Imagine this: At 8am on Saturday morning, you get a call from a cleaning customer. He explains that $250.00 is missing from his dresser drawer. You know that you had your top employee cleaning in his place on Friday. The whole idea of this team member stealing is ridiculous – it has never happened before in the 5 years she has worked for your company. Nevertheless, you have to deal with this immediately.
If this scenario were to happen to you. What would you do? What questions do you have prepared for something like this? Would you honestly be ready to handle a matter of an employee stealing from a customer? A really, really good team member at that.
The entire idea of an employee stealing from a customer can be incredulous.
In this example, this employee was the one who came to work on her days off to fill in for someone else. This lady was the one who stayed late to “get the job done”, even at the expense of her personal life. She was the only person you trusted with your personal vehicle when hers needed repair. She was the team member that caught others stealing at work. Ugh!!
Yeah! You trusted her. But now, she is the subject this time of employee theft in your professional cleaning service.
Honestly, you have no doubt your customer is telling the truth. After all, he typically leaves a tip for the cleaning person and never has a complaint. He even gives Christmas bonuses to the staff that cleans his home. He lives alone – no one else could have done it.
All signs pointed to her. No one else. The customer had no recent visitors. He had just put the cash money in his drawer just a couple days prior to the cleaning.
Before you call her. Before you meet up with her again. She is already guilty…. in your mind.
So, in a scenario such as this, would you know what to do when an employee steals from a customer? Are you prepared?
- Do you know how to legally terminate an employment agreement?
- Do you have someone who can replace that position right away?
- What about any cleaning supplies and equipment they may have of yours in their possession?
- Even worse, does the employee have your customer’s key or alarm code with them?
Even with all of this to deal with, you also find yourself managing your mental and emotional wellbeing towards the employee.
Regardless if you admit it or not. There is no simple solution to resolving a matter the betrayal of trust from an employee. The anger, the pain and the confusion can be overwhelming.
In times like this, lean on a a business colleague or a close friend. Talk about it – talk it through. Work on it. And work past it. There is nothing much more you can do about it, especially once she confirms that it is true!
Here’s what you can do when an employee steals from a customer.
First, find out about the laws in your area for terminating an employee.
Once you hang up the phone with your customer, calm down. Stay clear headed. DO NOT CALL THE EMPLOYEE right away. Give yourself some time to think.
Your first thought has to be damage control – and calling the employee right away will cause more chaos. You must be in control to care for all matters at hand.
If you’re not clear on this matter, go online and research any current changes for firing an employee for theft. At this stage, you want to be legally prepared if this is what you decide to do when you meet with your team member.
Secondly, arrange a face to face meeting with your employee to discuss the matter of theft. This should be done no later than the next work day.
At this meeting, discuss everything the customer told you. Dates, times, the amount, the location of the money, everything. Ask your team member flat out, “Did you take the money?”.
This is not the time to sugar-coat anything. You must be upfront.
Whatever answer she gives, yes or no. Your decision beyond this meeting is crucial.
If she says yes, she stole money from a customer while cleaning their home, call the customer to ask if he wants to press charges. You can assist him since the crime happened to him. Of course, you must terminate her immediately.
If she says that she didn’t steal anything from a customer, you can make a different decision if you like. Put her in a different position or on leave until an investigation is complete. (By the way, many homes have cameras, so during your investigation ask the homeowner to look at the footage.)
Consult an attorney because if the customer is in fact not being truthful, your employee can sue your business for defamation. Be careful and consult an attorney. Laws can vary demographically. Also, labor laws are different for independent contractors and W-2 based employees.
If the customer does not want to press charges but instead terminate the cleaning services altogether, consult an attorney if you have a written contract.
Theft is theft, no matter how small. And, theft is a crime and should never be handled lightly! It can be $250.00 in a drawer or pocket change in a couch cushion. Doesn’t matter.
Lastly, update employee agreements and customer care agreements for your business.
These agreements or contracts typically are not things that are reviewed on a regular base. Now, if any, is a great time to review and revamp your paperwork. After a company experiences something like this, you would want to try and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
If you or your company has experienced this, I’m sorry. Dealing with an employee that steals is no easy thing. You put your trust in people who you trust with your business.
Overcoming theft by an employee is a process. It takes time.
It takes courage to move on and move past it. But get this, courage is a muscle. And, the more you use that muscle, the stronger and wiser you’ll become in your business.
Elbert and I have had our share of team member shenanigans and let me tell you, after 27 years in this business, we’re solid. Strong as a rock. And we have done all that we could to reassure our cleaning customers that they can trust us and our staff.
So, once you have heard all details from your customer surrounding a possible theft from your employee, gather yourself. Seek legal advice if necessary. Find out the current laws of releasing your employee. Have an honest conversation with your team member and depending on the outcome, take action. Review your contracts and agreements. This pretty much is what to do when an employee steals from a customer.
“On an important decision one rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And, if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over. This is the terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker.” Robert K. Greenleaf
Until next time,
Creator of A Janitor’s Story®. I started my office cleaning side hustle at 20 years old. Years later, with the partnership of my husband and our amazing staff, my business grew to mid-six figures and fulfilled my wildest dreams! Now, 27 years STRONG, I’ve retired, and I help aspiring entrepreneurs to START and GROW their house and office cleaning service businesses to achieve their biggest dreams. I’d like to help you do the same.
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