Thieving is a problem that organizations face from time to time. Theft can be costly, disruptive, and demoralizing for employers. Theft in the workplace is a serious problem that can have a negative impact on your business. Surprisingly, studies have shown that only 15%-17% of employees report theft or fraud in the workplace. What can you do about it?
Here are some tips to help you manage theft in the workplace better:
- Take a proactive approach to prevention. Prevention is the best way to deal with theft. Make sure your policies and procedures are clear, enforce them consistently and monitor employees closely. This will prevent thefts in the first place and make finding and punishing thieves easier when they do occur. If you frequently deal with repeat offenders, consider bringing them into your Human Resources department for performance coaching. They need to learn the consequences of their actions. Most people who are stealing due to financial difficulties can overcome their situation with appropriate help.
- Encourage employees to report suspicions about the theft to management. Make it clear that your organization does not tolerate theft or any other form of unethical behaviour and that it is their duty as honest employees to inform management of any wrongdoing they witness or become aware of at work. Many times, employees are reluctant to report theft for fear of retaliation or because they do not want to get their co-workers in trouble. Help them to understand that their actions are protected under your organization’s whistle-blower policy and that you will take appropriate action to investigate and resolve the matter. Be sure to follow up on every report you receive in a timely manner.
- Train employees on how to prevent theft in the workplace. Provide them with tips they can use to recognize warning signs of theft as well as advice on what to do if they suspect that a colleague may be stealing from your business. You can also put up posters in strategic locations around your workplace as a reminder to employees of the importance of theft prevention. Employee theft prevention training can be delivered in a variety of ways, including online courses, webinars, and in-person seminars. You can also include information on theft prevention in your new employee orientation program.
- Hold offenders accountable. Once you have determined who stole the items and why to take action. This step is important, as it can make the difference between a small incident and large losses for the organization. Depending on the severity of the theft, you may need to suspend or fire the offender. In some cases, you may also need to pursue restitution or repair the damage done by the theft. The punishment you impose on the offender should be commensurate with the severity of the theft and take into account any previous incidents of theft or dishonesty. Finally, make sure to document the incident and keep records of any disciplinary action taken.
- Cooperate with law enforcement if necessary. If the theft is particularly egregious or if the perpetrator has been involved in other illegal activity at work, you may need to work with law enforcement to bring the matter to a resolution. A criminal charge will not reflect well on your organization and could damage its reputation. Also keep in mind that in serious cases, you will need to provide the evidence collected by your investigation to law enforcement in order to move forward in the case.
- Impose penalties for theft in the workplace. If an employee is caught stealing from your business, make sure to impose a penalty that fits the severity of the crime, such as a written warning or a dismissal if necessary.