Excuses, Excuses: Rationalizing Employee Theft

Whether skimming cash from a register or falsifying records to cover theft, dishonest employees almost always have what they feel is a valid rationalization for their illegal behavior.

While there is never a valid reason for employee theft, it’s useful for Loss Prevention professionals, owners, and managers to consider the mindset that leads to employee theft.

What’s Your Excuse?

The vast majority of the rationalizations of a dishonest employee are nothing more than poor excuses for bad behavior.  After being caught, they are frightened and defensive about their behavior.

You might hear them say:

“It’s not like the company is going to miss a $20 bill.”
“Other employees do it, too.”
“I just needed gas money to get to work.”

Typically, employee excuses fall into three distinct categories;

Disgruntled and Disappointed

Listen for irritated grumbling or tones of frustration from your team. They could be early indicators of an employee primed to steal.

“I was passed over for a raise or promotion”

“No one ever tells me I did a good job”

Of course, it is common to complain about your job or lack of appreciation. But keep an ear out for constant complaints or justifications for bad behavior. A positive attitude by employees, modeled by managers and upper management will help eliminate complaints…and employee theft.

Unfair Inequality

This shift in focus paints the business or business owner as wealthy and successful, while the employee is unappreciated and underpaid. The employee feels entitled to the cash or product they steal.

“The company makes a ton of money”

“I was cheated out of overtime”

“I don’t get paid enough”

To combat this rationalization for theft, focus on clear communication of expectations and what the employee’s path to success is. Employees should be considered team members who help your company grow in success and profits. Make sure they understand the goals and aspirations of the business and how they play an active role.

Easy Money

Sometimes it is just too easy to steal. Shifts are covered by too few people. Video surveillance is seldom checked. And cash is readily available to tuck into a pocket. This lax environment creates a perfect opportunity for an employee to rationalize their behavior.

“It was too easy to steal”

“It’s insured anyway”

The key to successfully eliminating employee theft is to create layers of security which make it difficult to steal. Using loss prevention solutions, like DIGIOP, make it very difficult for employees to successfully steal cash or goods. Remembering standard best practices like ongoing training, defined cash handling procedures, and spot checking cash drawers can greatly reduce an employee’s opportunity for theft.

No Excuses

Regardless of the rationalizations of employee theft, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as many as 75% of employees have stolen from their employer at least once.

It’s important to keep open and clear communication between your staff, encourage everyone to work towards a common goal, and create obstacles so employee theft can’t occur easily. Partnering with DIGIOP is the first step towards stopping employee theft, regardless of the excuses and rationalizations.