The Perception of Detection

Imagine you are heading home in a hurry and driving much faster than usual.

Something really important is happening at home; the clock is ticking and you can’t be late.

Suddenly, you see a guy holding up a sign with the words “COPS AHEAD” in big letters.

Your foot instinctively comes off the gas pedal.

You ask yourself: What’s going on? Is there a speed trap ahead; perhaps an accident? Maybe that guy is just nuts?

In any case, you don’t want to chance a speeding ticket, so you reluctantly slow down, at least for the next half-mile or so.

That’s the Perception of Detection at work.

You perceived that if you continued to speed, you might get caught and get a ticket and/or lose points .

The Perception of Detection is the #1 deterrent of employee dishonesty.

In simple terms; the perception of detection means that when people believe they will be caught stealing, they are less likely to do it.

Every dishonest employee follows the same pattern of thinking

The perception of detection works by inhibiting one the three essential ingredients required for a person to steal.

Ingredient 1: Motive

The employee feels pressured to steal. The reasons vary, and the list is extensive. Often the employee needs money to satisfy a debt, make up for a loss of spousal income, wanting to satisfy an abusive partner – or to keep an unwilling partner a relationship, support a gambling addition, pay for medical expenses, or a psychological need to “have more”.

Ingredient 2: Opportunity

The employee is tempted by a situation they cannot handle, and in the blink-of-any eye, your money, becomes their money. Internal controls can help to remove certain opportunities for fraud, however a sufficiently motivated employee can usually find a way to circumvent to the internal control.

Ingredient #3: Rationalization

I’ve heard many reasons why employees have rationalized stealing from a dentist or practice owner.

“The dentist makes a lot of money and won’t miss it.”

“I work hard, if it wasn’t for me the dentist wouldn’t be successful, I deserve it”

“I haven’t had a raise in years”

Regardless of the rhetoric an employee may use to rationalize their stealing, there is one question that all employees ask before they decide to take your money and make it theirs.

All dishonest employees ask: “Will I be caught?”

If they answer YES, they are deterred from stealing. If they answer NO, they will steal. It’s that simple.

This notion has been around since the 18th century when English philosopher Jeremy Bentham originated his classic criminology theory, which says that a person’s propensity to commit a crime is determined by his or her perception of the related risks and rewards.

The greater the risk of detection and apprehension, the less likely a person is to violate the law.

Large retail stores use extensive networks of security cameras to increase the perception that shoplifting will be detected, and they are very effective.

Smaller stores that cannot afford security cameras often install inexpensive “mock” cameras that are difficult to tell from the real thing. When shoplifters cannot tell the difference, the fake cameras are just as effective!

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Here are a few things that you can do to increase the perception of detection in your practice.

Exhibit ethical leadership as the practice owner

If you always uphold professional ethics and integrity, your employees will be more inclined to uphold the same values. The moment you appear unconcerned with ethics or integrity, your employees will follow suit.

Set standards and follow them, impeccably. Separate business from personal relationships. Exercise impartiality when dealing with employee matters.

Be involved with business affairs of your practice.

Attend business courses and seminars along with your employees.

Learn how to use your practice management software. Your employees should not perceive that you do not know how to use or understand your practice management software. Take software training courses with your staff. At a minimum you should be able to generate and understand the management reports that your software provides.

Don’t be the first person to leave the practice each day.

Install Security Cameras

Security cameras can protect you, your employees and patients. If you do not have security cameras, have them installed by a professional and in accordance with any federal or local laws that apply. 

Implement a Computer Usage Policy

The policy should include a reminder to each employee that their e-mails, telephone calls and Internet travels can be, or are being, monitored by the practice.

The policy must notify each employee of practice management software “audit logging”. Almost all dental practice software maintains some form of an audit log. Your employees must know that audit logging exists and restricted from accessing it. Set up your dental software to restrict employee access to the audit log.