Why doesn't the mafia need HR?

Multidisciplinary teams that blend technology and/or deep analytical capabilities and business domain expertise are increasingly indispensable to digital transformation success. Forward-thinking organizations embrace rather than fight the rise of the distributed digital delivery model and maximize value by focusing on the human aspects of managing digital business risk. But is this all that new of a concept? Let’s take a step back and see which other organizations successfully blended the boundaries between requisite capabilities and the rest of the business.
How Mafia Is Using People Management Practices to Further Its Goals

The mafia has a well-organized leadership and employee management system in its rule and winning target regions to expand its cartels. According to Catino (2014), the Mafias have two executive order and leadership mechanisms that they conceptualize in managing their operations and people. The initial one is the vertical organizational order. The mafia organization uses central power and higher levels of coordinated strictures to settle on systematic and progressive decisions; the latter is the horizontal organizational order characterized by a unified cartel of leadership with the absence of a higher-ranking level. The coordination levels use clan-based decision-making and distribution cartels to run people and lead operations. Martens (2021) further adds that for the mafia to maintain resilience and longevity, they focus on their people and how recruits and the existing workforce tend to protect the golden secrecy and evade authority intervention. People’s reputation and trust are the signature brands in mafia operations. Therefore, to have smooth sentimental operations, the mafia requires individuals with a level of secrecy and loyalty (Scarpinato, 2015). Thus, their control and rule are in environments where people adapt to their structural order, and communication is the central planning system. With current Human Resources management trends, the paper will analyze how mafias use people to expand their business and capture full value from the opportunities they create.

Building Capacity and People Skills

The mafia operations are highly dependent on communication, coordination, and adaptability, which is the ability to remain resilient and creative in unpredictable market circumstances like infiltration of their distribution channels or insider exposure. According to Krajewski, DellaPosta, & Felmlee (2022), in mafias and inmost secret or crime organizations, the process of interaction is passed through apprenticeship and learning from others in the market. The learning process involves reducing infiltration possibilities and enhancing trust among parties to have a unified cartel system (Guerci et al., 2021). Mafias, centrally organized crime units, and cartels have a well-structured learning process that majors on personal mastery. According to Krajewski, DellaPosta, & Felmlee (2022), personal mastery has three essential elements; first, the mafias need to create a vision; for example, their product distribution vision or their market penetration objective, and share it with the team that incorporates the scheme and makes it easy to execute the plan. Second, are the conceptualizing elements of creative tension. The above model focuses on making it a reality to reach the organization’s vision. The third aspect involves centralizing team efforts to ensure each human resource is committed to the truth and do not deceive themselves or teams, no matter the extent of the comfort of self-deception.

To attain the above elements in spearheading criminal organizations, the mafia leaders and organizers tend to foster discretion of information, incorporate workplace ethics as per their cartel structure, and ensure loyalty and trust is a commitment that all employees appreciate (Friedman, 2021). Through discretion, the leaders tend to hire from family lines or take assassins from collapsing cartels who have great insight about the business and are ready to protect the entire mafia. They preserve information and personal data to avoid putting their employees in an uncomfortable position and preserve their business from the possibility of legal risks. The mafias ensure all sensitive information concerning their employees is conserved with high secrecy. Mafias have a sensitive corporate information system that maintains a secrecy code and some commandments as the ethical norms and acceptable behavior. Guerci et al. (2021) note one of the ethical standards for Coast Nostra is always being available for duty irrespective of other appointments outside the mafias mandate, even if the person’s wife is giving birth. Adhering to the ethical rule shows that the organization promotes loyalty among its members. The other basic ethical rule is respecting workplace appointments to curbing and minimizing the effects of agency problems. The ethics in the mafias ensure all employees in one mafia group do not transact or get involved in malicious deals with other cartels, thus protecting the secrecy code.

Recruitment Policies and Procedures in Mafia

For Mafias and other well-organized clandestine organizations, the human resource recruitment procedures are different from the formal structures because of the information management and conservancy risks. According to Catino (2014), mafias aim to provide the best experience in the workplace and maintain the scope in relation to modern workplace relations. The mafias aim at conserving their developmental models that affect their decision-making and equally build a concerned healthy working environment. The leaders in the mafia are required by their subordinates to find ways of maintaining rapport, increasing workforce health, and making mafia members resilient and vigilant. Therefore, to attain the above, the hiring process needs to be centrifugal where mafia recruiters get high-quality potential candidates from the mafias’ ethnicity. Still, they consider specific skills and a great experience. Guerci et al. (2021) note that boundaries in the recruitment system are established through ethnicity, and mafia leaders will have a workforce that works as per the centralized obligations. Hiring based on skills and ethnicity ensures trust is built and cordial forms are undertaken to reduce transaction costs. As Parker et al. (2014) argue, ethnicity and hiring skills within ethnic ties create confounding ideologies and growth proximities that ensure all mafia members rely on the law and protect the rights and obligations within the cooperative economic activity. For example, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra hires within the Sicilian tribe, and the Yakuza hire within the Japanese Yakuza.

The recruitment process is also termed the ‘open book’ in mafias. The organizations must identify potential members with the right professional and ethnic backgrounds to run organizational mandates effectively. In the mafia, an effective recruitment process is an equal measure for efficient control and less third-party intervention to organizational growth (Friedman, 2021). The initial strategy to develop an “opening the book” hiring policy ensures the mafias have an augmenting social consensus and increases the advantage of integration, coordination of activities, and enhancing internal control. The recruitment process in the mafia group involves effective internalization of needed skills and identification of skills that employees will need going forward (Sergi, 2020). For example, if they need more hitmen, the mafias will have to indulge a few skillful men in the existing workforce in paramilitary training. The above aligns with the internal recruitment policies in modern organizations that ascertain that instead of hiring externally, the organizations can hire internally by equipping skills to the existing workforce (Friedman, 2021). However, irrespective of the hiring procedures to incorporate internal skills, there is the need to focus on predicting expected market advancements and ascertain if the current employees will have the needed skills in case of skills provision. The above obsolescence is caused by the rapid advancements in information technology and technological inventions that need to be incorporated in business organizations.

Selection and Placement in the Mafias

Unlike other careers that need educational qualifications, joining the mafia requires an associate degree qualification or a master’s degree; it needs skills and talents. Therefore, the leaders and the hiring team must have strategic envisioning and identification ability to help in monitoring individuals scope, thus noticing their strengths and matching them with the best position. The above strategy ensures skills and talents are well-conserved and harnessed to the set objectives of the mafias (Friedman, 2021). With a practical selection, mafias must ensure that the new and existing recruits possess appropriate criminal skills and talents in terms of toughness, reliability, and secrecy. Therefore, the mafia can extend their operations through selective identification and placement. Still, they have to be conservative of the selected areas that need more staffing and ensure routine screening and gathering of information, costly and severe intuition, and undertaking proofs and vouching.

The highly selective closed recruitment program used in mafia organizations needs to focus on process learning. Focusing on process learning will help identify employees’ unique strengths since with the execution of criminal activities and socialization, leaders can aggregate individuals’ ability to work as per the codified knowledge. Through coaching forums, they can extend their skills and talents (Martens, 2021). Mafia incorporates the selective identification and training program to create a unique and self-reproducing organization that assures the longevity of operations. The mafia have a systemic module of identifying skills and talents that assimilates the modern workplace capacity and needs to curb the possibility of great resignation. According to Friedman (2021), great resignation has been prevalent, leading to the loss of employees based on inadequate skills. To manage the workforce and avoid layoffs, which in the mafia involves death or causing permeant body disability, the mafia create a skillset program that evaluates members’ tactics and aggregates their success rate in executing criminal activities. The model ensures the mafia organizations accelerate hiring programs to have the best employees but within the ethnic linage of the mafia leaders.

Catino (2014) noted that the selection and placement procedures in mafia involve a co-opting module that is centered on either observation of an individual’s capacity or observation of the individual’s bloodline. Before actual placement, the mafia groups like the Sicilian and the Costa Nostra conceptualize observation of a target employee on their behavior in public and private over the years. The observation is on criminal potential and talents and skills and talents that can be useful for the mafia discretion. The mafia also carefully observes the identified employee bloodline if the candidate has the preferred abilities and talents but does not belong to a mafia family. The preferred candidate is then involved in rigorous criminal activities that often involve high-risk possibilities and complexity as a module of evaluating their courage, reliability, and creative ability to deal with unforeseen events and willingness to commit murder (Catino, 2014). By involving the employee in such criminal activities, the purpose of the mafia group is to ascertain the individual’s capacity scope and create a typical criminal CV that will help in placement and future promotions once an opportunity in the mafia exists.

Fostering a Healthy Work Environment in Mafia Organizations through Adaptability Skills

The current employee management schemes involve creating an enabling psychological and physical healthy workplace environment, competitive salaries, and a positive working experience. The mafia societies have incorporated the above scheme to ensure irrespective of the high-risk measures; they create safety measures by availing firearms and other protective measures and availing recreational activities to ensure transitional stress level management and foster interpersonal emotional maturity (Catino, 2014; Martens, 2021). For ongoing productivity and operations, the mafia focus on retaining their best skills and ensuring operations scheduling to avoid conflicting workplace environments and prevailing market issues or security measures. The model is to avoid burnout and improve trust between the mafia members. The possibility of challenges and fallouts in mafia organizations is unavoidable, and to protect their employees, the mafia create a counterproductive scheme that curbs individuals from possible fallouts and loss.

According to Catino (2014), to protect their employees and continue operations, the mafia focuses on preventing errors in the sense of alignment of intentions and consequences, thus creating conservative measures to protect their cartel. For example, to protect their trade routes and enforce continuous operations, the mafia collaborates with law enforcement agencies and successfully runs their operations. Therefore, identifying an error in operations that affect human resources is an essential element of learning operations and continuing with sanity in operations. To enhance the adaptability of employees and protect the daily operations of the mafias, the leadership focus on incremental and transformational changes. The gradual or single-loop learning involves altering routine programs to distort law enforcement operations following the detection of an error. The corrective scheme ensures the existing norms are changed, and the cartel generates protective employee protection modules (Friedman, 2021). The second model is the transformational module, also called the double-loop learning, that implies a counter-reactive radical change in the mafia organization by modifying existing employee programs, behavioral norms, and assumptions in control of human resources. According to Krajewski, DellaPosta, & Felmlee (2022), by incorporating the transformational model, the organization tends to reconsider activities that require immediate modification to conserve its talents and enhance operations without interference. Cartels use the above measures to improve alignments specifically between organizations and the external environment in regions where there were operational hitches.


The human resource management practices incorporated in mafia organizations have significant and far reach differences from other basic organizations. Central organizations have a well-structured employee management scheme that follows International Labor Organizational policies. But the mafia and criminal cartels have their centralized systems based on loyalty, skills, talents, and ability to execute criminal operations within the set guidelines by their rulers or mafia heads. Mafias have two executive order and leadership mechanisms that they conceptualize in managing their operations and people. The initial one is the vertical organizational order, where the mafia organization uses central power and higher levels of coordinated strictures to settle on systematic and progressive decisions. The latter is the horizontal administrative order characterized by a unified cartel of leadership without a higher-ranking group. The coordination levels use clan-based decision-making and distribution cartels to run people and lead operations.


Catino, M. (2014). How Do Mafias Organize?: Conflict and Violence in Three Mafia Organizations. European Journal of Sociology/Archives Européennes de Sociologie, 55(2), 177-220.

Friedman, E. (2021). Top 10 Issues Facing HR Leaders Heading Into 2022. Eric Friedman is the Founder and CEO of eSkill, a global leader in skills testing and behavioral assessment solutions for employers. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2021/12/07/top-10-issues-facing-hr-leaders-heading-into-2022/?sh=504e2180474e

Guerci, M., Sferrazzo, R., Cabras, F., & Radaelli, G. (2021). Organized Crime and Employment Relations: A Personal Story of ‘Ndrangheta Control on Employment Relations Management Practices in Southern Italy. Work, Employment and Society, 09500170211021543.

Krajewski, A. T., DellaPosta, D., & Felmlee, D. (2022). Vertical organizations, flat networks: Centrality and criminal collaboration in the Italian-American Mafia. Social Networks, 68, 127-138.

Martens, FT. (2021). Mafia Organizations: The Visible Hand of Criminal Enterprise. Journal of Illicit Economies and Development, 2(1), pp. 40–43. https://jied.lse.ac.uk/articles/78/

Parker, M., Cheney, G., Fournier, V., & Land, C. (Eds.). (2014). The Routledge companion to alternative organization. Routledge.

Scarpinato, R. (2015). Focus on the mafia’S thinking mindset. World Futures, 71(5-8), 125-136. Link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02604027.2015.1113765

Sergi, A. (2020). Mafia organizations: the visible hand of criminal enterprise by Maurizio Catino. Trends in Organized Crime, 23(2), 183-185.


Paul Lalovich
Paul Lalovich
Organizational Effectiveness and Strategy Execution Practice
Tesha Teshanovich
Tesha Teshanovich
Organizational Effectiveness and Strategy Execution Practice