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April 3, 2014
To Catch an Office Thief
 
Here comes what you, as an employer, have dreaded. You think one or more of your employees is stealing.

No matter what it may be, it’s cause for action. It could be that they’re taking the office supplies home or are somehow stealing money (through fraudulent expenses, etc.) or even sensitive data.

Whatever the case, you’ve got to do something as uncomfortable as it may be.

What’s interesting is that employees often stealmore than customers…

Gather Adequate, Substantial Evidence
Thinking your employee is stealing is not good enough.

You must have hard evidence. If you accuse someone of theft, they may come back and sue you. Whether you catch it on camera, through email trails, or can verify that expense reports are false, one way or another you have to have proof.
 
Confront the Employee
Confronting your worker is up to you, and may depend on the severity of the theft.

If you don’t feel termination is necessary, you need to sit down with the employee and discuss this. If you want to provide another chance, that’s up to you, but you need to make it clear that this is unacceptable if it occurs again and let him or her know the consequences of possible termination.

If your company has set rules on how to handle this, make sure you follow them to keep things clean and avoid any risk or complication.
 
Termination
If it has gotten to a bad point in time, let the employee go.

Perhaps it’s not the first incident of taking home reams of copy paper or embellishing expense reports, and you’ve already given a warning. Or maybe you have seen how they cheat customers or take money some other way. Maybe it is important data that is falling into their hands underhandedly, and you need to cut ties.

It is your prerogative to let them go and whether your reason is the proof you have or you’re in an at-will state, let them go. You need to trust your employees and once you don’t, it’s not going to get better.

Make sure to involve human resources, as you don’t want to do this alone, and you want to make sure all procedures are followed correctly.
 
Call the Authorities?
Again, this is up to you, but is an option if theft has occurred.

Maybe firing is enough, but if the theft was severe, you may want to call the police. Again, make sure you have the evidence, and it’s not just something you have a hunch about.

If finances are involved, turn to company records, invoice software, and other means to document what the funds currently say and what they should say.
 
Remember Confidentiality
Tempting as it may be to talk about the matter, keep this quiet.

Other employees don’t need to know what went down or why their coworker is no longer with them. You don’t want to be liable for a defamation lawsuit and you never know how things may turn out.

You want to take care of the issue and be done with it.

Whether it’s a warning or a termination, take care of it professionally and put closure on it.

No need to let the whole office know or make it bigger than it is. Keep your professionalism at hand throughout it all, no matter how bad it gets.

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Heather Legg is an Atlanta-based independent writer who covers career and business topics, including social media, small business, personal finance, and brick and mortar business degrees and getting an online degree in business


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