How do ministries counteract the rationalization side of the fraud triangle?

The rationalization factor was discussed here and here.

When you dig into the rationalization process, you realize that churches and ministries are in a wonderful position to counter this part of the fraud triangle.

The rationalization process involves convincing oneself that what would otherwise be wrong is actually acceptable and perhaps even the right thing to do.  Your staff would never think they could take some cash from a co-workers purse because they want it or take money out of the offering plate because they feel like getting a raise.  Only by the process of major-league rationalizing can the following attitudes be acceptable:

  • It’s okay to take this valuable thing home because I’m not getting paid what I’m worth.  I could get a big raise tomorrow by getting another job anywhere else.
  • I’m making a big sacrifice by working at this ministry so this extra amount on my expense report is a small bonus which doesn’t even offset my sacrifice.
  • The big bosses are getting away with so much that this little thing is nothing’ compared to what they’re doing
  • This ministry is so big; they’ll never miss this money.
  • I’m in a financial crisis but can easily pay this loan back later.

How to challenge those mindsets?  Perhaps by confronting the faulty thinking with truth-telling.  Hearing often that right-is-right and wrong-is-wrong would make it far more difficult for a person to rationalize into fraud.  In our secular, multicultural environment this can be a challenge.  Speaking such truth is natural in the religious community.  There are dozens of ideas that would be powerful counters to rationalization.  Righteousness, holiness, and living above reproach are three things that quickly come to mind.  You can think of many others.

When to discuss these ideas with your staff?  Wow, the opportunities are endless.  Those topics are the obvious focus of many sermons in a church.  Many ministries have weekly chapel.  Most ministries have a short devotion as a part of staff meetings.  Management teams often discuss books as part of their meetings or planning times.  Any of those situations would be opportunities to emphasize your core values or biblical truth in general and by doing so subtly undercut any rationalizations that are developing.  Reminding your staff of your mission and the passion you bring to bear on the cause can counter the entitlement attitude. 

None of those discussions need to be negative or scolding.  By holding up the biblical standard, a positive message and encouragement are presented.  The counter-rationalization message does not actually have to be explicitly stated – it is implied and in the background.

One of the questions that auditors ask is how the organization is communicating from top management to the staff that the staff is expected to do things right and ethically.  When I ask that question in a church, the business administrator ponders a while, trying to remember when those issues were explicitly discussed in staff meetings.  While looking for the proper ‘audit’ answer, the person will hesitatingly ask, “Does it count when the pastor discusses those ideas from the pulpit?”  BINGO!  Telling the congregation (along with all the staff who happen to be sitting in the pews!) that they should live Godly lives that are above reproach and do so in every area of their life is exactly the kind of thing auditors are looking for.  Taking that approach into staff meetings every once in a while is a very powerful antidote to the rationalization mindset.

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