Anyone who has read anything I have written, or who knows me in person, understands how much individual responsibility means to me. I think that each of us is responsible for everything we do, and that as a consequence, we deserve either the rewards or the penalties that result from our actions. If I do something smart, I win. If I do something stupid, I lose. Elementary, no?
That anyone might find fault with such reasoning amazes me. Increasingly, all of the things we were taught as children back in the dark ages of the 1950s are no longer valid in the eyes of many who were raised in more the recent decades of moral and ethical relativism. I find this alarming.
Let me set the record straight. I do not seek a return to sexually repressive eras of the past. This post is not about that. You can sleep with the neighbour's goat for all I care, as long as you don't expect me to pay for a room in the local No-Tell motel for you. I am more concerned with people helping themselves to what is mine, without so much as a "if you please," or "thank you very much, sir."
Knowledgeable business managers have a bad-debt or 'shrinkage' allowance built into their annual financial projections, and tend to shrug off any accumulated losses until and unless they exceed the projections. Then, they try to tighten controls somewhat, to bring the numbers back to more acceptable levels. At some point, the monitoring and scrutinizing costs will exceed what can be saved from prevented theft, fraud, and unpaid accounts receivable. Mangers tend to settle at that point, because beyond it there is no financial pay-back commensurate with the increased attention. For decades, my projected allowance for these categories has been 1/2 of 1 per cent of gross sales. It is a tiny percentage, but a large dollar amount. We rarely hit my allowed limit because most employees and associates I have had are honest, and my department managers keep our accounts receivable collections up-to-date enough so that any lost amount from bankruptcies and such are usually fairly small.
Every now and again though, there is a deliberate attempt to defraud. This is usually when someone 'needs' something that isn't important enough for him to sacrifice his beer and cigarette money, but that he feels someone else with more money shouldn't mind paying for, usually without the latter's knowledge or consent. I have a situation like that right now. The amount of money is insignificant, less than $2,000, but the principle isn't. A sub-contractor used one of our company credit cards for unapproved expenditures, without our consent, and then disappeared before we made the discovery. When we finally found him, and pointed out that his action was fraudulent and that we would proceed to co-operate with the police to have him charged accordingly, he was shocked. After all, he 'needed' what he paid for with the company credit card more than the company needed the money it would now have to pay for something it would never use, nor have any benefit from. As a practical matter, that is certainly true. My company won't notice the financial loss. Does that matter? No. What we did notice is that someone lied to us, defrauded us, took advantage of us. And by 'us,' I mean me, because I am the sole shareholder and the money comes directly out of my pocket as a result.
I'm not looking for pity or for anyone to take up a collection on my behalf. I would just like to see a more general return to honesty, integrity and responsibility.
For decades, I have had a very relaxed attitude towards this sort of thing, in that while I abhorred the theft and dishonesty, I have not usually gone after the perpetrators. I have finally realized now that all I have been doing is to encourage further such behaviour, and that my lax attitude is counter-productive. I will be a patsy no longer.