When conducting an employee theft investigation, you start by doing the legwork, the research aspect, of it to validate, substantiate, or dismiss accusations or suspicions. After determining the validity of your suspicions, you should be able to clearly pinpoint specific losses, incurred by a specific employee(s) and the time and date when the losses occurred.
The next step is to collect your evidence and present your case to the employee in question. This is referred to as the employee interview. It is not done simply as a means to accuse the suspected employee of their wrongdoings. The interview is done to further corroborate the evidence found, see if the employee incurred other losses that you might not be aware of, and also to find out if other employees were involved in the employee thefts.
As such, this is not the time to throw the employee in a dark room, shine a bright light in their face, and demand that they confess. To make your interview more productive (thereby increasing your chance of garnering valuable information) you need subtlety and tact. You also need a few industry standard tips to help facilitate the process.
To start the interview, you should have thoroughly reviewed all evidence that has been brought forth to validate this employees involvement in losses with your business. You should have collected any paperwork, such as journal tapes, receipts, employee sign-off sheets, etc., video surveillance, and a list of the times and dates the losses occurred notating what was taken – cash, merchandise, etc.
The more you know, the harder it is for the employee to dismiss their actions as mistakes, poor training, etc. If you only have one incident, you may still consider having a conversation with the employee. It might be extremely difficult to prove that the losses were intentional, instead of an oblivious mistake. Keep in mind that this kind of conversation will be better suited as training and coaching session, instead of one looking for a confession.
After you have collected your evidence, you want to find someone to act as a witness. This should be a neutral manager or human resources person. It should not be a peer. The employee does have a right to privacy regarding the situation, so the witness needs to be able to keep this confidence and not speak about the case outside of the closed doors with you.
The witness is there to record the conversation and actions that take place. They need to include times in their report regarding when the interview started, finished, and the time law enforcement was brought in, if applicable. The witness should not chime in to the discussion, nor should they make facial expressions such as rolling their eyes, or display anger, disgust, etc.
Now is the time to bring the employee into the office to start the interview. While you don’t need to come right out and say that the employee is being questioned about theft, you should start by talking to them about needing their help to resolve some issues. From there talk to them about your policies and procedures. Not only is it a good way to put the employee at ease by asking simple questions they can readily answer, but also you start to eliminate excuses down the road.
Employees will frequently state they were not aware of a policy or a practice if they are accused of theft first- the “I didn’t know it was wrong” line of defense. When you validate their knowledge ahead of time, they have to reach further out to come up with a plausible denial, making a confession easier.
Next start to ask them about a few lower violations. An employee is more willing to confess to a lesser “charge” if they feel like they are getting away with their big crime. Continue to dismiss denials and continue to ask about other incidents. By establishing a pattern of their behavior, they will eventually understand what you know, and that they need to be compliant with your questions.
For more information on employee theft, employee theft investigation or internal theft contact us or call 1.770.426.0547 – Atlanta Georgia
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