9 Ways to Handle Dishonest Employees

by Greg Skloot
Management   |   4 Min Read

As your team grows, it’s tough to maintain a perfect track record of always hiring perfect people. Once in a while, a bad apple slips into the bunch. In the worst cases, you can end up with a toxic employee on your team. This is someone who is political, difficult to work with, and in some cases, dishonest.

The simple answer of how to handle dishonest employees is: get rid of them. A successful organization can have zero tolerance for dishonest or corrupt employees.

Consider these suggestions for how you identify potentially dishonest employees, and then how to prevent them in the future.

1. Document your cultural values

Ensure you have clear cultural values that are documented and visible. The team needs to be aligned on what the company values are and where the line is that should not be crossed. This may sound silly in the sense of “obviously being dishonest is bad.” However, in some company cultures, people have been acting dishonestly for a long time, so perhaps new employees think that behavior is acceptable. By defining and living by a culture, you ensure that everyone knows where your team stands.

2. Create processes for accountability

Effective organizations create simple processes for keeping the team accountable. For example, in one of my previous companies, we had a particularly ineffective member of our leadership team. He wasn’t delivering on his commitments, and seems to be disengaged from working hard with the rest of the team. When we implemented weekly written status updates, it became abundantly clear that he wasn’t delivering on what he claimed he was working on. He was gone shortly after.

3. Be data-driven and measure everything

When everything is tracked and measured, it’s easier to detect corrupt and dishonest behavior. Goals need to be measured. Expenses need to be closely tracked and have a clear policy for receipts. If you have it in writing, holding people accountable is much easier.

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4. Encourage open feedback and escalation

Build a culture that encourages openness and honesty. If a team member thinks something seems off, she should bring that up and comfortably escalate it to her manager. To build this culture effectively, you will need to lead by example by consistently being transparent and giving feedback.

5. Stay in tune with the details

Leaders cannot get too far in the clouds to where you lose site of the details. That is the prime time for a corrupt employee to do something dishonest. As a manager, you need to be in tune with what your team is working on and the expected results from their projects.

The last 5 points were focused on preventing bad behavior. The next 4 points outline how to hire good employees and prevent a bad apples from getting on your team.

6. Hire based on culture

As you make hiring decisions, look to your cultural values to ensure you don’t let “a wolf in the hen house.” While it’s certainly easier said than done, you should aim to identify poor characters before they end up as employees of the company. Go as far as having a culture checklist and specific interview questions that address each of your values.

7. Have probationary periods

Early probationary periods can help ensure that a new hire aligns with your cultural values and is honest and hardworking. This can be a simple written policy or can go as far as hiring people as consultants for a project before giving them a full time job.

8. Get to know people personally

I like to have dinner with every person I am going to hire. If it’s someone for the senior leadership team, I’d like to meet their family. The more data points I gather, the better I can understand them as a person and ensure they are a good character.

9. Confront when you think there might be an issue

If you suspect there is an issue, do not let it fester. Confront it, honestly and respectfully. If you are wrong, apologize and analyze. If you’re right, it’s best to act swiftly and get that person off the team. In this case, second chances may not be effective.

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