First there was the Connecticut distribution warehouse shooting in August, and this week the stabbing of a Florida Deputy Sheriff, called to investigate a convenience store theft. Is this the start of a violent trend? Are employee theft investigations provoking workplace violence?
As a professional who has conducted various investigations into employee theft in my past, I understand that each investigation is in itself as unique as the person you are investigating for theft. However, in the last four months, employee theft investigations have resulted in ten deaths (including the two suspects), more than I can ever think of happening in my 26 years in loss prevention.
For those unfamiliar with either incident, in August of this year, a warehouse driver for a beer distributor in Hartford, CT shot and killed eight people including himself; a rampage that began after he was shown a video of him stealing beer. To read more, read an article on this incident at Foxnews.com.
The most recent incident involved the stabbing of a Florida deputy sheriff, who was called to a convenience store to investigate an employee theft incident. The suspected employee stabbed the deputy an hour after being called to the scene. Although this incident is still being investigated, is it possible that with an hour of elapsed time, the deputy was injured while conducting an interview with the employee? To learn more about this recent incident, visit The Orlando Sentinel.com.
These incidents remind us that when dealing with an employee suspected of theft you are dealing with an individual. And when dealing with individuals, one must be aware of certain indications on how they may react in these situations.
First, it is important to understand that interviewing an employee about suspected theft can create a significant emotional crisis for the employee. Plan on approaching the employee in a non-confrontational format and do not allow the interview to escalate into an argument or shouting match.
Getting to the truth of a situation is the goal and a hostile environment is an absolute deterrent to achieving that objective. If an interview begins to become emotionally charged it is the interviewers’ job to deescalate the situation.
An interviewer must be able to anticipate and respond to a rapidly changing situation. Ending an interview that is going beyond the conversational tone may be the only way to maintain control of the interview environment.
When it comes to dealing with employee theft, there are specific certifications and training courses across the retail industry to help those responsible to conduct this type of investigation. There are also companies who specialize in incident resolution services, who can provide the resources, expertise and knowledge to help your company deal with these incidents.
Let’s hope that these two incidents are isolated situations and not a trend in the making. In the meantime, knowing how best to handle these incidents and the people involved will only help to ensure the resolution has a non-violent outcome.
Written by David Johnston