Why You Should Never Give an Office Key To An Employee
Stay in business long enough and you?ll most likely develop friendships with some of your employees. Maybe not a close friendship but one that gives you and them a comfort zone that differs from when they were first hired. As more trust is built or gained through ongoing working relations, usually everyone lowers their guard a bit and begins to settle into a ?working relationship?.
It?s not an uncommon practice or unusual expectation to offer a key to your Office Manager or a key personal assistant (no pun intended). In fact, I?ve found it to be quite normal that ranking personnel have access to certain files and other business trade secrets that are not available to each and every colleague. That doesn?t mean they know every asset of the company and have access to all things. However an implied trust is given and whatever they learn, is to spur on the company?s business and enable them to do the best job for you as their employer.
If you as an employer do not have certain ?fail safe? tactics in place you are setting yourself up for a hard lesson. I?m suggesting its not ?if? but only a matter of time before someone takes an undue advantage of their position. I would agree most are minor and don?t require firing, let alone a lawsuit. However, you would be wise to install certain procedures that allow you to check up on your employees.
It?s a good practice to call into your office and pose as a potential customer (or existing customer) and ask questions about your products and/or services. Monitor calls if you have a phone system that allows you to do such a thing and grade your employee?s performances and critique their customer service calls. You will learn a great deal as to how your ?real? customers are being handled and glean good information in the area of employee conduct.
I?m writing from experience. I had given extra liberties to one of my employees, including supplying a key to the office. He had asked me if he could work nights due to he wanted to finish up some college classes at our local university. This particular individual was able to begin and complete our jobs without much supervision. He had computer skills that others didn?t have at the time, that enabled him to excel in areas were we needed more help. I agreed to his new schedule and allowed him to come in at the end of the business day and work till late evening. BIG MISTAKE!
Shortly thereafter I noticed his production began to drop off. For some strange reason his progress diminished and jobs began to become incomplete. When I approached him his response was, ?I had homework?. (Call it a clue when your employee offers up ?homework? as an excuse for not finishing their job). I strongly suggest he communicate with me if these matters were to continue keeping him from completing the tasks. He agreed but things didn?t change.
I returned to work one Monday morning in January to find none of the scheduled work was completed. Not one job had even been started! I decided that was it, enough was enough and it was time to let him go and move on. When he arrived later that afternoon I expressed my disappointment and fired him! Upon retrieving the office key, he flipped it to me as if to say ? ?so what?!
A few days later one of my other employees informed me he was competing with me and calling our customers. Calling them and offering to do their contract work at one-third of the normal price! This was a moment of utter aggravation!!
I later learned he had helped himself to ALL of our proprietary software (software that had been developed over nearly a decade) along with copying our entire customer database! This my friends is a whole other story and would require many pages of writing to inform you of all that happened over a total of 11 years!! That?s right, eleven years of litigation.
A long story short ? My Company secured over a $650,000.00 judgment, that grew into more than 1 MILLION over the years! We sued and we won!! It was an expensive key!!!
Aubrey Richardson is the founder of LogoFax one of the largest and fastest growing clip art sites online, while leading a team of successful business entrepreneurs on the net.
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