Everyone is shocked when corporate executives are led off to jail in handcuffs for employee theft and we shake our heads at the magnitude and greed when hearing of these scandals in the news.

A decade ago Enron collapsed under the weight of a massive fraud that included faulty accounting and business practices.

Small companies have been devastated by bookkeepers who pay themselves a little something extra by submitting bogus invoices and forging cheques.

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What is rarely newsworthy is the quantity of loot taken home by employees at all levels on a regular basis.

Employee Theft: No business is immune

Employee theft and fraud is a serious problem in every industry and at every level.

I’m not just talking about taking home a fistful of pens; wrongdoing also includes padding expense accounts, supplier kickbacks, restaurant employees eating the food, and merchandise pilfering.

Canadian retailers lose an estimated $2 million every day to employee theft – almost as much as they lose from shoplifters.

While some corporate executives with huge expense budgets have padded their expense accounts in the tens of thousands of dollars, the most successful thieves take stuff in little bites and stay below the radar.

The thefts may not be discovered until years after they have begun – if ever – and usually by some irregularity.

A study found that the majority of workers believe all employees, at some point, remove items from work for their personal use.

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Interestingly, pens, post-it notes, rulers and envelopes are the most common office supplies taken home.

Fictional accounts

Some crimes are quite creative.  Like the above-mentioned bookkeepers, employees invent all kinds of bogus practices.

Personnel managers authorize salaries for fictitious workers; purchasing agents invent nonexistent suppliers; and executives cook the books to justify year-end bonuses.

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It seems to depend on the opportunities available at his or her level.

Time theft

Many workers who wouldn’t even think about taking home so much as a paper clip are involved in time theft.

This includes coming to work late or leaving early, taking an extended lunch break, excessive socializing on the job and wandering around the office trying to look busy.

It’s quite common for workers to fake sick days to extend their vacation time or for other personal activities.

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How many of us check our personal emails, play computer games, post status updates on Facebook or tweet on a regular basis during the work day?

Some people actually use company time and the facilities to operate their own businesses.

Is everyone becoming unethical?

Apparently, taking home a little something extra is a routine practice at all levels of the workplace.  Small time pilfering seems insignificant.  Who would ever miss those little items that seem so abundant?

The majority of those who are caught show no remorse.  They rationalized their behavior by claiming to be mistreated or underpaid – besides the company can afford it.

No matter how a person rationalizes it, though – stealing is stealing.  And stealing is costly – to everyone.

What do you think about employee theft in the workplace?

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