Hollinger and Clark conclude that formal organizational controls provide both good and bad news. “The good news is that employee theft does seem to be susceptible to con- trol efforts. . . . Our data also indicate, however, that the impact of organizational con- trols is neither uniform nor very strong. In sum, formal organizational controls do negatively influence theft prevalence, but these effects must be understood in combina- tion with the other factors influencing this phenomenon.”48
Employee Perception of Control
The researchers examined the perception—not necessarily the reality—of employees believing they would be caught if they committed theft. “We find that perceived cer- tainty of detection is inversely related to employee theft for respondents in all three in- dustry sectors—that is, the stronger the perception that theft would be detected, the less the likelihood that the employee would engage in deviant behavior.”49
Social control in the workplace, according to Hollinger and Clark, consists of both formal and informal social controls. The former control can be described as the inter- nalization by the employee of the group norms of the organization; the latter, external pressures through both positive and negative sanctions. These researchers, along with a host of others, have concluded that, as a general proposition, informal social controls provide the best deterrent. “These data clearly indicate that the loss of respect among one’s acquaintances was the single most effective variable in predicting future deviant involvement.” Furthermore, “in general, the probability of suffering informal sanction is far more important than fear of formal sanctions in deterring deviant activity.”50
Hollinger and Clark reached several other conclusions based on their work. First, they believe that “substantially increasing the internal security presence does not seem to be appropriate, given the prevalence of the problem. In fact, doing so may make things worse.”51 Second, they conclude that the same kinds of employees who engage in other workplace deviance are also principally the ones who engage in employee theft. They found persuasive evidence that slow or sloppy workmanship, sick-leave abuses, long coffee breaks, alcohol and drug use at work, coming in late and/or leaving early were more likely to be present in the employee thief.
Third, the researchers hypothesize that if efforts are made to reduce employee theft without reducing its underlying causes (e.g., employee dissatisfaction, lack of ethics), the result could create a “hydraulic effect.” That is, tightening controls over property de- viance may create more detrimental acts affecting the productivity of the organization— if we push down employee theft, that action may push up goldbricking. Fourth, they agreed that increased management sensitivity to its employees will reduce all forms of workplace deviance. Fifth, they believe special attention should be afforded young em- ployees, as these are the ones statistically the most likely to steal. However, although the incidence of theft is higher among younger employees, the losses are typically lower than those of more senior employees with financial authority.