The least effective types of persuasion are control and coercion. Pressure, intimidation, force and fear only work in the short term and require constant surveillance. The most effective type of persuasion is commitment. Persuasion and influence are important because in any business structure those with the most to gain rely on those often least engaged for their success.
The retail environment is such an example. For the mission to really succeed we rely on lower paid employees who are at a distance from the plans and goals of the corporate office. To have the ability to persuadeand educate them to commit to our plans and our goals requires intermediaries that we call “field and store management.”
And within the ranks of management there lies a high risk position. Although in terms of “count” it may not exceed hourly employees for theft incidents, in terms of costs, more often than not, it exceeds all other positions.
The assistant manager is the highest risk position we employ. Not because assistant managers are inherently dishonest or less talented, but because their position often lacks an adequate balance of the two most important factors—responsibilities and commitment.
No blanket statement can be made that applies to all assistant managers. We know that most “bad” decisions are the result of opportunity paired with low self control. Opportunity can be controlled by a company, but personal self-control cannot. The inherent risk with assistant managers is that in order to perform effectively the nature of the responsibilities we provide to them creates opportunities. With that level of responsibility we need commitment.
Consider the types of things that creates commitment in the work-force. Incentives like a paychecks and benefits, the promise of a promotion, the ability to lead a team, and to make decisions. In other words commitment is built on a sense of ownership and pride in the result.
Now consider the dilemma of the assistant manager position. Most tend to make little more than the hourly associates once we’ve corrected for hours worked. The promise of promotion is reliant on the store manager’s ability to sell it and back it with evidence of his or her own abilities. The assistant manager may have talent and excellent ideas, but leadership of the team is regulated as are the levels of decisions they can make. In short, the commitment foundation is still in the drying stage and that can make for treacherous steps, especially regarding loss prevention.
In the absence of high asset access, the commitment issue would not be as important. Part-timers may steal, but things like policy and supervision can prevent run-away theft and limit access. The assistant manager, with their potentially precarious commitment, has, in the absence of the manager, full access. And full access is full opportunity. On the scale therefore we have a less than comfortable level of commitment with a less than safe degree of access and opportunity.
These two factors alone don’t make dishonesty a foregone conclusion. In fact, the vast majority of assistant managers are honest, will be promoted in ours or another’s company, and provide the backbone to function and success. When, however, these two factors meet an individual with low self control the result is disaster. In their supervisory role they have the access to commit high dollar employee theft, the authority to mask some that theft through media manipulation, and serve in part to create the culture that hourly employees embrace—for good or bad.
It may seem that these conditions suggest there is nothing to be done. Although not without challenges we can lower the risk of this high risk position. And if your first thought is to increase compensation you’d be missing the bigger picture of commitment. Commitment is a sense of ownership, pride, and a feeling of being an important part of the team. Those things aren’t necessarily related to compensation although compensation should be fair.
The real solution is to offer assistant managers equal amounts of responsibility and voice. That is to understand that while their experience is limited, their input isn’t without value. By respecting their voice, their opinions and by allowing them some authority to make decisions that are supported, human nature will work its own part to create within them a greater level of commitment. That commitment is key to honesty and integrity.