Employee theft is an ethical issue that costs the hospitality sector millions of dollars annually. For this reason, many organizations prioritize employee theft as a business concern likely to affect hotel businesses. Current research centers on employee theft instead of employee demographics that drive them to steal. The rise in employee theft makes this a topic of interest; hence this study will investigate employee theft with an emphasis on employee demographics, the effects of theft on an organization, and possible solutions to the problem. The primary forms of employee theft include inventory and monetary theft.
Some workers steal hotel supplies, such as pillows, buckets, and sheets. Others add extra charges to a customer’s bill and pocket the balance. Shrewd employees secretly misreport the tips and pocket the wages to maximize their wages. The other type of pilfering affects customer loyalty. Some housekeepers steal valuables from guests. The items range from money, jewelry, and electronics. The guests only realize they have lost their items after leaving the hotel’s premises and negatively rate the hotel. Consequently, such actions ruin the hotel’s reputation and keep potential customers away.
Employee theft is a unique crime because offenders have unlimited and legitimate access to victims’ resources (Kennedy, 2018). Housekeepers are entrusted with business property and guest valuables. Employment provides a legitimacy veil to employees to conduct their deviant activities. Employees with higher levels of trust in hospitality businesses have better chances of stealing from their employers (Goh & Kong, 2016). Trusted workers possess sufficient knowledge about existing theft deterrent measures and are more inclined to cause severe damage to the company when they turn rogue. Such trustees conduct theft, likely to persist in the business for a long time. Unlike new employees, trusted housekeepers can steal more significant sums of money and cause tremendous mayhem to the victims (Langner, 2010).
Employee theft is bound to the employee’s skill set. Employees are equipped with skills and abilities that enhance customer satisfaction and keep a business profitable (Wilkie, 2021). Ironically, housekeepers rely on the same skillset to victimize their employers. Seasoned criminals use various euphemisms to justify their criminal behaviors. The most common terms include borrowing, evening up, and compensating. Evening up is a typical strategy for employees who get paid on commission. If they miss their targets and get paid less, they will most likely use alternative means to “recover” their supposed pay.
On the other hand, employers regard the same acts as poaching, stealing, and pilfering. Hence, what an employer might consider pilfering, a housekeeper might refer to the same as a compensatory act for some perceived or imagined injustice. The typical housekeeper thief stems from having financial problems caused by gambling or substance abuse. However, not all workers steal with the intent of selling the items. Others steal for personal use.
Historical Context of Employee Theft
The earliest form of employee theft was recorded in 1770. In 1807, Beckwith brought the issue to public attention (Kennedy, 2018). Authors such as J.R.R. attributed theft to financial harms that could befall an organization. J.R.R. also discussed the disadvantage of misappropriating organizational resources to finance personal endeavors (Kennedy, 2018). Since the beginning of the 20th century, most work-related employee theft literature has focused on specific types of criminal behavior in the workplace. However, there needs to be more material that addresses the issue in totality. Hair was the first author to provide a structured analysis of employee theft in 1976 (Kennedy, 2018).
How Theft Occurs in the Hotel Industry
Stealing is a severe problem in the hotel sector (Greenberg, n.d). Every year, the industry parts with millions of dollars via employee theft. The theft takes many forms and can extend as far as committing credit fraud. In recent years, the incidences have increased in many establishments. Hotel assistants have learned how to authorize automatic responses, forge payee details on checks and cash out ill-gotten money (Pivarski et al., 2021).
Research has determined that employees who exhibit regular work routines have a higher job satisfaction rate than disgruntled housekeepers (Wilkie,2021). Unfulfilled employees are likelier to steal from their employers because they feel unappreciated or discriminated against in terms of payment. New workers with little experience may receive different wages than experienced employees. At the same time, they may feel underappreciated despite their limited experience and steal to even their payment.
Hospitality businesses have undertaken several preventive measures to protect their businesses from theft.
Causes of Employee Theft
Economic pressures primarily fuel employee theft. Workers steal to offset financial issues that they may be facing at home. Demographics such as race can make people have the propensity to pilfer based on the identifiable group that they come from. Opportunity can also drive people to steal. Some workers steal from their employers by having the opportunity to pick an item from the business without raising suspicion. Still, social norms such as the acceptability of the behavior can drive people to steal. There is a considerable correlation between employee theft and management. At the systems level, factors such as compensation effects can contribute to employee theft.
In most cases, employees who steal are young and economically unstable. Youths employed in low-paying jobs are more inclined to engage in property deviance. Employers who steal from their bosses are also new, working part-time, and unmarried. Additionally, working in small firms places the employees at an advantage of stealing. Smaller firms employ few employees who perform most of the duties involving money and customer merchandise. A rare group of employees also find stealing an exciting activity and stealing from guests for fun. However, such individuals could also have mental instability that drives them to perform such acts.
Behavioral predictors such as drug abuse could also contribute to employee theft. In most cases, employees who steal from job premises also engage in alcohol or gambling. Individuals who disregard the law enjoy partaking in dangerous activities and are likelier to steal. Individuals who befriend thieves are also likely to steal from their employers. Gangs use rogue employees to access organizations and engage in merchandise pilferage indirectly.
Effects of Employee Theft
Employee theft costs the hotel industry over $100 billion annually, making theft a costly problem for H.R. managers. Employee theft is estimated to cost more than street crime and is responsible for more than 60% of business closures (Greenberg, n.d). These figures stem from accumulated minor crimes that reach massive totals. Three of every five employees steal from their employers during their work period. Some participate in the activity as part of their workplace routine. Employee theft averages $500 per reported case, and recent studies reveal that the problem could worsen.
Taxonomy of Worker Theft Prevention
Management can devise procedural strategies that treat workers fairly. H.R. managers can develop policies that determine how employees are treated, the company culture, and the assets they can access. Additionally, the processes determine who to hire and the background checks that should accompany the hiring procedures. The strategies primarily define employee characteristics and behavior by focusing on employee development and building trust. At a personal level, procedural strategies focus on the hiring process. The approach centers on identifying profiles likely to steal and excluding them from the job selection.
Prevention Strategies using Procedural and Interactive
|Underlying Theory||Application Level||Procedural||Interactive|
|Demographic Profiles||Personal Level
Employees steal because of personalities that lean towards theft. Additionally, employees can steal based on their economic backgrounds.
|Procedural approaches can involve background checks or integrity tests.||Interactive strategies include training and development.|
|Social Exchange||Social Level
Theft can arise from procedural injustices or psychological violations
|Performing job previews and orientation is an effective way of minimizing employ||Communication integrity and contract monitoring are crucial for rooting out potential thieves.|
|Internal Deprivation||Systemic level
Employees can steal if they believe that they are not paid equally.
|Internal controls||Improving the compensation system and introducing incentives can effectively hire and retain honest talent.|
Proactive Measures Approaches based on Kennedy’s (2018) and Langner’s 2010 Study.
|Kennedy’s Proactive Measures||Langner’s Proactive Measures|
|The most popular proactive measures are installing surveillance systems, adopting new hiring procedures, and strategizing on the existing corporate culture.||Managers have adopted a proactive approach to monitoring their employees by establishing mottos that infuse work ethics into the corporate culture and cultivate an open workplace environment.|
|Reinforcing honesty also involves informing employees of the repercussions of engaging in criminal acts such as theft. A formal code of conduct is also effective at reducing employee theft. Establishments with a code of ethics have established that the technique is effective at deterring criminal behavior by potentially influencing their actions.||The code of ethics is a valuable guide that guides their actions and motivates housekeepers to remain honest. However, this process only works if the workers have an established moral development sustained in the organization or outside sources.|
|An ethics curriculum helps employees understand their actions and the consequence of unethical behavior.||The curriculum also clarifies the nature of the reward system for employees who report the theft to management.|
Preventive measures include holding employees accountable for their actions, implementing tighter security measures, and employing security personnel. Preventive approaches such as reward systems can reduce theft cases. Managers should reward employees who report the theft (Nguyen & Truong, 2021). It might be uncomfortable to report a colleague, but catching the perpetrator in the act and reporting them, reduces the likelihood of such conduct occurring again (Nguyen & Truong, 2021). Setting up a hotline provides housekeepers with a fast and alternative means of reporting unruly workers in secret. A reward system increases the business’s profitability and ensures that the workers stay trustworthy.
In addition, the reward system makes the employees feel valued for who they are and what they do. Proper training also improves communication between supervisors and housekeepers (Bailey, 2006). Training helps in motivating employees to maintain the right attitude for the job. Confident workers have higher job satisfaction and are less motivated to steal from their employers(Greenberg, n.d). Hotel managers must treat workers to ensure they feel important regardless of their job level. This method effectively dissuades employees who steal on the pretext of revenge.
Teaching organizational commitment also facilitates employee morale. Performing thorough background checks on potential talent is an excellent approach to avoiding employing potential thieves. Behavioral interviewing effectively recognizes employees who are likely to engage in criminal behavior. Still, integrity tests help to hire managers to recognize delinquent employees who are likely to take risky actions while on the job (Wilkie, 2021). The tests are also crucial for fostering a better job environment since H.R. managers represent what is suitable for the business. Employees steal because of personalities that lean towards theft. Additionally, employees can steal based on their economic backgrounds.
In summary, this paper determined that employee theft is a serious ethical issue affecting the hospitality and tourism sector. The earliest form of employee theft was recorded in 1770. Current measures include holding employees accountable for their actions, implementing tighter security measures, and employing security personnel. Performing thorough background checks on potential talent is also an excellent approach to avoiding employing potential thieves. Research has determined that employees who exhibit regular work routines have a higher job satisfaction rate than disgruntled housekeepers. Unfulfilled employees are likelier to steal from their employers because they feel unappreciated or discriminated against in terms of payment. Many organizations prioritize employee theft as a business concern likely to affect hotel businesses.
The primary forms of employee theft include inventory and monetary theft. Some workers steal hotel supplies, such as pillows, buckets, and sheets. Others add extra charges to a customer’s bill and pocket the balance. Shrewd employees secretly misreport the tips and pocket the wages to maximize their wages. The other type of pilfering affects customer loyalty. Some housekeepers steal valuables from guests. Current research centers on employee theft instead of employee demographics that drive them to steal. In most cases, employees who steal are young and economically unstable. Youths in low-paying jobs are more inclined to engage in property deviance. Employers who steal from their bosses are also new, working part-time, and unmarried. Preventive measures include holding employees accountable for their actions, implementing tighter security measures, and employing security personnel. Preventive approaches such as reward systems can reduce theft cases. In addition, the reward system makes the employees feel valued for who they are and what they do. Proper training is also effective at improving communication between supervisors and housekeepers.
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Kennedy, J. (2018). Employee theft. Oxford Bibliographies Online Datasets. https://doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0238
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Nguyen, P. M., & Truong, G. N. (2021). Employee theft behavior. International Journal of Asian Business and Information Management, 12(3), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.4018/ijabim.294098
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Wilkie, D. (2021, July 6). Why is workplace theft on the rise? SHRM. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/workplace-theft-on-the-rise-.aspx