Law-abiding majority ‘is a myth’

Jun 26, 2007

by Alan J Whitaker - founder and CEO - Future Winners International
This morning the BBC carried a report that 61% of Britons admitted to having committed at least one offence against civil society. Of these people two thirds admitted breaking the law on three or more occasions.
Their crimes included paying cash for products or services to avoid paying VAT, padding insurance claims, not paying for a TV license, selling goods knowing that they are defective, stealing office supplies and asking someone in a position of authority to bend the rules.
This report has opened a much bigger bag of worms than commercial crime such as padding insurance claims, not paying for a TV licence and selling faulty goods over e-bay.
In the United Kingdom today contempt for the law has become almost endemic – unfortunately aided and abetted by the media, a lack of political will and almost negligible lack of consequence.
People boast openly of their exploits in beating the system.
Whenever a new regulation appears, new traffic cameras are installed, or a policeman apprehends someone on a minor issue the cameras and the internet build huge campaigns of paranoia which paralyse the ability of our enforcers to ensure a moral society.
Executives who stand up for their companies are portrayed publicly and in the media as being greedy or out of touch. 
And when people are caught they claim their human rights to act in their best interests have been infringed.
They ignore the rights of society to live content, safe and prosperous lives. For so many people this era is becoming the decade of ‘Me first, to hell with the rest’.
Today it is becoming apparent that many people are verging on believing that it is ‘clever to cheat’. Few people in a pub would dare to condemn swapping penalty points on driveing licenses or speeding between speed cameras.
Where will it end?
The extreme view could be a break down in trust between ordinary people in the street with everyone continually watching their backs to ensure they have not been done down.
There would be a huge cost to society financially and in terms of inconvenience if insurance companies continually increase premiums and banks and anyone who buys anything has to institute even more rigorous controls.
What can change this?
When a sales rep, community nurse or a policeman are sent out on their duties, they come under immense pressure from people to bend the rules. ‘Come on, I am not all that drunk’. ‘Your company will never miss a few pounds’. ‘If I promise to give my aged Mum better food and bath her every day, will you stop visiting us’?
Monitoring these people is impossible. We have to rely on their values and backbone. Values are almost impossible to change. These should be measured when we recruit people. But backbone comes from Pride in themselves and identifying themselves with the organisation they represent.
In short, three words are important, Pride, Commitment and Loyalty.
But we have to add a fourth – Consequence.
In the 1960’s, anyone being exposed as having stolen a pencil would have almost certainly resigned such was the stigma and shame of being exposed.
In today’s society where this stigma has all but disappeared we require new ways to encourage and regulate appropriate behaviour.
What needs to be done?
Attitudes have to be changed. We have to provide organisations, whether they are schools, offices, or government departments with the ability to learn how to win the Pride, Commitment and Loyalty.
My company enjoys great success in assisting top management of companies to do just that. (See )
Winning pride, commitment and loyalty of employees and customers is possible providing the chief executive and his team change the way they lead and utilise their people.
A consistent programme of ensuring everyone knows where the organisation is going, what is in it for them, involving them in decision making and crucially the role they need to play each month to accomplishing their goals and those of the company will breed a team of proud, committed, loyal employees.
These committed employees build emotional bonds with customers. This is handsomely repaid in terms of increasing customer loyalty.
Companies which fully engage their people and customers enjoy greater sustainable profitability as a consequence of higher productivity, morale, employee satisfaction, customer delight and repeat orders. Many customers become as evangelical as the most ardent football team supporters.
Behind the engagement with people however there is always the certain knowledge among employees that poor performance or deviation from legal, moral, ethical or safety expectations will not be tolerated.
Engagement with discipline is the recipe which breeds pride, commitment and loyalty.
With this track record I possibly have earned the right to make suggestions for the country as a whole.
Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron speak in different tongues about compassionate democracy and the necessity for positive economic progress.
We must provide for our aged, the poor and those unable to earn a living. We must also invest heavily in education, health services and in building Britain as an innovative hothouse and as a great place to do business.
But this must be supported by measures to ensure respect for the rights and expectations of civil society. Contempt for the law can not continue.
The only remedy for crimes against civil society, where the potential for being prosecuted is extremely low, is for the consequences of exposure as a deviant to be extremely painful to his or her ego and pocket.
With that in mind, and I am not a criminologist, a number of measures could perhaps be introduced to hit the ego and the pocket such as making more use of naming and shaming, relating fines to earnings as they are in Finland, and undertaking community service publicly in the society where the offence has occurred.
It is imperative that Messrs Brown, Cameron and Campbell and the media all support the building of national pride, commitment, loyalty and ring the changes to develop positive consequences for crimes against civil society.
The name Great Britain should mean just what the label says.