Most workplace dishonesty arises through lying, stealing, or unethical behavior. By some estimates, employees commit about 80 percent of the offenses, which should disturb any manager. When you've hired someone who's helping herself to company cash and valuables, a sticky-fingered employee's ingenuity knows no boundaries. Whether it's embezzlement, expense account padding or manipulation of company records, you must recognize common forms of employee deception so you can confront them more efficiently.
As businesses require more employees to travel, expense accounts and reports become ripe targets for padding. For an employee with larceny in her heart, your company credit card is a way to charge personal phone calls and meals. If that option isn't possible, she'll slip those costs onto an itemized expense report. If the worker's feeling really creative, she may create fake receipts to inflate legitimate expenses.
From an employer's standpoint, embezzlement is simply a technical term for theft committed by someone in a position of trust. Embezzlement comes in all sorts of guises -- whether it's pilfering money from the cash register or skimming cash from the day's receipts. Another favorite technique is "lapping," in which the employee holds back a portion of payments made on accounts received. She then doctors account records and statements to cover her tracks.
Theft of cash and merchandise, or retail shrinkage, is one of the most widespread forms of workplace dishonesty. An employee may resell the items, take them home for her own use, or give them away to friends. The worker justifies her behavior as a way of getting back at her boss, whom she considers incompetent, unhelpful or unconcerned about the staff. Failing to understand how these situations occur can damage a company.
An employee running the phantom vendor scam creates fictitious vendors and invoices so she can funnel payments to herself. This type of dishonesty works on a simple assumption -- if there's a bill, somebody should pay it, right? In other cases, the employee and the vendor split payments for work that's never done, or supplies that aren't delivered. Either way, unless you ask questions, you'll eat the result.
Not all dishonest behavior at work involves stealing money. As your boss may have reminded you, the company's most precious commodity is time. However, that idea is tough to swallow when you can't stick to a schedule. What's a latecomer to do? Simple -- whenever you're running late, or want a longer break, get a co-worker to clock in for you. Unless your boss is keeping close tabs, he probably won't miss you ... right away.
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.