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Age and Theft

Hollinger and Clark believe there is a direct correlation between age and the level of theft. “Few other variables . . . have exhibited such a strong relationship to theft as the age of the employee.”40 The reason, they concluded, was that younger employees had less tenure with the organization and therefore lower levels of commitment to it. “By definition,” they say, “these employees are more likely to be younger workers.”41 In ad- dition, there is a long history of connection between many levels of crime and youths. Sociologists have suggested that the central process of control is determined by a per- son’s “commitment to conformity.” Under this model—assuming employees are all subject to the same deviant motives and opportunities—the probability of deviant in- volvement depends on the stakes that one has in conformity.

The researchers suggest that the policy implications from the commitment to con- formity theory is that, rather than subject employees to draconian security measures, “companies should afford younger workers many of the same rights, fringes, and privi- leges of the tenured, older employees. In fact, by signaling to the younger employee that he or she is temporary or expendable, the organization inadvertently may be encourag- ing its own victimization by the very group of employees that is already least committed to the expressed goals and objectives of the owners and managers.”42

Hollinger and Clark were able to confirm a direct relationship between an employee’s position and the level of the theft, with those levels of theft highest in jobs with almost unrestricted access to the things of value in the work organization. Although they saw obvious connections between opportunity and theft (e.g., retail cashiers with daily ac- cess to cash had the highest incidence), the researchers believed opportunity to be “only a secondary factor that constrains the manner in which the deviance is manifested.”43

Job Satisfaction and Deviance

The research of Hollinger and Clark strongly suggests that all age groups of employees who are dissatisfied with their jobs, but especially the younger workers, are the most likely to seek redress through counterproductive or illegal behavior in order to right the perceived “inequity.” Other writers, notably anthropologist Gerald Mars and researcher David Altheide, have commented on this connection. You can probably remember your own instances of “getting back” at the organization for its perceived shortcomings, as I did with Mr. Zac.

As another example, I heard a legendary story when I was in the FBI about an agent we will call Willis. Stories such as this one have a way of taking on a life of their own, and I therefore cannot vouch for its complete accuracy. At any rate, Willis was appar- ently attempting to arrest a fugitive when his suit was ripped to shreds. On his next ex- pense voucher, Willis claimed $200 for the suit. But a clerk in charge of paying the voucher for the FBI called him. “Willis,” the clerk said, “there is no way the government is going to pay you for ripping your suit—forget it.” Willis reasoned this was extremely unfair. After all, he would now have to come out-of-pocket for a new suit. This would not have been necessary were it not for his job, Willis rationalized. The clerk, however, was unimpressed.


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