One of the most unappealing things about managing a workplace is having to deal with ugly situations. Employee theft, or, internal theft is perhaps the single worst scenario to encounter because often times, you won’t know the extent of it, at least, right away. This behavior can take shape in a number of ways, including fudging clock-in and clock-out times, taking supplies without permission, or, even stealing money. While the latter might get your heightened attention, it’s the more subtle that can go on for much longer periods and cost more in losses.
Ways to Deal with Employee Theft
Make no mistake about it, internal theft is a huge problem in the United States. However, it is difficult to gauge because so much of it goes unreported due to embarrassed or recalcitrant employers. The average estimate ranges widely from $20 to $50 billion per year, with Fortune reporting in the retail sector alone, a whopping $32 billion was lost in 2014, with an amazing 34.5 percent of that being attributed to employee theft. Only shoplifting outpaced it, accounting for 38 percent.
Whether it’s downloading and sharing company confidential information (a hot topic these days), manipulating expense reports, or stealing merchandise- employee theft and fraud is a serious issue for business owners. In fact, studies show that occupational fraud now results in the loss of five percent of an organization’s annual revenue. —U.S. Small Business Administration
While it’s an unpleasant experience to-be-sure, it nonetheless exists, and, in practically every workplace. The level, though, might be very minute, like the employee who occasionally takes a few postage stamps for personal use. When it comes to bigger issues, it’s not unusual for the owner and/or manager to be taken by surprise. After all, you do what you can to screen and interview every new hire, but sometimes, it’s not enough. The primary reason for this is a simple necessity, especially for small business owners who need to delegate responsibilities. They just don’t have the time to do it all on their own, so, they leave certain things to employees. This creates an atmosphere of opportunity where trust can be easily breached. When that happens, here are some ways to deal with employee theft:
- Evaluate the situation. When you discover the problem, it’s best not to jump to conclusions about the scope. It could just be a case of miscommunication or simply a lack of judgment. If you believe it to be serious and particularly one that’s ongoing, you should commit to take action. If it’s minor, you might consider issuing a written warning, placing him or her on probation, or, repayment.
- Document everything you can. If you discover supplies, inventory, materials, or money is missing, do everything you can to document what it is, when it happened, and it’s worth. You should gather as much evidence as you can to bring the situation to resolve.
- Phone your attorney or HR Consultant immediately. Dealing with internal theft is a serious matter and you don’t want to overstep your legal bounds. While you certainly have rights, you cannot afford to act in a rash manner. Call your lawyer and ask about what options are available to you.
- Call the local police or sheriff’s department. If your legal counsel instructs you to contact the local authorities on their non-emergency line, you should do so right away. While this won’t likely resolve the issue immediately, it will be a step in the right direction.
- Get in touch with your insurer. Another one of the first phone calls you should make is to your insurer to learn exactly what coverage you have in-place. You might have to file a claim to recover most or a portion of your loss.
Once the initial work is done, consider how you’ll deal with preventing the same problem from occurring in the future. You should also discuss the matter with key team members and think seriously about how to present the issue and your reaction to others in your business. As a Leader, it is important that you don’t allow this to become office gossip, get out in front of it, and demonstrate your commitment to your company and how you reward good work and the consequences for theft.