Interviewing is a directed conversation with a purpose. In the case of interviews for potential dishonesty the purpose is either to gain information important to resolution, to limit the suspect list by determining who was not involved, or to gain an admission from the responsible parties. Intuitively it can seem that some cases are easier than others or that because we have the “right” to engage with our employees in “business” discussions that there is little harm in having a “who dunnit” conversation. In truth, dishonesty interviews can create potential liabilities for a company. Whether those liabilities are as grand as wrongful termination suits or false imprisonment or as small as general “unhappiness,” a company does well to consider that interviewing is not only a conversation, but more importantly a “directed” conversation.
I won’t belabor the details and statistics on employee theft. Most readers know internal theft accounts for almost half of a business’s losses and that dishonest employees steal seven to ten times more than a shoplifter. Employee theft resolution is the, perhaps better written “THE” key component to healthy loss reduction. With enough time in any business you can become a bit jaded. At least in the sense that very little surprises you. Very little in loss prevention surprises me, but I’m not so jaded that I don’t break out in a cold sweat when a company tells me, “Our DM’s handle investigations.”
Our legal system allows us to seek remedies when we are the victim of theft. We can pursue criminal charges or we can seek civil recovery of the loss, and sometimes both. Often we can pursue financial compensation for the cost of our security efforts. When strangers are involved, resolution is a straightforward and rational enterprise. A substantial amount of business losses, however, is the result of employee theft. Employee theft can create an emotional response that adds to the complexity of the situation. Since employees are trusted “members of the family,” the theft can feel very personal. In that psychologists contend that ninety percent of our decision-making is emotional (not you and I, we are completely rational decision makers of course), it is critical that a company develops clear prosecution and restitution guidelines in advance of a specific theft situation.
A few years ago, a study conducted on audit frequencies found that companies who completed three store audits per year had the lowest shrink. Of course, loss prevention professionals realize that “auditing” doesn’t reduce shrink, but rather it is the actions associated with correction and the importance of proper practices that are being highlighted by audits that reduce loss. Still, audit frequency is an on-going discussion point in every customer facing business. The challenge is not just one of frequency but also whether or not an audit score accurately indicates true performance over time. So how often should we audit and how do we know if our scores are reflective of average performance?
An act of employee dishonesty can often be a dramatic event for an employer. This type of event brings forth emotions of betrayal, violation of trust and disloyalty from an individual once trusted by those within the organization. Too often however, employers may be too quick to remove the suspected dishonest employee and disregard key elements necessary to complete a successful internal investigation. It must always be kept in one’s mind that the end result of an employee investigation may lead to an employment decision; a decision based on certain employee rights and laws, where actions taken wrongly can become costly legal problems.
Topics: Audits and Investigations
Topics: Audits and Investigations