The prospect of a thieving employee is something most employers don’t really want to think about, let alone have to deal with. And yet, it’s a major problem: a CBS report found that a typical organization loses five per cent of its annual revenue to employee fraud. If you believe an employee is stealing from you, here’s how to deal with it.
Search for evidence
The first step is donning your detective cap and beginning to build your case. It’s important to be thorough and document everything you collect and when you collect it. “You need to think as though you’re going to present this evidence in a court of law,” said David Maxfield, vice president of research with VitalSmarts and the author of four New York Times bestsellers including Crucial Accountability.
Assess the impact
It’s important to not only tally the value of the obvious theft, but also to consider just how deep this employee’s duplicity might go. Not all theft is as obvious as cash missing from a register or inappropriate expenses. Consider whether any of the employee’s other behaviour has been suspicious, and whether that employee has access to important information or equipment. “Maybe the theft you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg,” Maxfield said.
Involve the police
If you’re confident in your case and the level of theft warrants it, it’s wise to file a police report. Most police departments have fraud units that specialize in issues like this one, and officers might provide valuable advice about how to proceed.
Talk to the employee
Are you ready for a tough conversation? Depending on the severity of the theft, it might be a good idea to have a police officer present for this confrontation. Beyond that, be careful to present only what you know with total certainty. “Stick to the facts,” Maxfield said. “Don’t go calling the person a crook.”
There are all sorts of reasons someone might feel somehow justified in stealing from an employer, and if an employee has fallen on hard times, this conversation might stir some compassion. Still, more serious workplace theft is usually considered unforgiveable. “If you do believe at the end of this conversation that this person has stolen, the person either needs to resign or be fired,” Maxfield said. “I don’t think you have leeway on that. The person has to lose their job.”
Communicate with the rest of your team
When an employee’s fired for theft, there will be no shortage of questions going around the workplace – not to mention gossip. You’ll need to tell your team what happened, but handle that conversation delicately. “You don’t need to share everything,” Maxfield said. “My concern would be you share too much and the person comes back and says you defamed them. So I would share not a heck of a lot and have it be as factual as possible.”