We all know the saying: “prevention is better than cure”. Remarkably in the commercial sector we do not consider the financial and reputational risk that dishonest employees can have on a business and organisation. Businesses often consider that such dishonesty will not happen to them.
The SME sector is clearly the most vulnerable. Whilst theft and fraud within the SME sector may not have the substantial financial value of the high profile cases generally conducted within the PLC sector the impact for both can be substantial.
So whatever the size of an organisation why are we reluctant to have the subject of dishonest employees on the agenda for boardroom or senior management meetings. In recent years we have seen how cyber issues, business continuity, modern day slavery and health and safety are very much at the forefront in the minds of organisations, yet on a daily basis if you search the media you will find proof of a dishonest employee being prosecuted in criminal court.
Douglas Adams, author of ‘The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’, said” Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”
And on a weekly basis I see this across the whole of the business and industrial sectors across the country.
An employees dishonesty is not only confined to elements of theft and fraud. Criminal activities can take place in the workplace including cultivating and making illegal drugs, bullying ,aggression and violence and on the HR side, false absenteeism with an employee being falsely absent from work, receiving full pay and working elsewhere for cash in hand or using the day for their own personal means. Do companies consider the risk of the theft of their IP, especially data and databases which is taken when an employee leaves an organisation or is bypassed from the organisation to an external third party?
As Donald Cressey ( Donald R. Cressey, Other People’s Money (Montclair: Patterson Smith, 1973) fraud triangle shows us, when a fraudster commits an offence it is because they have the opportunity, they rationalise their actions and the motivation is generally for financial gain. My perspective is to take the fraud triangle and use this as the model for all elements and all types of employee dishonesty: for theft, fraud, breach-of-contract and theft of IP, false absenteeism etc because the dishonest employee will always commit the offence as they have the opportunity. The dishonest employee will always rationalise in their own mind the reason why they have pursued a particular course of action and in over 18 years investigating within the commercial sector the motivation is always for financial gain. I have yet to see anybody committing dishonesty in the workplace for a charitable or philanthropic reason. It is always for their own personal gain.
One reason for organisations to potentially not consider that they would be a victim to dishonest employees is because our fundamental perception is that our employees or good, honest people and are not criminals or that they are not dishonest. Indeed where you do have an employee who is dishonest if you were to ask them to describe who or what is a criminal, without hesitation they will say somebody that steals from your car, breaks into your house, sells drugs or tries to use identity fraud to take money from a bank account. They will not consider what they are doing is being criminal or dishonest and will not liken themselves to the criminal they describe.
Understandably companies do not wish to have their issues within the public domain and many will deal with aspects of theft and fraud internally seeking sufficient evidence to just dismiss an individual from an organisation. I am not saying that every employee that commit theft or fraud should be dealt with by the criminal system but what I am saying is that organisations need to consider the impact of dishonest employees on their business and not to bury their head in the sand and think that this could not happen to them and find themselves in the position of so many companies and depend on the needs to detect the offence.
Putting simple measures in place to disrupt and prevent employee dishonesty will put a company or organisation in a robust position and this should be driven from a senior position and on the regular Board room agenda.