Theft in the Workplace

An office manager noticed that the magazine the business subscribed to was no longer in the reception area. After some questioning about the situation, the receptionist admitted that she renewed the subscription but had the magazines delivered to her home address. She said this was only fair since she did not receive a raise and that she deserved "something."

Like the receptionist, employees who steal rationalize their behavior. A feeling of entitlement is a common motivation. Here are some others:

a desire to get back at the employer for a perceived slight,
a belief that no one will notice, or
a belief that the company can afford the loss

You can deter theft in the workplace by taking the following actions:

Promote and reinforce honesty and integrity

Ask questions designed to assess honesty and integrity during the hiring interview. Distribute the company's code of conduct to all new hires and review it regularly with all employees.

Encourage open communications

Employees need to know they can come to you to voice their problems and concerns about the workplace. Stealing is sometimes the end result of bottled up frustration.

Educate employees about what constitutes theft

Theft is most often thought of in terms of physically taking cash, merchandise, or office supplies. However, theft also includes padding expense statements, using company credit cards for personal expenses, or stealing time (e.g., long lunches, leaving early without approval, etc.).

Make a big deal about theft

If you overlook the small things employees may believe you don't care, which can lead to more frequent incidents or the theft of larger items.

Be alert for the potential of theft

The more employees believe they will be caught, the less likely they are to steal. Audit inventory, review expense reports, and implement other formal checks. Secure cash and confidential company information.

With the current economic situation, some employees may be facing financial difficulties and unfortunately some may resort to stealing from their employer. The steps described above may help these individual resist the temptation to steal.

SESCO Management Consultants is available to assist with your human resource issues. You may contact us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at sesco@sescomgt.com .