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You can use a polygraph test to catch an employee... But only in these six instances!

by , 10 October 2013
A colleague of mine was telling us about her friend, Joe, who's having a big issue in his company. Someone stole about R50 000 worth of items from their work safe.
While on leave, Joe gave a manager the code to the safe over the phone. The manager repeated it twice while another two employees were there. The safe needs two people to open it... One with a key and one with the combination. Both employees present had a key, and since then everything's missing from the safe.

Joe wants to know if he can make the manager and the other two employees undergo polygraph tests. He can, and so can you if you suspect employees of theft.

But only in these six instances...

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You can only use polygraph tests in six situations:
  1. Where employees had access to the property that's the subject of your inquiry. For instance, money disappears from your safe and only three people have access to it. You can safely assume it can only be one of these people who stole it.
  1. Where you have a reason to suspect the employee's involvement. If someone steals a painting from your office and your CCTV camera picks up an employee leaving the office. It looks like he has a painting covered with a cloth when he leaves. It's safe to assume he was involved.
  1. Where there's been financial loss or injury to your business. You created your business strategy for the next five years, but only four other people have seen it. Your competitors get a hold of it, so you know it can only be one of the four who gave it to them.
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Three more instances when you can use a polygraph test
  1. To combat dishonesty in positions of trust. For example, this applies to your accounts department responsible for money. You can conduct random polygraph tests to make sure they don't steal money from you.
  1. Where you're preventing fraud in the company. This applies the same principle as situation 4.
  2. Where you're combating forged documents and dishonesty about the identity of people. If a syndicate is targeting you by issuing fraudulent cheques to fake suppliers, you know someone in your company's helping them. This is because the fake signatures are credible and the culprits have your template used for printing cheques. You can ask all individuals with access to the template to undergo a polygraph test.
Only do polygraphs on employees you reasonably suspect might have committed the misconduct in question. Don't single out a specific employee of the 'suspected' group of employees.
And before you do the polygraph, you must get their consent… Go to P07: Polygraph tests in your Labour Law for Managers Handbook to make sure you do everything by the book. Still not a subscriber? Click here now.
Until next time,

Taryn Strugnell

P.S. Do you have a pressing labour or HR question about theft and dishonesty in your company? You can get an answer. Go to www.labourandhrclub.co.za

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