Credit Matters Blog

The Trusted Employee - An Asset Or An Agent of Financial Destruction?

Kim Radok 13 September 2015


One of the greatest assets any business can have is the trusted employee. Equally, as we see time and time again, the trusted employee is the person who destroys the business. How can we know which trusted employee works for our business?

Well, that's the $64.00 question isn't it!

Creating any well-intentioned employee in to a trusted employee is possible. Unfortunately it is equally possible to turn a former trusted employee in to the agent which destroys the business.

Why do employees go from being trusted to untrustworthy? There are three main reasons.

One reason is the employee develops a grievance on a perceived slight and sets out to extract a level of revenge. Alternatively the employee believes they are entitled to something earned and not been given.

Another reason might be the employee has drug and/or gambling problems, is financially stressed or experiences a life-changing event which changes their personality.

Finally, the employee has a criminal nature and seeks advantages by exploiting your business's operational and human weaknesses.

If you understand how the trusted employee was able to steal, and most do steal a great deal before being caught, then the answers are fairly simple. Furthermore, most interventions to encourage trusted employee behaviour are not as expensive as repairing the damage caused by the trusted employee turned rogue.

To assist in the creation of an employee to a trusted employee status and helping them to remain "trusted", requires the following conditions. It is important to understand this is an ongoing process and cannot be a set and forget process.

To achieve their best performance, employees need a working environment which encourages good behaviour and discourages illegal, offensive and criminal behaviour. Creating such a working environment starts with an induction to your organisational culture and values. This information will included an introduction to your operational disciplines, training and development opportunities and achievable special rewards structures.

The enforcement of work and lifestyle disciplines cannot be over emphasised. If an employee is caught in acting to the detriment of the organisation and stated organisational behaviour, they need to be dealt with in line with stated organisational procedures. A lax approach to discipline or an attempt to hide an indiscretion only causes further problems.

The trusted employee must take regular holidays, unless a one-off situation is agreed upon for a special event or long holiday. Fraud perpetuates when no one else does the work of trusted employees.

Disorganised and messy Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable Ledgers provide opportunities for fraudulent activities.

Strong financial systems, disciplines and regular reconciliations of all accounts, assist to reduce opportunities for fraudulent activities as such activities are soon exposed.

Creating trusted employees is possible within the right circumstances. Organisational culture, structures, systems and disciplines, help employees maintain their trusted employee status. There will be emotional and financial costs from time to time when an employee transgresses and action is required to expose the prohibited behaviour. Furthermore you may never eliminate those with criminal intent trying to seek advantage.

However, the upfront costs of creating a trusted employee culture in an organisation will always be less than trying to repair the costs of being caught out by the trusted employee who turned out to be an agent of destruction.