Stealing is taking something that doesn’t belong to you without permission. While stealing can be dishonest criminal theft, it can also be the result of poor impulse control or addictive compulsive disorders. In the workplace, stealing may be caused by jealousy, low self-esteem, or peer-pressure. Employees may also steal to act out against their bosses or colleagues. Regardless of what reason an employee may have, the damage, loss and distress caused by stealing in the workplace can be serious.
So what can a company do to reduce, stop or prevent employee theft?
Review your security set up
Security starts on the day you decide to hire an employee. Don’t get carried away by how good your candidates perform in the interview, run thorough background checks and get into an in-depth conversation with the references on their resumes.
Secondly, review how much access you grant employees around the office for example if you operate a store e.g. for equipment, apparel, product stock e.t.c. If you experience or suspect financial theft & fraud, review how many people are allowed to access records like receipts and checks.
Assuming you run a large operation like a factory or manufacturing plant, outsource security and frequently change shifts or work stations for security guards. This will ensure there’s less chance of collusion between security personnel and company employees to remove goods from the premises if the guards have no advance knowledge of the change.
You may also want to consider investing in tech based security like surveillance cameras, digital key codes for sensitive locations like records and inventory stores. It may seem like an expensive move but it can save you losses way beyond your imagination.
Pay extra attention to changes
Human resource managers, departmental supervisors as well as team mates need to be alert to behavioral and situational changes as they occur with the people they work with for example a sudden, apparent devotion to work and working late especially by someone whose work doesn’t necessarily require them to stay late, employees whose lifestyles are well above salary levels with no evidence of additional income sources, people with strong objections to procedural changes related to financial, inventory or supply matters, employees with evident drug and alcohol abuse, compulsive gambling and persistent borrowing.
Provide a way for employees to report theft or fraud by co-workers.
This needs to be done carefully to avoid making your workers think you don’t trust them let alone creating resentment among your employees as whistle-blowing may not be received kindly. It is recommended that you verify suspicions by investigation, and determine the extent of fraud and methods used. Remember that you have to prove beyond a doubt that an employee stole from you, then hold a disciplinary hearing and if you are sure, terminate their employment; consider involving legal counsel who can assist with finding additional experts such as forensic accountants or investigators if the theft case is highly sensitive.
Nurture a good employer-employee relationship.
It is a good business practice to nurture a healthy interpersonal relationship with the people working for your company. Some employees who committed theft say claim they felt their employer did not seem to care about their well-being. Genuine care and professional conduct is security in itself because the would-be thieves will have “mercy” on you because there is a sense of family in the workplace. Employees are less likely to steal from an employer that they respect because he showed interest in them as human beings and as contributing members of the organization.