Theft in the Workplace

None of us wants to think that anyone that works with or for us is capable of stealing. However, on average, 34% of loss is by employees (according to several independent studies). Another study states that 75% of people said they have, at one time, stolen from their employers. That’s a staggering, and disheartening, number. Granted, some of those may be minor offenses like taking toilet paper from the office. But the reality is, people do steal from their employers for one reason or another. So, being proactive is vital to your profit margin. We don’t want to be suspicious and untrusting of everyone, of course. However, we also don’t want to wear blindfolds or be naive. There is a happy medium to strike. Below are some things to keep in mind for deterring, detecting, and dealing with theft in the workplace.

Deterring theft:

*The first way to deter theft, is to know who you’re hiring. Background checks are extremely helpful, but if they’ve never been caught doing anything, are useless. Have someone involved in the hiring process that is a good judge of character. This doesn’t guarantee your new hire won’t end up being less than honest, but it certainly helps. Making the people you employ feel valued will also help deter theft. Employees that feel like they matter, and are a part of things, are less likely to steal from their employers. Well compensated staff are also not eager to take chances, as they have more to lose and show more loyalty.

*Supervise employees closely and pay attention to inventory, cash, and anything else someone may want to walk away with.  If you have someone that handles your finances (checks, deposits, etc.), always be aware of what’s going out and in.

*Have security measures installed on your computers. Open access to confidential or sensitive information should be limited to only those that absolutely have to have it.

*Fellow employees may be leery to “rat” on a co-worker. Have a system in place where they can report it confidentially or even anonymously.

*Placing security cameras in your office will also deter theft. If someone knows there’s constant surveillance, they know their chances of getting caught is greater.

Detecting theft:  

*This will vary on what type of business you have. If you own a retail business, you may see inventory missing and not counted for. Other signs are a lot of “no sales” on the register, drawers consistently coming up short (or over) at the end of a shift, and frequent voids. Another tip-off is if customers come into your business that will only shop when a certain employee is there. This could mean that unauthorized discounts or free products are being given to favorite customers.

*In other businesses, not retail, you may find that people are suddenly working late or coming in before everyone else. Especially if the employee has a history of being unambitious or was unhappy with their job. You also may find that they are requesting to work alone more often.

*All of a sudden, you may find that an employee is making big purchases that don’t match his/her income. Perhaps a new car, house or lavish jewelry.

*The person that handles cash flow seems to always be having an issue with the books. There could be another problem, and it’s not their bookkeeping abilities.

*If security cameras are starting to be manipulated by way of movement or damage, this could be another indicator. They want to keep themselves out of view if they’re stealing. Pay attention to who’s working when this happens.

Dealing with someone stealing:

*If you suspect theft, be absolutely sure and provide evidence before making accusations or firing them. Jumping the gun without backup could land you in legal trouble. Security camera video is best, but if you have witnesses to the theft, that is also helpful. Other forms of proof might be sitting in emails, files, and documents.

*With that said, be sure you’re documenting EVERYTHING. Acquiring legal help is also advisable. Knowing and following legalities beforehand will save you an even bigger headache, especially if dealing with union workers. Furthermore, check the state laws concerning deducting money from the final paycheck of your suspected staff member.

*Keep the information to yourself. Telling the whole office about said thief could result in a defamation of character lawsuit.

*Lastly, if you have employee theft insurance, you will need to file a police report if filing a claim.

None of this is pleasant and we don’t ever want to think someone we trust would betray us. But preparedness and having systems in place will make it less daunting.

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