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Richard C. Hollinger The Hollinger-Clark Study

In 1983, Richard C. Hollinger of Purdue University and John P. Clark of the University of Minnesota published federally funded research involving surveys of nearly 10,000 American workers. Their book, Theft by Employees, reached a different conclusion than did the work of Cressey. They concluded that employees steal primarily as a result of workplace conditions and that the true costs of the problem are vastly understated: “In sum, when we take into consideration the incalculable social costs . . . the grand total paid for theft in the workplace is no doubt grossly underestimated by the available fi- nancial estimates.”35

Hypotheses of Employee Theft

In reviewing the literature on employee theft, Hollinger and Clark concluded that ex- perts had developed five separate but interrelated sets of hypotheses of employee theft. The first was external economic pressures, such as the “unsharable financial problem” that Cressey described. The second hypothesis was that contemporary employees, specifically young ones, are not as hardworking and honest as those in past generations. The third theory, advocated primarily by those with years of experience in the security and investigative industry, was that every employee can be tempted to steal from an em- ployer. The theory basically assumes that people are greedy and dishonest by nature. The fourth theory was that job dissatisfaction is the primary cause of employee theft, and the fifth, that theft occurs because of the broadly shared formal and informal structure of organizations. That is, over time, the group norms—good or bad—become the standard of conduct. The sum of their research generally concluded that the fourth hypothesis was correct.

Employee Deviance

Employee theft is at one extreme of employee deviance, which can be defined as con- duct detrimental to the organization and to the employee. At the other extreme is coun- terproductive employee behavior such as goldbricking, industrial sabotage, and even wildcat strikes. Hollinger and Clark define two basic categories of employee deviant be- havior: acts by employees against property and violations of the norms regulating ac- ceptable levels of production. The latter relates to the impact employee deviance can have on sales.

During the three-year duration of the study, Hollinger and Clark developed a written questionnaire that was sent to employees in three different sectors: retail, hospital, and manufacturing. They eventually received 9,175 valid employee questionnaires, repre- senting about 54 percent of those sampled. The results of the questionnaires follow. Ex- hibit 1.3 represents property deviance only.36


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