Dealing With Employee Theft, Part 1

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You notice an increase in lost packing slips and inventory control documents. You have a few customers complain about merchandise that was paid for but never delivered. One of your sales employees has a surly attitude that has recently developed. Are your employees stealing from you?
The American Management Associates estimates that about 95% of all businesses will have employee theft this year. It can be hard for an employer to realize that perhaps one of his most trusted employees is a thief. Some employers believe that theft is caused by non -employees. Or that a senior or well paid employee won’t steal. That their honest employees will report theft to their employer. Some employers think that employee theft is easy to spot and is obvious. These thoughts just make the loss of merchandise easier.
What makes employees steal? There may be a recent financial problem or a gambling or drinking problem. Some employees use rationalization as an excuse. Such reasoning’s would follow this train of thought:
*They think that everyone does it
*The company has insurance and can write off the losses
*The company has been making a big profit and the employee deserves a bigger share
*Undercharging friends and family isn’t REALLY stealing
*Overcharging customers and pocketing the difference
What are some ways to prevent employee theft? First, and most important, is taking time to find the right employee as this will help to prevent most problems. When you are pressured for time and try to fill a position too fast, that’s when problems could start. Yes, take the time and do those background checks. Do have a written policy that explains your stand on theft and the consequences. Have the potential employee read and sign it. Have a close but professional relationship with your existing staff. Employees that have a good working relationship with their employers feel that they’re worth something and have less tendency to steal from them. Have clear guide lines for employee behavior concerning poor performance, disputes, tardiness/absences etc. Make sure your staff knows how each procedure will be handled. Consistency will help maintain your employees respect and help you to manage any potential problems if everyone is on the same page.
Let your employees know that you’ll be doing routine audits on anything that deals with cash, confidential documents and information. Limit access to bank accounts and cash to a few trusted people. Or have several people do different parts to make a check and balance system. You have to be constant in your policies, if you catch one employee stealing and fire them, you have to do the same for everyone else regardless who they are. Rotating employees to different jobs is also a good idea. Then no one gets too comfortable at any one job. Keep in mind also, the happier the employee, the less likely they are to steal from you. However, the best prevention is to know your business thoroughly. If you know how to order inventory, count inventory, run a register and make deposits, you’ll be able to detect quickly when and if there’s a problem.
In Part 2, we’ll be discussing how to handle an employee theft and the procedures to follow.
By Linda Lee Ruzicka
Linda Lee Ruzicka lives in the mountains of Western PA , happily married and with her 8 cats and three dogs. She has been published in Twilight Times, Dark Krypt, Fables, Writing Village, June Cotner anthology, The Grit, Reminisce , the book, Haunted Encounters: Friends and Family. She also does freelances work for Beyond and for Salesheads. More of her blogs can be found at Salesheads blog.

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