Employee theft can take different forms. Malicious employees can steal from your company’s customers, commit data theft, fill out their time sheets incorrectly on purpose, take money from the cash register, or serve themselves in the office storage room and bring some supplies home.
If you suspect that an employee has been stealing from you, it could be tempting to suspend or fire them. But would it be the best way to handle the situation? You need to know how to handle theft at work properly if you want to solve the problem and to minimize the damage done.
Here are seven ways on how to handle theft at work:
1. Document the incident and gather evidence
Documenting the incident and gathering evidence are important steps for how to handle theft at work. Even if you are convinced that one of your employees has committed employee theft, you shouldn’t confront them without any evidence of their crime. And if you are not certain, you need to be certain before accusing anyone of theft.
You should first investigate the theft, document what happened, and gather evidence. Write down every incident, as well as the date and time it occurred. Talk to witnesses to get their testimony, watch security footage, and check reports and statements.
Assemble all your evidence so you can fully understand what happened, and prove it. Work with corporate investigation services, who specialize in these types of theft investigations professionally.
2. Consider your company’s theft policy
You should have a policy in place to help you determine what should happen to an employee who is found guilty of workplace theft. Your company policy should clearly explain what is considered theft, and what will happen if an employee commits theft.
Will you take legal action against them? Will they be terminated immediately? Will they simply be asked to give back what they have stolen? Are there consequences for an employee who witnesses a workplace theft, but doesn’t report it?
If you don’t already have a theft policy, you need to write one, to keep it up-to-date, and to make sure all your employees are aware of it.
3. Have a meeting with your employee
After you have investigated the situation and gathered evidence, you should hold a meeting with your employee. Present all your evidence to them, and see what they have to say about it.
If the employee admits their crime, you will then have to decide what you will do next, according to the procedures described in your policy. If the employee denies, but you are certain they are lying, you might need to rely on professionals for a new, more thorough investigation.
As you confront your employee, you should accuse them of violating company policy instead of accusing them of theft, which could immediately escalate the situation.
4. Decide on your next steps
Depending on the severity of the theft, and on what is described in your company policy, you can either call the police, terminate the employee, or both. You could also simply make the employee pay back what they have stolen.
If the theft was important enough to take legal action, the police will prepare a report that will be useful to you. If your insurance covers employee theft, this report will be needed.
Terminating the employee could also be necessary. If they have completely lost your trust, and you judge that they have endangered your business, you can terminate them without notice.
Just make sure you do everything right by following your company policy regarding termination.
5. Supervise your employee
While you investigate the situation, make sure you keep an eye on the employee you are suspecting of theft.
And if you terminate your employee, be sure to supervise them as they gather their things and leave. You wouldn’t want them to leave with keys, sensitive and confidential information, or anything they could eventually use to retaliate against you and try to harm your business or your reputation.
If your office is protected by a keypad, consider changing the code after the guilty employee leaves.
6. Don’t discuss the situation with anyone else
It would be best to not discuss the situation with anyone who isn’t directly involved with what happened. You don’t want your other employees to start gossiping, or to start rumors that could harm the reputation of your business.
Plus, if ever you share confidential information with outsiders while you are investigating the theft, it could get you in trouble.
7. Work on preventing another incident
After you have handled the issue, you should do anything in your power to prevent another workplace theft incident. Update your company policy, and make sure your employees are aware of the possible consequences of a dishonest act.
Consider the installation of a security system if you don’t already have one, and provide your employees with adequate storage lockers to prevent theft of employee’s personal items.
Above all, make sure any new employee is carefully screened and undergoes a criminal background check before getting hired.