How to Handle Employee Theft

Theft impacts businesses across every industry, and we’re not just talking about shoplifting.

U.S. businesses are losing $50 billion a year through various types of employee theft. Merchandise theft is one of the least common types of crime that impact a business’s bottom line because it’s easier to prevent than other types of theft. Employees impact the businesses they work at through funds theft and several types of fraud.

Because theft is such a prevalent problem in the corporate world, as a business owner you need to prepare for it. Even if you trust your employees not to steal from you or their coworkers, it’s better for you to be safe than sorry.

Creating a plan to prevent employee theft doesn’t have to mean that you don’t trust your employees. It’s just another way of protecting your assets, investments, and company secrets should the unthinkable happen.

The Potential Damages of Theft in the Workplace

Depending on the size of the crime, theft has the potential to completely ruin your company. If you are a small or mid-sized business, losing too much revenue through vendor fraud can put your company too far into the red.

Along with the damages done to the business and financial aspects of your company, workplace theft creates a huge breach of trust. When other employees who aren’t involved learn about theft and damage done to the company from within, the culture changes. If you had one of respect, people then become wary.

If you don’t know how to handle theft in the workplace, your investigation can have some serious consequences on company culture. Theft investigations impact innocent employees. Their integrity is brought into question, and that can be damaging to their self-image. They might become paranoid about being watched and can feel like the trust and respect they’ve worked hard to earn has been thrown out the window.

How to Create an Employee Theft Policy

Outlining exactly how you’ll handle employee theft before it happens will give you clear, actionable steps in case you discover employee theft at your company.

In your policy, you’ll want to let people know what is and is not acceptable. You’ll also want to clearly outline what will happen when offenses happen and how you’ll handle any necessary investigations.

Whatever policy you create, make something that’s fair and respectful towards your employees. Punishing someone for taking office pens home might be a little extreme, especially since most people don’t intentionally take small things home. But don’t be too lax in your policy either.

Identifying the Root Problem

Preventing theft in the workplace happens best when you know what causes the problem. There are a wide variety of potential problems, including lack of technology, little knowledge about acceptable behavior, or a culture that doesn’t respect their employees. Lack of safeguards in place can also make it easy for employees to feel like they can get away with stealing funds or items and won’t get caught.

While there are some employees who don’t care about your company, others aren’t malicious when they walk away with items. Poor resource tracking can make it easy for devices to disappear by accident. Employees might put something in their pocket and forget about it until they get home. They might also forget about devices taken to conferences and leave them at the event. There are dozens of ways tools and devices can go missing. This is even more harmful when it comes to leased or rented equipment.

You won’t always be able to predict who might take something, whether on purpose or by accident. The reasoning for theft is complex and varies per person. They might be experiencing financial difficulty and don’t see another way to make ends meet.

Fighting Theft Through Culture

Creating and maintaining a respectful workplace is one of the best ways to prevent theft in the workplace.

When you create strong relationships with your employees, it’s harder for them to feel like they can take from you. When your workers can tell that you care about and respect them, they’re more likely to work hard to protect your investments and only take home what is theirs.

Setting up a system of checks and balances in your workplace to ensure no one individual has too much power is also a great way to prevent theft. A more balanced workplace also tends to feel fairer and more respectful to the rest of your employees.

Fighting Employee Theft Through Technology

Technology is one of your greatest tools when it comes to keeping track of office assets. Using inventory management tools will help you track item usages and replenish things that get depleted every day. If your employees know that resources and tools are being tracked, that might be enough to prevent them from stealing. It can also help encourage them to be more careful and check to make sure they don’t accidentally take anything home.


Bree Brouwer

Bree has held plenty of media- and marketing-related jobs over the years now, like working as a PR and marketing assistant to a Hollywood screenwriting coach, and writing content for three different digital marketing agencies.

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