Embezzlement – different culture, different reaction?

Since we are discussing multicultural work teams, here are some interesting questions.
Work style and behavior on a multicultural team – how much can it be attributed to one’s background? How much can it be attributed to the individual’s personality?

Over the years I’ve encountered work situations less than ideal, shall we say. Discovering embezzlement cases is one of them. Helping clients working through such situations it’s difficult.

It’s difficult because of the misplaced-trust factor among other things. Someone they’ve trusted had embezzled money from the company. Often significant amounts of money.

I won’t discuss here the prevention aspect of it.
Just how people of two separate organizations dealt with it.

The two embezzlement cases:
• One case was detected by me.
• The other detected by a company insider.

Swift Justice
The first case was an ad agency. Reviewing their financial records I discovered irregularities with their bank account transactions and their payroll. It appeared that it went on for years.
Once I brought this to the attention of the company’s president, FBI was involved and the process to resolve the case was on its way.

Except for a short period of frustration and anger, this company and its people resumed their normal operations.

Authorities not involved
The second case was much more complicated.
The company was started by family members and close friends. They all have pulled resources together and formed a company.

Years went by and they were doing well. Sales contracts kept coming in. They now owned several other companies and they had close to a 100 employees working in these companies.
Things were looking good.

Then it happened.
Someone in the organization discovered (accidentally) an embezzling operation in one of the companies.

There were the normal questions:
How long it’s been going on?
How much money has been taken?
And the hardest question, “How can one of our own do this?”

It was a difficult time for the company.
They chose to resolve the matter themselves, without involving the authorities.

What I found interesting about these two embezzlement cases:
Both founders of these organizations came from group-oriented cultures. These cultures pride themselves on close family ties and loyalty.
How each company dealt with the embezzlement was also interesting.

One company swiftly dealt with the problem. Involved the authorities to resolve the case.
Then returned back to its normal operations.

The other company did not involve the authorities. They resolved it on their own. And it took a lot longer for them to return to normal operations.

Final Thoughts
Are we really that different?
Many of you, being in the same situation, would probably have chosen either one course of action or the other.

Yes, it’s important to understand cultural differences.
But it’s equally important to understand the personality differences.

When having difficulty at work with individuals from diverse backgrounds it’s easy to blame it on their culture.
More often than not the truth is much simpler.
You are just dealing with a difficult individual.
And culture has nothing to do with it.
(Then forget multiculturalism – start brushing up on persuasion techniques : )


“I have a multicultural background, so I tend to have an open mind about things, and I find other cultures interesting.” Viggo Mortensen

/Comments/in Leadership,Multicultural Work Team/by Mariana Fieraru
Mariana Fieraru
Mariana Fieraru, an Eastern European transplant, fell in love with her new home shortly after landing in New York. She "discovered" pizza! Years later she still loves pizza. And so do her two feathered-kids, Sunny and Flipper

Mariana worked on both, the east and the west coast.
Big or small, each project she worked on helped define the importance of gaining and sustaining a competitive edge in an increasingly complex business environment.

Business know-how, love of teaching and writing – all combined in 2006 to form OBI.
Its mission: to make learning fun! And easy.

Through its training, consulting, and publications OBI builds bridges of knowledge to take you from where you are to
where you want to go. Using a mix of serious, informal, analytical, and optimistic approach, OBI truly makes learning fun.

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