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How Do We Approach an Employee Who Has Concealed Something?

We have an employee who inadvertently broke some inexpensive equipment while on the job, but did not tell management about it. How should we handle this? The item can be replaced for less than $100, so cost isn't the issue. The employee's behavior is. —Hates Secrecy, manager of manufacturing, Rochester, Minnesota
May 1, 2012
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Related Topics: Corporate Culture, Ethics, Dear Workforce
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Dear Hates Secrecy:

The question that comes to mind here is: "Where does the problem lie here—with the employee's behavior or management's response?" Let's tackle both.

First, let's talk about the management. This entire situation could have been driven by your company's culture. What are things like at your company?

Have you created a culture that might make employees fearful of revealing they have broken something? What has happened in the past when an employee broke a piece of equipment? Did management rant and rave about thoughtless employees and threaten the loss of the employee's job? Or even worse, was someone fired over the incident?

On the other hand, does management demonstrate total trust in employees who will do a good job no matter what? Does upper management indicate its understanding that accidents occur—that is part of the cost of doing business? Is feedback regularly shared with employees so they know where they stand from a performance perspective?

Or maybe the entire work environment—from the front line to top management—is one in which no one respects anyone else or the tools that are used to accomplish work. Perhaps this behavior has occurred before and everyone just shrugged their shoulders and said, "Oh well."

Now let's talk about the employee.

You need to have a discussion with him pronto. First, clarify what happened and why no one was notified. It's possible he just didn't know what to do. Explain what acceptable behavior would be in this type of situation and get his commitment on what action he will take should it ever happen again.

And then you need to work on your company's culture. I suspect your company may be some mix of the above examples, with a leaning toward "fear" or "who cares." That's not a good thing. But it's not too late to turn it around. Get senior leadership together to define and commit to creating a better workplace, one that mirrors the culture of respect: for people, things and authority.

SOURCE: Denise O'Berry, The Team Doc, Odessa, Florida

LEARN MORE: Job dissatisfaction is bubbling to the surface with increasing frequency, experts note.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

ASK A QUESTION

 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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