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Protect All Your Assets

"Our people are our greatest assets." That proclamation, or some variation of it, appears in countless organizational mission statements. Yet most companies that profess this value fail to protect their most precious assets.

Imagine how a company would deal with a manager who abused its equipment. Picture a stressed-out manager, working under an approaching deadline, growing frustrated with a temperamental computer. The closer the deadline gets, the slower the computer seems. Finally, the aggravated manager snatches the monitor off the desk and throws it to the floor, smashing the screen and reducing it to rubble. Before you know it, security personnel arrive to escort the manager to the street. The message is clear: we will not tolerate the destruction of our assets.

What if that same manager, under similar pressure, takes it out on employees instead? In fact, very few managers destroy physical assets, but many do mistreat employees. And sometimes the abuse is extreme. These may use deprecating names for employees, yell at workers for disagreeing, threaten people with job loss, single out individuals for humiliation, or even initiate physical contact. Less extreme behavior includes withholding important information, staring, or giving employees the silent treatment. But where are the security officers then?

People are our greatest assets, as well as our most expensive. But while companies rightly fire someone for damaging a $300 computer monitor, few level any punishment for the costly act of destroying employee self-esteem. Why? Because, if they could, companies would put off addressing either problem. Unfortunately, it's harder to ignore a shattered CRT than it is a broken spirit.

Maybe it's time to merge Human Resources with Security, or as some companies call it, Corporate Asset Protection. In other words, protect your employees the way you guard office fixtures. Otherwise, don't be surprised if some of your most valuable assets withhold their best efforts, or just get up and leave.
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