Polygraph Testing: Tracking the culprit 9

What do you do if there is reason to suspect an employee of dishonesty but you have no direct evidence?
First of all, employers should ensure that their systems, policies and procedures and contracts of employment protect them as far as possible against employee dishonesty.
Given the state of crime in our country it is not surprising that dishonesty now features prominently as a reason for employee dismissals. Unfortunately, employers are often ill equipped to deal with cases, particularly where they have reason to suspect an employee but do not have direct evidence to support their suspicions. What does an employer do in these circumstances?
One of the common problems found, especially in retail operations, is that when stock goes missing, the employer’s inquiries are met with a conspiracy of silence. From the unit manager down, everyone agrees that goods are missing but nobody can explain where they went. The way to deal with this type of problem is to look at team misconduct. This approach can be used when an entire group of employees can be held accountable for stock losses that cannot be linked to misconduct of a particular employee. The underlying principle is that the employees, who were in control of the employer’s goods, were administratively inept or willfully negligent or that stock was stolen either by the employees themselves or third parties and therefore these employees are liable for the losses.

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9 thoughts on “Polygraph Testing: Tracking the culprit

  • Pierre theron

    If I may add, one sleeps better, businesses make more money and everyone performs better when managements tries to catch someone doing something right and complementing that, rather than trying to catch a culprit. Of all basic human desires, the need for affirmation is stronger than most. The CCMA, trade unions or Bargaining Councils would probably not have existed if staff were managed in this very ideological way. Having said that, aspiring to higher ideals is a better investment of one’s time, than living on the edge of what may or may not cut it at a hearing. 

  • Nicole van Eeden Post author

    Thank you for all the feedback. Whereas many employers will turn to a polygraph test to help with finding the guilty party, it is still not considered enough evidence at the CCMA. Main rule here, be 150% sure of your facts before accusing any member of staff.

  • Lynel Farrell

    Anderson and Pierre, al I can say is: well said!  The words, suspected, assumed, possibly, alleged, so-called, rumoured, hearsay is not factual.  If you suspect dishonesty, then evidence must be provided, otherwise there is no case!  Evidence, evidence, evidence!

  • Anderson Magawa

    What do you do if there is reason to suspect an employee of dishonesty but you have no direct evidence?

    To the question, i would say, the South African law works on a principle of “guilty until proven otherwise”. Suspicion only does not make anyone guilty and may not be charged or in this case (workplace) disciplined without evidence. On holding the whole group accountable-you must be prepared for a legal battle if the really honest employees decides to take the organisation to a court/CCMA or anywhere law enforcement, what evidence will you provide the court to prove them guilty? Check the Basic Conditions of Employment and Labour Act.

  • Anderson Magawa

    I agree with Mr Pierre, holding the whole group to account is not only illegal but also creates an element of hate. There are always very honest employees who you will put in the same group with the dishonest, imagine what will happen to their moral and motivation. Employee employer relationship will be negatively affected. But yes polygraph testing maybe used to track the culprit/s. 

  • Pierre theron

    What you’re stating here is probably a great remedy for the constant scourge of stock losses, particularly in the retail environment, and I thank you for highlighting the notion of group accountability. Personally, I have issues with the idea of suspecting without evidence, simply because that implies a negative departure point. If stock is going missing, there is evidence. It is the employer’s responsibility to create and implement systems that unequivocally points out who the culprit is, and this should be the evidence upon which further action is based. Intimidation and harassment may make it difficult for other parties in the same department to come forward and volunteer information, but making them jointly responsible places them between a rock and a hard place, which could not be fair nor humane.

    If the systems cannot identify a culprit, management is at fault and should not vent their frustration at the expense of innocent employees. It is exactly this culture that breeds the us/them dichotomy, welcomes collective bargaining and causes disharmony in the workplace.

    The human asset in a company is to be cherished and nurtured, respected and acknowledged, because staffing is an expensive capital investment and, specifically in retail, the fruit of the investment in human capital development is often enjoyed by a secondary employer, because the primary employer failed to protect their investment.