Do your employees steal from you?

  • 2001-03-08
  • Paul E. Adams
It is tough enough to succeed in business, but with employees dipping into your cash register it is even tougher. Employees who steal from you, are liabilities. They are your hidden partners Ð expensive partners who take your profits and cash. And if the stealing goes on long enough you may go broke.

Most employees who steal find a reason to justify it. They may feel underpaid, unrecognized, unappreciated, or exploited. But whatever the reason, they convince themselves they are entitled to a share of the spoils. Some are amoral. They lack ethics or a sense of morality and steal without guilt or concern. They need no justification to become your partner, they just do so.

Your employees may become jealous of your success and lifestyle. They may feel they have contributed to the success of the firm and be tempted to steal their "share" of the profits. Be considerate of employees less fortunate than you Ð do not invite trouble by showing off your wealth. If you are denying wage increases, don't show up in a new Mercedes.

If you pocket a little cash from the register, or don't record a cash sale, your employees may feel free to do the same. Examples of disregarding procedures and tax laws just because you are the owner, sends a powerful message to the employees.

Be sure you are not sending checks to non-existent suppliers. A common scam is a conspiracy to issue checks against phony bills submitted to your company. This is a favorite tactic of dishonest bookkeepers that may create fictitious companies to send you fraudulent bills. Be alert for any unusual customer credits as more than one bookkeeper has made deals with dishonest customers.

I advise you to learn enough about accounting to create a system of checks and balances. Learn how to verify your paperwork. You don't have to spend a lot of time doing so, but you can spot check invoices and bills, which alerts employees you are aware. Dishonest employees will quickly sense your ability to spot irregular activity Ð they will move on.

Here are eight suggested steps you can take to prevent "silent" partnerships:

1. Insist on honesty and check references on all employees you hire.

2. Keep accurate business records, especially inventory and cash.

3. Verify any strange transactions.

4. Set the right example Ð don't treat your business as your playground.

5. Watch for any change in the behavior of your employees.

6. Be alert to alcohol and drug problems.

7. Be alert to employee credit problems.

8. Watch out for cozy relationships between employees and suppliers.

The best way to prevent employees from becoming your "partner" is to be honest in all your dealings. If you attempt to fudge your books, gouge a customer a little, or cheat a vendor, you are sending a strong message to your employees or associates that you accept such behavior. It is an invitation to steal from you. If your employees know that you demand honesty, they will respect you for it. By doing so, you will find dishonest workers won't hang around. An honest environment will make them uncomfortable and keep you in business.