While it would be nice if we all lived in a world of rainbows and unicorns, the reality is that sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with a difficult member of staff.
Sometimes it’s the lazy one that won’t do any work unless you watch them like a hawk. Other times it’s the one with the attitude problem that needs bringing into line. If you’re particularly unlucky, however, it’ll be an unscrupulous employee – someone who potentially threatens your entire business.
The unscrupulous employee may provide sensitive company information to others. They may behave badly towards customers or other employees. They may consider quitting and trying to take your team with them. Whatever the case, it’s critical that you’re protected. So, what can you do?
The first critical step in protecting yourself from potentially unscrupulous employees is to get your employment contract right. Here are some of the most critical elements to consider:
It is critical that all members of staff understand what is – and is not – acceptable. Ideally this should be provided in writing, so that it can be referred back to in the future. So, ask yourself: what could be considered a “sackable offence”? Common examples include turning up to work under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, actions that bring the company into disrepute or any form of fraud.
In our ever more-connected world many employees have access to computers in the workplace. This opens up a host of other risks for the manager or business owner. An IT policy aims to mitigate this risk, by providing acceptable use guidelines for social media, company data and so on.
Taking things a step further, some companies opt to limit employee IT access. Examples include installing a firewall to prevent access to Facebook and other “personal” websites or by setting up workstations in such a way that new applications cannot be downloaded or installed without approval.
Many companies are privy to sensitive, and sometimes mission-critical data. This may include financial information or lists of existing clients which must be kept from prying eyes. Contracts should therefore clearly state the acceptable use of data in the workplace. Ideally this should also stipulate what data may or may not be removed from the premises, and under what circumstances.
Once an unscrupulous employee has gained a thorough understanding of your business – including your hard-won contacts – it can be tempting for them to try and set up on their own. Clearly this should be avoided at all costs.
Effective employment contracts should therefore include non-compete clauses to prevent such activities.
Management & Monitoring
The signing of an effective employment contract will help to mitigate many of the risks that unscrupulous employees represent, and offer protection when rules are broken, but there is more that can be done.
Employees should be managed firmly but considerately during their employment. By monitoring employee activities, and managing performance over time, you will not only ensure maximum output, but will also be able to identify any concerns early on. If an employee does not seem to be working out, it can be more effective to address the situation promptly than to let the problem linger on over time.
The theft of business assets can pose a particularly difficult problem for employers. While this of course includes physical objects such as computers, phone and the like, also don’t forget about less tangible property. Examples might include domain names, trademarks, or contacts lists.
Ensure that all company property is carefully registered to your address, and that employees appreciate there will be legal recourse for any deliberate act of theft.
Remember that even if an employee relocates elsewhere with company property then professional tracing agents can be utilized to locate ex-employees and to gather information if any misconduct is suspected. Many will also act as debt recovery agent if requested, helping to secure the property that is rightfully yours, and operate on a “no trace no fee” basis making them risk-free for you.
The final step in protecting yourself from unscrupulous employees is to ensure that you have adequate business insurance. Not only should this cover you financially if the misconduct of an employee ends up costing you money, but should also help to cover any legal costs of dealing with the employee themselves.