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CLEVELAND, Ohio – A recent study by Ohio State University Professor Jerald Greenberg finds that corporate ethics programs can reduce employee theft. Experts say that employee theft costs U.S. businesses billions each year and gets worse during hard economic times or when employees feel mistreated. According to Greenberg, workers often rationalize their behavior by saying that the value of the items is small or that companies expect some supplies to vanish. As companies downsize and increase the responsibilities of remaining workers, it can get worse, Greenberg said. The willingness to steal from one’s employer was measured among 270 customer service employees of a large unnamed company by asking them to take just $2 in pennies for staying an hour late to complete a survey. Workers who went through the company’s ethics program stole less from a bowl of pennies than those who did not. Employees who had shown a less developed sense of morality in a previous survey were more likely to take up to 10 cents more than the $2. According to the study, when workers were told the money was their manager’s they were less likely to steal it. “And when companies underpay their employees, they’re actually inviting the very kind of theft they can’t afford in the first place,” said Greenberg. “Because if they can’t afford to pay their employees properly, they’re probably going to be more harmed by the theft likely to result.”

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