Situation: A company’s leadership is wrestling with how to handle an accusation of employee theft. In the case presented, the accuser lacks credibility, but the charge is serious. The leadership team wants to deal fairly and equitably with the case, but doesn’t want to send the message that pilferage is acceptable. How do you handle allegations of employee theft?
Advice from the CEOs:
- To assure fairness and equity, determine a way to substantiate, with objective or third party information, whether charges of pilferage are valid.
- Express your seriousness about the situation, and ask the accuser what evidence they can provide to substantiate the allegations.
- In a warehouse or stock room situation, install inexpensive video equipment to record and verify pilferage.
- To assure that messages to employees are clear, revise employee manuals to specify serious repercussions for pilferage as well as measures being taken to prevent it. This will demonstrate awareness of the issue as well as the company’s determination to discourage pilferage.
- If you can verify the allegation, either through objective or third party evidence, face the employees involved. The choices are simple:
- Either the behavior stops and the estimated damages repaid to the company by the employee, or
- The employee is fired.
- Do not think that this is something that will go away on its own. If there has been pilferage and the situation proceeds unchecked, it will damage you both financially and in terms of employee respect and morale. Employees will be watching your response closely.
- To protect yourself, once you determine a course of action be sure to document everything.