Shedding light on workplace theft

Some workplace thieves join companies specifically because they believe they are a 'soft touch', according to research from criminologist Professor Martin Gill at the University of Leicester. The study follows research from YouGov indicating that a majority of people admit to stealing from their employers.

Professor Gill interviewed workers dismissed for a range of offences, from taking cash from the till to misuse of discount cards. He comments: ‘The findings are striking: almost a third of respondents had colluded with colleagues or friends and family in committing offences; and two-thirds of interviewees were aware of dishonesty among other staff.’

There is no single solution to the problem, Gill tells ‘What one does depends on the root cause behind the theft.

‘If employees don’t understand the rules, then effort should be put into communication and training. If people steal because they are fed up with management, then management strategies that engage rather than exclude people might be the answer.

‘If people have joined the organisation with the specific intention of stealing, then the problem may lie with recruitment and vetting.’

YouGov’s research into workplace theft (unconnected to Gill’s study) suggests that 62 per cent of people admit to stealing pens, and 42 per cent take post-it notes from the office. More strikingly, five per cent even fill their bags with office lavatory paper.

‘It comes down to what an employer’s prepared to tolerate,’ Gill comments. ‘If you don’t have a clear policy about what is and isn’t acceptable, you leave it open to misinterpretation.’

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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