should and should not do to minimise dishonesty by their staff

Getting it right:
Recruit the right people - Qualifications and assessment centres provide good evidence about what people are good at, but rarely do they say much about the dark side of people. Employers should avoid the vain, the greedy, and the over-ambitious.

Induction - an institutional inoculation. If the induction course for employees is right they will be better prepared to withstand the knocks and infections that spread throughout most organisations.

Challenge is the real incentive for bright people - money has its attractions but what really turns on the modern graduate is challenge and responsibility. They need to be trained and developed, but then unleash their power to keep them.

Set standards and show enthusiasm - bosses should be consistent and do what they expect their employees to do. And what ever it is they do, they should do it with enthusiasm.

A good exit policy leads to higher retention - anyone who leaves for whatever reason should leave with dignity. This reduces the risk that the individual will feel resentment towards their former employer. More importantly, the staff remaining will see their former colleague has been treated fairly and believe therefore they will be treated similarly when their time comes as it inevitably will.

Getting it wrong:
Beware of out-sourcing recruitment - candidates should have all the information they need to choose the right employer for them. It is hard to do this if they only see the recruitment consultant. If a consultancy is used let the candidates have contact with the employers and the people they will be working with.

Resentment leads to revenge - There are many behaviours in the workplace, which cause unhappiness; where the employee thinks this is the fault of the employer, resentment sets in. If the resentment is allowed to fester revenge begins to breed. At best this will lead to resignation, at worst to theft, sabotage or whistle-blowing.

Poor communication - communication in business usually means good spoken and written skills. However, the most important communication skill, is listening. Managers and senior executives have to be seen to be listening as well as picking up what staff are thinking. Listening is the Cinderella of communication skills.

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