I've previously discussed how a portion of any workforce will be tempted to commit crimes based on the presence of opportunity. The point is worth mentioning again, as it was more than just my own observation, coming instead from a police detective that had many years experience with corporate crimes. He said the common element that unites the vast majority of corporate criminals is not poverty, poor pay, anger at management, drug habits, or anything else going on in their particular lives. It is an opportunity to commit the crime undetected. To get away with it.
This same theme runs through my novels. In almost every instance one of the core questions the bad guys ask at some stage is: "Can I get away with it?"
Of course, villains or prospective villains generally think they can, otherwise they wouldn't move forward with their nefarious acts.
Standing in direct opposition to these villains are what I'll call "the enforcers." Enforcers are an important breed in any large organization, and their proactive actions are one of the key things that keep the villains in check. For example, when an employee decides to steal (a tool, for instance) from their employer, it is the enforcers that stand in their way. Such enforcers might be someone entrusted with the specific task, such as a security guard or a supervisor. But in my experience the most effective enforcers, both in catching criminals and in deterring them, are engaged, diligent, and aware employees.
If you're lucky, you have many of these kinds of people in your organization, and if you're unlucky they will be few and far between.
So what makes an enforcer? In my experience it is usually an employee of long standing that feels they are a part of the organization. In the language of current management theories, they are "engaged." They also tend to be of above average intelligence, observant, and also have a strong sense of right and wrong. Yes, they can be the same employees that ask those irritating "fairness" questions at employee meetings.
The enforcer does three things that management has a tough time doing for themselves. They observe the detailed workings of their peers in the organization. They recognize and properly interpret behaviors that are likely to damage the company's interests -- particularly behaviors of a potentially criminal nature. And they are actually willing to do something with this information. It has always shocked me how many employees seem capable of handling the first two aspect of the enforcer's job, but don't take the third step. In my experience it takes a particularly moralistic person, or someone who is extremely tuned into "fairness" to convert observation into action.
While enforcers may be annoying at times, they are critically important to preventing the business from being ripped-off. As a manager, you have to cultivate this group of employees without encouraging them to become ridiculously hair-splitting.
I've relied on enforcers to keep me up to speed on numerous minor violations of the rules -- everything from employees arriving late or leaving early, to minor theft of office supplies, to dirty tricks being played by angry or ambitious executives.
They also were quite helpful in managing bigger problems.
In one instance, I had an HR executive grant himself a "raise" by filling out the paperwork and forging my signature. If that form hadn't passed through the hands of an enforcer, who recognized it as "unusual" and outside of the normal cycle of raises, the theft would have passed through unnoticed. As it turned out, the enforcer brought the suspect raise to the attention of her boss, and that led to discovery of the attempted theft.
In another instance, and enforcer overhead a particularly disengaged employee starting rumors about an executive (in this case, me), and reported his identity. That enforcer's actions created enough doubts in my mind about the employee that I later caught him in the process of stealing confidential information to take with him to a competitor. Without the enforcer's help, this theft probably would have escaped notice.
Enforcers may not be the easiest employees to get along with or to satisfy. But they are necessary to balance those individuals that are willing to rob the company blind when the opportunity presents itself. Cultivate your enforcers and manage them as you would any other asset, because at some point you're going to need them. 19.2
Other Recent Posts:
- A Little Extra Compensation
- Being Friends with Subordinates
- Using Structure to Solve Your (Personnel) Problems
- Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie
- Picking Your Own Team
- Nobody Gives up Top Talent
If you are intrigued by the ideas presented in my blog posts, check out some of my other writing. Novels: LEVERAGE, INCENTIVIZE, DELIVERABLES and now HEIR APPARENT (published 3/2/2013) -- note, the Kindle version of DELIVERABLES (a prequel to HEIR APPARENT) is on sale for a limited time for $2.99.
This is the cover of the Audiobook version of LEVERAGE, which I narrated. The story revolves around an offbeat engineer working for Global Guidance Corporation who shows up one night at Mark Carson's house shot and bleeding out. Mark decides to investigate the crime himself, and plenty of complications ensue as he uncovers a wild conspiracy.
My novels are based on extensions of my 27 years of personal experience as a senior manager in public corporations. Most were inspired by real events.