Employee Theft, Lies and Using the Lie Detector Test as a Deterrent

I was prompted to write this article as a result of conducting a polygraph test recently on a group of employees working for a private chain of convenience stores. The regional manager had uncovered serious losses in the business and calculated that there had been over £10,000 taken over a 6 month period.

We commenced the investigation with the usual pre-test interview procedure, discussing with each individual employee, the issue under investigation and their personal involvement or lack of involvement, suspicions of whom they think or know were involved and a detailed individual personal history.

We always stress that the easiest way to pass a polygraph is to tell the truth, starting with the pre-test interview stage and continuing throughout the test process.

One individual was identified as being deceptive quite early on in the process. When he was questioned about the results in the post-test phase, he quickly admitted that he had occasionally “borrowed” £5 or £10 from the till but had never taken any more and his total overall would account to no more than £30. When he was challenged as to why he had not admitted those acts in the pre-test interview, he stated he was embarrassed and did not want to be blamed for the larger theft and he didn’t think a little lie would catch him out, as he hadn’t taken the larger amount. Further testing confirmed his statement.

Later, tests on other individuals identified two employees who both admitted diverting deliveries to their uncles’ local corner shop. Armed with the test results the regional manager decided to negotiate with the employees rather than report them to the police. We understand that items were returned and money was paid back to the business by the trio. Both men and the original person tested were later dismissed. Pre-employment testing will save companies money, time and reputation damage and should be part of any professional vetting procedure. No business is too small to be a victim of abuse by employees, a fact that too many companies find out only when it is too late.



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