Zuka Business Enterprise and the Labelling Theory
Business enterprises can either thrive or experience declining trends depending on several factors which can range from the nature of contracts, terms, and conditions of work to the employer-employee relationships. Many a times, with all the other factors held constant, employees tend to take keen interest in the kind of treatment they receive from their employers, and specifically, the terms of reference. Social scientists use the Labeling Theory to explain such behaviors, “How the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined by the terms used to describe or classify them.”
Social theorists explain that deviance is a relative term, the same way conformity is gained by healthy relationships. Whereas primary deviance refers to incidences of deviant behaviors that individuals participate in, secondary defiance in a case whereby an individual makes something out of a deviant behavior. This creates a negative label thus affecting the self-concept and identity of an individual. The negative label is commonly known as stigma (Link, 2009)
Zuka Enterprises has had cases of theft within the premises, alleged to be courtesy of the employees of the enterprise. On several occasions, the victims have either been caught red-handed or through the CCTV cameras. To shun such practices, what the management term as ‘deviant behaviors’, the management has publicly exposed the victims by parading them at the entrance for the glare of the public, and labeling them as criminals. Being such a business hub, it is possible that the act has affected both the victims and the customers and thus affecting the business. This paper therefore seeks to examine effects of labeling on the employees.
Statement of the Problem
While it is important to correct deviant behaviors, the manner in which the correction method is executed is vital, to ensure that the effects of the method do not get worse than meeting the objectives. In the event that it leads to stigma for the victims, then, it goes beyond achieving the correction objectives. For instance, the method of correction employed by Zuka brings into picture two scenarios. First, for the case of those caught, word will go round to the immediate families and relatives. He is certainly not the only one involved in the stealing of the goods, but the fact that he is badly exposed by the management gives an opportunity of secondary deviance to set in since people will make something out of his behavior.
On the other hand, the ones not caught would probably go scot-free while the other victims caught in the process will be labeled and will develop stigma which will be as a result of his deviant behavior. The victims that go scot-free will not be labeled and hence will not develop stigma. Therefore, the consequences are not out of the acts of stealing but out of the exposure of the behavior and labeling. Therefore, instead of labeling victims of theft within the business premises leading to stigma, there could be other ways of correcting the deviant behaviors that will leave the victim reformed and positive. Thus, there is a problem with the labeling. This could be one of the factors that have led to the decline in profits of the business enterprise.
This research was conducted with the following objectives:
- To determine the effects of labeling of the victims of theft within the Zuka Business enterprise.
- To determine other possible correction mechanisms other than the defamation
- To predict the future performances of the business if with persistent destructive correction methods.
According to the report on the understanding of deviance, (David, 2011), the negative attitudes of employers towards job applicants with previous crime records led the applicants to resort to crime in order to make ends meet. According to David, degradation ceremonies by the criminal justice system including the handcuffing, media appearances and court sessions are all contributing factors to stigma. As a result, the victims may be barred from the popular places of shopping, drinks, and learning due to the effect of secondary deviance.
As vividly portrayed by Liberman:
The powerful media have sensationalized the criminal activities of the drug gangs which in turn has created ‘moral panic’ among the citizens. By highlighting criminal activities such as witness intimidation, money laundering revenge killings etc., the media succeeded in portraying the drug criminals as fearless and as a law unto themselves. Very few offenders labelled as criminals manage to integrate back into the conventional society because the label is strongly stigmatized and the offender may not have any other option but become part of the sub-culture of drug crime (Link and Phelan 367).
Klein and Malcolm show that an arrest of a juvenile terms him/ her as a criminal thus affecting the manner in which the educational institutions treat him/her. Students with criminal records face the consequence of expulsion from school and segregated into some special youth programs. In this manner, the result of the primary sanction, arrest, and the secondary sanction, the exclusionary policies and practices by the school, will eventually lead to stigma. This may force the victim to eventually abandon education and partly explains the reasons behind school drop outs.
The research on the labelling effects on the employees of Zuka Business Enterprises assumed the following null and alternative statements. The null hypotheses were statements of probability subject to the findings of the research, and were denoted as Ho. On the other hand, the alternative hypotheses were statements countering the predictions made concerning the research study.
HO (1): There is no need of employing the use of labeling as a means of correction as it distorts the image of the victims leading to stigma.
H1 (1): There is need to employ the use of labeling to victims of theft as a correction mechanism
The null hypothesis formed the basis of the study upon which findings would be drawn to determine the effects of labeling to the victims of theft within the business enterprise.
Research Method and Data
The research employed an objective method of inquiry that is free of bias, prejudice, and emotions. The purpose of this was to obtain the first hand information and make findings and conclusions devoid of subjective bias. Therefore, despite the information across the media regarding the state of labeling in Zuka Business Enterprises, it was important that such do not interfere with the research process so as to come up with unbiased conclusions.
The study made use of the experimental research with a view to controlling the extraneous variables and controlling one or more variables that influence the process being examined. Therefore, apart from observation and recording, there was controlling, adjusting and manipulating the variables in order to compare the results of findings based on the objectives of the study.
The data to be used was collected through observation, interviews and reviewing of the records from the business enterprise. The information regarding the past labeling activities and effects were obtained from the business’ book of records with the permission from the management. The information regarding the view of the employees concerning the labeling of theft victim was obtained by administering questionnaires to a sample of the employees within the business premises. In order to incorporate the views of the public concerning the issue of labelling, customers were sampled and served with questionnaires with specific questions that would meet the objectives of the research.
The three sets of acquiring information were conducted two days apart so as to limit the chances of bias, and to obtain information from as varied sources as possible. This was boosted by the fact that the employees at the enterprise alternate after every two days, giving a wide range of views important for the findings of the study. On the other hand, it helped by reducing the bulk of work within a single day.
Therefore the research design represents a model having negative employeeeffects (stigma) as a result of primary deviance (theft) and secondary sanction techniques (labeling).
Data Collection Techniques
The interviews on the views of both the public and the employees were done face to face, while recording the findings. This was due to the limited time that both the customers and the employees had within the business premises. The questions were designed in an open manner in order to collect as much information as possible. This included walking alongside the employees as they ferried goods from one point to another, helping to arrange the shelves with the permission of the manager as well as helping with the carrying of the customers’ shopping baskets within the business premises (Liberman, Kirk and Kideuk 345). This was aimed at creating the least convenience to both the customers and the employees during the course of the business.
The management only allowed for the access of their records regarding the employees’ conduct after the signing a non-disclosure of information form so that the researcher would be responsible for any information spill regarding the employees of the company (Link and Phelan 270). General observation of the employees during their time of work was important in triggering questions regarding their moods, speed of work and response to customers, and the employers.
It would have been difficult to examine the entire population of the customers, the employees, and reviewing of all the profiles of the previous employees at the business enterprise. Therefore, a smaller accurate representation of the whole population was realistic in meeting the objectives of the research.
From a population of 63 employees of the business, a smaller sample for carrying out the research was to be determined. Similarly, from the hundreds of customers who walk in and out of the business premises, only a smaller sample was required. Finally, from the 671 list records of the former employees of the business, only a small sample would fit the requirements of the research.
Once the research population had been designed, probability sampling was employed in determining the size of the samples for data collection. Simple random sampling was preferred, and it involved determining the sample sizes as follows: Current employees-18; previous employees-21; customers-24. In order to obtain the 18 current employees, 63 pieces of paper with 18 marked were wrapped and administered to the group (Downes and Paul 125). The aim was to give everyone equal and independent chance of being selected.
For the case of the customers, given their limited time within the premises, they were picked at odd number intervals as they entered the business premises. Those that were previously attached to Zuka were also picked at even number intervals depending on the appearances on the list.
Due to the tedious one on one interactions with the interviewees, the questions we limited to 6 but comprehensive to obtain all the information required. The questions were clear to the point, and the mode of communication was tailored to suite the respondents. With the questionnaires containing all the information, it was important to listen carefully so as to fill correctly without engaging the respondent to fill the spaces as this would call for abandoning their respective responsibilities.
It was necessary that the questions do not engage the private and personal lives of the respondents outside their interactions with the business. Some of the areas of focus included were: the period of time taken by the employees working for Zuka; opinions on the common labeling as corrective measure and if there were other better corrective methods;what would prompt resignation, the feeling towards the business after cases of labeling etc. For the case of the previous employees, it was important to note what had led to their departure from the company.
Analysis, Findings, and Interpretation
From the data, out of the 18 sampled employees, 15 (86.67%) argued that the labeling was a harsh treatment with 12 out of the 15 stating that they would not face their colleagues and the employers after such incidences (80%). From those employees who had left the company, the 21 whose profiles were reviewed had 15 quit after being labeled as criminals from incidences of theft (71.1%). 4 out of the remaining 6 (66.57%) had left following the company’s treatment towards their friends (Downes and Paul 125).
At the same time, out of the 24 customers sampled for interview, 16 (66.67%) stated that they would not employ those that had been labeled criminals by the business management following cases of theft. They backed up their reasons by stating that company image would be at stake. This resonates with Berliner (2012), that some people may assume that the offending person can no longer be trusted and that such are capable of greater criminal activities after initiation into the primary deviant behaviors.
This meant that a good number of the employees regarded the labeling as a very harsh form of punishment and would therefore prefer a different method of handling deviant behaviors. Similarly, a huge percentage (80) would consider resignation after incidences of labeling (Klein 121). More than half of the customers, in the case of potential employment, would not consider victims of labeling for their organizations.
Moreover, more than half of the employees are vulnerable to losing their jobs due to the treatment received by their colleagues at work. The fact that a big percentage of the employees shun the labeling practice point to a gap in the organization, Despite the loss of several employees, the management has stuck to the unpopular harsh way of treating employees. It means (from the views of the employees) that any other form of correction that does not leave the employees’ self-image and esteem tainted would be welcome.
From the findings, it is notable that the effects of labeling of employees go beyond meeting the objectives of the practice, for it taints the image and lowers the self-esteem of the employees. No wonder, the business enterprise has witnessed quite a number of employees’ departures in the last 1 and half years. Even though it is not right to encourage crime, the response to crime should always be geared towards leaving the victims in a rehabilitated and reformed state, as opposed to the sorry and stigmatized states that several have to go through. Therefore, due to the high percentages of individuals opposed to labeling as a method of correcting deviant behavior, we fail to reject the null hypothesis and conclude that there is no need of employing the use of labeling as a means of correction as it distorts the image of the victims leading to stigma
The company should consider laying off of workers who have been found to be of deviant behaviors without having to publicly label them as criminals. On the same note, other approaches towards corrective methods should be directed towards withdrawing the whole or part of the rewards as determined by the company.
Berliner, Lawrence and Jacques Reuben. Spin labeling: theory and applications. Springer, 2012.
Downes, David and Paul Rock. Understanding deviance: A guide to the sociology of crime and rule-breaking. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Klein, Malcolm. “Labeling theory and delinquency policy an experimental test.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 13.1 (2013): 47-79.
Liberman, Akiva M., Kirk David and Kideuk Kim. “Labeling effects of first juvenile arrests: Secondary deviance and secondary sanctioning.” Criminology 52.3 (2014): 345-370.
Link, Bruce and Phelan Jo. “Conceptualizing stigma.” Annual review of Sociology (2009): 363-385.