One of the most challenging situations you will ever face as a business owner is when an employee is accused of stealing or committing fraudulent acts within the company. It’s vital that you conduct the appropriate investigations, but how can you deal with the issue appropriately without it breaking down internal morale? It’s vital that you protect your assets, but how can you protect your culture as well?
Investigating Through the Proper Channels
While the temptation to bring highly regarded criminal defense attorneys onto the case looms large, they will ask for one simple thing: evidence. The process of investigation is arduous for a variety of reasons. This is important that you investigate as discreetly as possible, either using the HR department or an external third-party such as lawyers. The larger the crime, the likelier you need to bring in experts. You need to consult an attorney or a fraud expert before you proceed. After this, you need to collect the evidence and determine if the crime was committed. Going through the entire approach means you’ve got to ensure you stay on the right side of the law and on the right side of procedure.
Discussing the Actions With the Employee
Calling the employee into the office to have a conversation is the next step and you need to get right to the point. Show them the evidence that you have amassed. It’s important to remember that this is a very uncomfortable conversation and it can be uncomfortable for the other employees in the building, especially if they have heard information through the grapevine. When you are discussing what has happened with the employee, it is important to keep your emotions at bay.
They may have stolen directly from you and this can be hurtful, but you’ve got to stay on the right side of professionalism. In the vast majority of situations, you will need to terminate their employment. And this means that you may need to discuss with legal counsel whether you should press charges. You may decide to not press charges unless there is substantial damage to the business. There may also be times when you have to take action to ensure that a fraudulent culture doesn’t increase throughout the business.
Communicating to the Employees
Office gossip is endemic. It’s crucial for you to give the relevant information while stamping out any potential for gossip. You can only give them a broad outline of what has happened. If you start to supply details, even to those people that you trust, you could be sued for defamation. It can be a very difficult thing to endure.
It can prove damaging to a business, especially if it was a trusted employee. And this is why it’s so important to ensure that the company can build upon this. There is no need to consider it as a mistake on your part, but it is a mistake that can be attributed to the company and can be built upon. The great thing about an internal issue is that it doesn’t need to be leaked to the outside, which can cause considerable reputational damage.