Employee Theft and How it Impacts Businesses

employee theft prevention

Noticing a couple of dollars constantly missing from the cash register? Are the inventory numbers not adding up? Or are a few items missing from the store? Well, you have a case of employee theft on your hands. It’s not pretty as it directly impacts on your profits. Consequently, today we put employee theft on the examination table as we unravel why it happens, what it means for your business and how to get ahead of it. Take a look.


Why Employees are Putting their Hands in the Cookie



  • It’s fun
    Certainly not for you as the employer but employees might actually love doing it for the mere reason that it is fun. Sometimes it’s just down to that the adrenaline rush that comes with the heat of the moment, akin to getting high from drugs.
  • He/she can do it
    Sometimes workers steal because the opportunity is staring them right in the face. Without CCTV or accountability systems in place, employees sometimes steal simply because they can do so without consequences.
  • Underappreciation
    If for one reason or the other employees come to the conclusion that they aren’t being paid their worth or that extra work goes unrewarded, they’ll feel entitled to a larger share of the cut even if it means helping themselves to it.
  • Making ends meet
    Sometimes the going gets tough. While that doesn’t justify the means, your employee could simply be looking to get out of a tight financial spot. Maybe medical issues or suffocating loans are pushing him/her to a corner and he/she sees it as a necessary evil to keep above rising financial tides.


The Various Forms of Employee Theft

There is an increasing wave of employee theft across the board with the most hit encompassing retail establishments. But no one is safe from its expansive grasp with even Fortune 500 companies falling prey at an alarming rate.

Employee theft takes all manner of forms and it could be down to a subtle case of employees helping themselves to sale items or a severe one where workers conspire to cook the books and shuffle out cash. That said, here is a look at other common workplace theft scenarios:

  • Check fraud either by giving out fake ones or forging signatures/ payout amounts/payees on actual checks
  • Using work time for personal activities outside of work (Yes, that’s theft too. In fact, the biggest form there is because, although a cliché, time really is money)
  • “Borrowing” merchandise with a view to making payments later
  • Performing off-record cash transactions
  • Lying about clocking in/out times

Dealing With the Problem

Now that we’ve looked at the what and the why aspects all that’s left to do now is the how the heck do I prevent employee theft part so here goes:

  • Close supervision
    When the cat is away, the mice will play hence be the cat that stays or doesn’t wander too far for too long. Do whatever it takes to keep everyone on their toes even if it means regularly squinting over their shoulders from time to time. Preferably though, have a team of independent supervisors in charge of ensuring employees are productive and that financial records are in order.
  • Use trackable checks
    Pre-numbered checks are your best bet at circumventing check fraud and you should get those with permanently typed in sums and payees. Such kinds of checks are sure to make malicious employees think twice that is if they muster up the unlikely belief that they can somehow not get caught.
  • Provide anonymous report channels
    At the workplace, you have a mix of bad and good workers. Some of the latter will be willing to blow the whistle if they come across red flags but may be afraid to speak up for fear of victimization. Having private report channels aided by legal counsel will encourage such persons to come forward.
  • Conduct regular background checks
    It’s also essential that you get to know your employees, preferably under the radar, to get a feel of potential warning signs such as lifestyles beyond salaries and habits like compulsive gambling and alcohol/drug abuse. That’s not to say that if someone’s making $10,000 a month and is driving a $1,000,000 Ferrari is outright guilty but there is cause for concern and investigation.

At the end of the day, the best way to combat employee theft is by ensuring workplace satisfaction and through the implementation of accountability systems. Also, a zero-tolerance policy to theft (no second chances) will serve you well as a manager.