Stop Thief! The High Cost of Workplace Dishonesty.

The National Retail Federation’s 2022 Retail Security Survey [i] revealed that losses due to shrinkage rose to an incredible $94.5 billion dollars in 2021, up almost $4 billion dollars from the previous year.

Internal theft by employees accounted for almost 30% of those losses.

The Covid Pandemic only exacerbated the problem, with 72.4% of respondents reporting an increase in shoplifting because of it.

When asked about other effects of the Covid Pandemic, retailers reported that issues surrounding labor shortages, employee retention, and hiring combined to claim the top spot.

Some readers may be saying to themselves, “This is all very interesting, but my business isn’t a retail operation, and so this doesn’t affect me.”

You couldn’t be more mistaken!

According to a new study of honesty [i] by University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Timothy Levine, about three-quarters of the study participants were consistently honest, telling between zero and two lies per day. By contrast, a small subset of people (about 6 percent) averaged more than six lies per day and accounted for a large proportion of the findings.  The take-away is that most people really are honest.[ii]  However, approximately 25% of people are generally or very dishonest.

Therefore, based upon just the USA population, there are approximately 20 to 83 million moderately or very dishonest people out there.  The big question is, do these findings correlate with being dishonest in general?  Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes.

Statistical debates aside, dishonesty and unethical people hurt your business and its reputation, and we’re not talking only about liars and thieves either.  Ethics, the moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour, are requirements for success in life and in the workplace.  People who don’t have them are going to be a problem, and often an expensive one.  Thus, ensuring that you don’t hire such people is critical.  Criminal background checks will only identify those who’ve been caught and charged with a crime, and so they’re only partially effective.

Savvy, and proactive businesses should be protecting themselves by screening applicants for ethics, especially if they will have access to cash, financial systems, inventory, or be dealing with customers.  There are many solutions available to help employers do this cost effectively, legally, and reliably.  Whether the measurement scale is labelled integrity, deception, dishonesty, theft or trustworthiness, the focus is the same – ethics, reliability, and dependability.

Some tools focus, almost exclusively, on ethics, honesty or integrity.  Tests like the Applicant Review, Applicant Risk Profiler, Business Ethics Awareness, Counterproductive Behavior Index, Employee Reliability Inventory, Ethical Type Indicator, Personnel Reaction Blank, Work Integrity Screening Test, and Work Integrity Test all do this.  They can also be used as stand-alone tools or in conjunction with other measures.

Other types of assessments incorporate integrity as part of a battery of other investigatory scales.

Products like the Delivery Driver Test, Employee Attitude and Personality Test, Employee Screening Questionnaire, Personal Style Assessment, Professional Individual Contributor, Work Style Lens, Workplace Personality Inventory, and ViewPoint Assessments add in other measures such as:

  • Adaptability
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Assertiveness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Initiative
  • Loyalty
  • Math skills
  • Problem Solving Ability
  • Professionalism
  • Rule Following
  • Self Control
  • Stress tolerance
  • Work Drive, and more.

The items above are only some of the options that are available.  It’s not only easy for employers to weed out potential problem applicants, but there are also a wide range of cost-effective, validated, accurate, and reliable solutions to choose from.

There’s almost no reason to saddle yourself with an employee who will treat customers or co-workers badly, or who will damage your reputation like the Starbucks employee who made international headlines after attacking two customers in Southampton UK last month.  Perhaps, if they’d been using a tool that measured integrity, emotional stability, and stress tolerance, this incident would have never occurred.  All of that negative press and lost goodwill could have been avoided by using a good screening tool costing only a few dollars.

How much do you want to bet that they now wish that they had?

If you’re struggling with employees with a poor work ethic, who take bogus sick days, who are untrustworthy, or who lie, cheat or steal, call us.  We have the solutions that you’ve been searching for.



David Towler is President of Creative Organizational Design, a firm offering nearly 40 years of expertise specializing in employee assessments and which has over 2000 different product titles available. Creative Organizational Design has 100s of assessment tools designed to help employers screen out other people’s rejects, assess skills, aptitude, attitude and ‘fit’ within an organization. For more information about the options available and help selecting the best tools for your needs please contact us.  Please send comments about this article to


[i] New Research Shows Most People Are Honest — Except For A Few

[ii] Are Most People Liars?

[i] National Retail Security Survey 2022

Search Articles