Get out of jail free card


What is a get out of jail free card? Unfortunately for some, it’s the card your employee has when you catch them stealing from you. The panic from the moment you find out you have been stolen from can become even greater. This is when you confront your employee (remember you need legal and HR help for that) and they turn the whole debacle around to possibly get out of jail and threaten you with disclosure of your dirty little secrets.

What are those dirty little secrets? Do you have two sets of books? Do you write off inappropriate expenses? Do you hire and fire illegally? This is just the start of what the desperate thief will try.

What do you do when this happens? Again, (insert legal advice here from a good attorney who has worked these cases before-not your golfing buddy) you need to process your own personal situation. I never tell someone directly not to file with law enforcement. But as your “fraud coach” I will tell you to take a step back and analyze all the angles.

I had a client once who, as so many do, wanted the perp hung in the town square. The client generally needs to be talked off the ledge. You need to prepare for the process. The process is long and hard and not cheap. You need to think about the potential PR crisis. You need to be ready to take responsibility for your business and other employees.

Tone at the top of course is part of the equation. While there is NEVER a reason for stealing you need to understand the rationalization part of the fraud triangle. When you give your assistant your credit card bill or expense report that is filled with personal expenses realize what you are doing. You are possibly chipping away at their own set of values. When they see you expense a family vacation to ski while attending a work conference they see you cheating and stealing. This can start a slippery slope (pun intended) for them to start stealing.

Most people, in my opinion, do not wake up and say I am going to steal from my boss or my employer. What does happen is they go to work and get a call from a bill collector stating they are late and their car is going to be repossessed, their husband or partner leaves them with a mortgage, their kid texts them about the school ski team they can’t afford and then they start down that path.

So when they get caught they are desperate to not go to jail and break up a family. Everything they have seen taking place at work becomes fair game for them to defend themselves. You need to be prepared for this. How do you prepare for this? Tone at the top. I can’t say that enough. What your employees see in your behavior is incredibly important.

I can’t tell you how hard it is for an employer to go through this. They want to do the right thing but they also feel the need to protect themselves and their business. So what happens is that sweet, conniving little Mary gets off and then goes to the next business. Eventually she will get caught but sometimes it takes awhile.

You set the example for your employees. Be the best example you can be. Set the right tone at the top and maybe she won’t have the get out of jail free card.

If this has happened to you I would love to hear from you. Please email me at