I recall first hearing the phrase “culture of corruption” in the early 1990s, when one of our national political parties used it in an attack campaign against the other. Like other phrases that ring true to us, this one has survived and is now found in political slogan and news reports and also in op-ed commentaries that I see. I’ve even seen the phrase embedded in the title of a best-selling book.
One definition of corruption is dishonest exploitation of power for personal gain. Corruption has made its presence known in every type of organization imaginable. For example:
- Number of dishonest employees caught stealing within only 25 large retail chains = 70,409. (Worse yet, this figure means that one out every 28 employees was apprehended for internal theft.)
- Mortgage fraud is estimated at over $1 billion nationwide.
- Health-care fraud is estimated at more than $60 billion.
- Insurance industry estimates fraud at $20 billion a year.
- Fraud within U.S. businesses is estimated to cost as much as a staggering $994 billion.
So, what does the above statistics mean to the average retail manager? Plenty, I hope. Dr. David Cherrington observed, “The ethical climate within any public or private organization has a profound influence on the behaviors and attitudes of all stakeholders.” When I consider this observation in relation to the overwhelming incidents of theft and fraud we are witnessing throughout our nation, I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t truly encountering a culture of corruption. So, what is the management team to do? Below are three important recommendations:
1. Leadership: Employees tend to model their behavior on your own. Show that you are a competent leader by demonstrating that you are honest. Always set a good example, actively encourage moral behavior, and assure conditions are in place that support ethical conduct.
2. Definition of Honesty: Don’t take it for granted that all employees know your store’s definition of honesty. As opportunities present, openly discuss your company’s definition of honesty and its anti-theft policy.
3. Ongoing Communications: Let your staff know that honesty and integrity are important to the success of the organization. Ask for their help in coming up with ways to prevent both external and internal theft.
Remember, those in charge establish the culture of an organization. The difference between an environment of honesty and ethics and an environment of cynicism and dishonesty rests on the mind-set of those managing the organization. The following thought may help you remember this point: Success of any operation is accomplished from the bottom up, and its climate of honesty is created from the top down. $