Theft in the workplace, whether big or small, can cost a company. It is important to address any thefts in the workplace that occur. How do you address the issue though? You may not know who is stealing and you do not want to accuse an employee who is not responsible, which  makes it difficult for accountability unless you perform an investigation.

Here are the eight best methods on how to address theft in the workplace:

1. Identify the type of theft in the workplace

If you cannot prove that something is missing, then you cannot prove that a theft in the workplace has occurred. In order to prove that something has been stolen you will need to collect a paper trail. It could be bank records, it could be stock records, it could be daily or monthly reports. Find official documents that show where the missing items are. Then, make copies.

2. Identify where the theft is coming from

At first, you can just look for any red flags. Things such as taking work home, preferring to work with no supervision and preferring to work without the help of others can be indicators. Just remember that these can be indicators, many employees simply work best in these ways.

A preferred work method is not an absolute indicator of theft. Use these red flags to identify potential culprits. You will then need to look into the matters further in order to find evidence of theft, and evidence that can be documented.

At this point, you may continue to be able to find this information on your own. However, it is a good idea to bring in private investigators who are from outside of your company. This helps to avoid any potential conflicts of interest and to maintain the impartial nature of the investigation.

3. Be patient with the workplace investigation

It can be hard to find who is guilty when investigating theft in the workplace. Many employees have easy access to items such as cash, merchandise and supplies. These can be an easy temptation to start stealing and earn some good profits on the side. In fact, according to The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners most of those who are found guilty of theft or fraud are motivated to do so not because they have fallen on hard times but because of this easy access.

Most importantly, just because your employees have easy access does not mean that they are going to steal or that you should suspect them.

4. Create and implement workplace policies

As you investigate the theft in the workplace, this is also a good time to set up policies such as a Code of Ethics, Anti-Fraud and Conflict of Interest policies. It is not enough to just set them up, you also need to make sure to train your employees in these. Having these policies in place and making sure that employees are well aware of them is both a good preventive measure and will help you to address any theft that does occur.

Just creating these policies will help to prevent a lot of theft. Employees who are aware that you are on the lookout for theft and that there will be real consequences are less likely to commit theft in the first place. That being said, it will not prevent all theft.

If theft does occur, this gives you the grounds and parameters to deal with it.

5. Research local laws

You should also do some research into local laws and regulations about thefts in the workplace. Different regions will have different policies and regulations in place. It is your responsibility to find out what these are.

Knowledge of these laws will help you to build the policies in number 2 and will help you when you proceed with the following steps.

6. Address the theft with the employee

Once you discover the culprit of the workplace theft, you will need to deal with the issue and the employee who has been committing it. This is where your offices’ policies and local laws will help you. Use all of these to help you define a punishment for the employee.

7. Recover losses from the workplace theft

Depending on how big your losses are, this step may or may not be worth the time and effort. The size of the loss and laws in place in your region will also affect the best options for you to take.

You can recover your losses by suing the employee, referring the case to prosecution for theft or through insurance. In some cases, you may be able to combine these approaches.

8. Preventing future theft in the workplace

Doctors often say that prevention is the best treatment. This is true for all aspects of life. The best way to address theft is by preventing it. Make sure that you store cash, merchandise and supplies so that they are is difficult to steal.

The easiest way to do this is to keep only the necessary amount within easy access. Keep only small amounts of money in tills and don’t store all of your merchandise so that every employee has access to it.

This is already common practice in most shops and many offices. Make sure that it is in your workplace as well. Implementing these measures may also help to stop any theft that is already occurring.

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Alison is one of the writers working at Ultimate Business News. If you have any media inquiries, please contact Alison for further questions and feedback.

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