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I/O Case Study: Employee Theft

-Case Study-

Theft of Company Property
Wilton Petroleum Company is a wholesale distributor of a major brand of gasoline. Gasoline is shipped on barges from the refinery to the company. The company then delivers the gasoline to retail gas stations for sale to motorists. Each gasoline tanker truck is an 18-wheel vehicle that carried 9,000 gallons of gasoline. A 20-foot hose that extended from the truck permits the driver to fill the tanks at each gas station. The gasoline that is pumped out of the truck into underground holding tanks at the gas stations is monitored precisely by a meter on the tanker truck that records the amount of gasoline that is pumped from the truck. Thus, the company knows exactly how many gallons of gasoline were pumped into the holding tanks at each gas station, and it knows exactly how many gallons were pumped out of each tanker truck. Every day each driver records the total volume of gasoline delivered. The total volume pumped out of the truck has to equal the total volume of gasoline pumped into the holding tanks. The company considered any discrepancy between the two amounts as evidence of theft by the drivers.
But, the company knew that there was a slight flaw in the system used to monitor the flow of gasoline out of the tanker. The meter recorded the flow of gasoline out of the tanker; however, about 3 gallons of gasoline in the 20-foot hose was always underrecorded. That was the gasoline that had flowed out of the truck but did not enter the holding tanks.
One truck driver, Lew Taylor, thought he had found a way to "beat the system" and to steal gasoline for his personal use. After making all his scheduled deliveries for the day, he extended the full length of the hose on the ground and let gravity drain the gasoline from the hose. This typically yielded about 3 gallons of gas. The pump and the meter were not on, so there was no record of any gasoline leaving the tank. However, based on the very small but repeated shortages in his tanker truck compared to those of other drivers, company officials knew that Taylor was siphoning the gasoline. The value of the gasoline stolen each day was minimal, but the cumulative value was considerable.
Michael Morris, operations manager of the company, knew Taylor had found a loophole in the monitoring system and was stealing gasoline, but could not prove it. Morris decided to lay a trap for Taylor and "planted" a company hammer on a chair at the entrance to the room where the drivers changed their clothes after work. Morris then had a small hole drilled in the wall to observe the chair. He thought that if Taylor stole the gasoline, he might also be tempted to steal the hammer. The trap worked. Taylor was seen placing the company tool under his jacket as he walked out the door. On a signal from Morris, security officers approached Taylor and asked about the hammer. Taylor produced the hammer, was led by the security officers to Morris' office where he was immediately fired. Although Taylor had stolen hundreds of dollars worth of gasoline from his employer, he was terminated for stealing a hammer worth about $10.

Discuss the circumstances described in the Case Study and how you as an I/O Psychologist should handle them. Support your responses with current research. In your paper, address the following questions:
1.If you were Morris, and if Taylor had been a conscientious employee in all other areas, would you still have fired Taylor for committing theft? Why or why not?
2.Do you think Taylor "got what was coming to him" in this case, or was he "set up" by Morris and thus was a victim of entrapment?
3.Do you think that spying on the employees with peepholes and cameras to detect theft or other crime violates an ethical business principle? Why do you feel as you do?
4.What effect might Taylor's dismissal by the company have on other employees?

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I/O Case Analysis: Wilton Petroleum Company Employee Theft

Summary

In this case of company theft, one Lew Taylor, an 18-wheeler truck driver for Wilton Petroleum Company is suspected of using his position to siphon off fuel, literally, from the trucks that he drives to deliver gasoline to client retail stations for motorists. Taylor figured out that while gasoline that is pumped out of the truck into underground holding tanks at the gas stations is monitored precisely by a meter on the tanker truck that records the amount of gasoline that is pumped from the truck, there was a slight flaw in the system used to monitor the flow of gasoline out of the tanker. While it is supposed to be that the pumped out gasoline into the holding tanks at retail stations is to equal that to the meter installed in the trucks, he also figured out that about 3 gallons of gasoline in the 20-foot hose was always under-recorded. Taylor, at the end of the day's scheduled deliveries would let the hose 'drain out' by placing it on the ground with the pump and meter off. This way, gravity allows him access to 3 gallons of gasoline daily. The company's executive, Michael Morris as well as his superiors found it suspicious that Taylor's gasoline volume discrepancy is so much higher cumulatively than that of other drivers. While the daily discrepancy can be negligible, the larger picture of his siphoning activities showed considerable loss to the company. Because the 3 gallons 'allowance' of unrecorded gasoline content is a known flaw in the system, Morris and the company found it important to catch Taylor. They however, have no evidence to back up their suspicions. Thus, Morris laid a 'trap', arguing that if Taylor can easily steal gasoline, he will be tempted to steal company material that he can easily access, something that he thinks is easy for the company to miss. Thus, he conveniently arranged for a company hammer to be left at the Driver's Locker Room and installed an observation hall to see if Taylor would take the bait. Taylor did, hiding the hammer under his jacket when he left work for home. Since this was observed, he was relieved by security of the hammer and was then led to Morris' office where he was subsequently fired over the theft of the hammer.

Industrial & Organizational Psychology Overview

Organizational Psychology is a field of study within the larger discipline of Psychology. Also known as Industrial and Organizational Psychology or I/O, it is a specialized field where theories and concepts of psychology are applied in understanding organizations and the workplace for the purpose of developing it further as well as resolving issues related to human behavior. Its main focus is the relationship of man and organizational structure through the concepts and mechanics of the workplace by applying and extending the principles and theories of psychology to the individual and social problems the workplace. I/O has 2 main areas of study - Personnel Psychology which focuses in selecting, training and evaluating personnel (and at times, providing counselling support) and Research Organizational Psychology where the focus is the study of organizational psychology from an academic and research and development perspective. Data and knowledge derived from both impact new directions in organizational management, including organizational behavior as well as the management of organizational human resources. The American Psychological Association (APA, 2014), contend that the principles of psychology applied in I/O help to resolve issues as well as study human behaviors in the workplace. With the modern world relying on efficient and functioning human systems, the work of I/O psychologists therefore is much regarded and needed to improve efficiency, help in motivating workers, resolve issues in relation to retention and personnel development, help organizations in selecting potential employees as well as in resolving issues and problems of human behavior within the organization that can negatively impact performance and overall organizational functions and aims. The APA explains (2014):

"The specialty of industrial-organizational psychology (also called I/O psychology) is characterized by the scientific study of human behavior in organizations and the work place. The specialty focuses on deriving principles of individual, group and organizational behavior and applying this knowledge to the solution of problems at work."

"The specialty of Industrial Organizational Psychology addresses issues of recruitment, selection and placement, training and development, performance measurement, workplace motivation and reward systems, quality of work life, structure of work and ...

Solution Summary

The solution provides information, assistance and advise in tackling the task (see above) on the topic of employee theft through a case analysis. An outline is suggested, a summary provided and information that includes applicable IO theories, including ethical concerns. Resources are listed for further exploration of the topic.

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