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Why your best worker may be your riskiest employee

If only more employees were like John - except that John is probably the riskiest employee in the organisation

John is a fantastic employee. Since joining the accounts team as a general ledger clerk, he has worked his way up to department manager through a combination of sheer dedication and backbreaking hard work; however, he could also be your riskiest employee.

Always first to arrive in the morning, he also works until late and practically lives in the office during busy periods, when he is in all weekend to sort out any problems that may arise. He is never off sick, so no one has to cover for him. If only more employees were like John – except that John is probably the riskiest employee in the organisation.

Every aspect of his behaviour should be raising red flags. Rather than giving him a bonus or a promotion, you need to ask internal audit to go over his work portfolio with forensic attention. John’s behaviour is unfortunately all too typical of embezzlers and fraudsters.

Firstly, he has access to the office at times other people do not; therefore, no one can walk in and catch him accessing something he should not, or copying invoice records on or off the system, or forging purchase orders. There is no need for him to hustle over to the printer to pick something up before anyone else sees it, and there is plenty of time to set up false vendors on the system that are actually bank accounts he controls.

These people have to make sure that no one notices what is going on; therefore, events such as accounting period closures must be covered, even if most of the processing takes place at night or at the weekend. The employee is often watching for credits or debits bouncing around the system as a result of the fraud and is acting to neutralise them and restore the account balances before anyone notices that something is wrong.

If John turns out to be an entirely innocent man with an unhappy home life, he is unfortunately still a risk; this time, it is a ‘duty of care’ issue. If John suffers a severe mental illness or prolonged sick leave due to stress, the organisation will be considered at fault for not recognising the symptoms and offering him support.

It may be that a closer examination of John’s working pattern shows him trying to minimise his contact time with another worker or with his manager; in this case, the employer needs to consider whether the individual is actually a walking law suit. Anyone who shouts, bullies, harasses or is unreasonable in their demands is a ticking time bomb – it only takes one employee to launch a formal claim for harassment and you may find several others follow.

These individuals often see themselves as the embodiment of a hard-working, tough-talking corporate culture. They need to be rapidly disabused of this idea, and the values of the organisation made clear; otherwise, there is a risk of further law suits or even the dreaded class action.

If you are looking for a risky employee, it is probably not the individual who is constantly snapchatting his friends and slipping out for Frappuccinos; instead, it is likely to be the quiet one working away in the corner.

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