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7 warning signs an employee has gone rogue

Roger A. Grimes | March 3, 2015
For all the emphasis on tools and gizmos, IT is still very much about the people who develop and use said tools and gizmos. Collaboration, mutual respect, passion for the work -- all this and more are essential to a beneficial outcome, whether your IT group is shipping code, swatting bugs, working with business users, or securing company systems.

Contrast that with the few other job candidates who didn't tell me of their criminal records and instead waited for the required background check to reveal their unlawful histories. This lie by omission has become a deal-breaker for me. Usually by the time the background check comes in, I will have already hired the person and they will have started work in a provisional role. It's quite a shock to find that someone you've put time and trust in hasn't been upfront with you. Yes, many people are hesitant to reveal past criminal transgressions, but trust is either won or lost right at the beginning.

This was a hard-learned lesson. The one employee I kept on after they committed this transgression ended up stealing thousands of dollars in computer equipment from the company. I found out when he asked me to drop by his house to help diagnose possible malware on his home computer. When I entered his abode, I saw that he had a multi-thousand-dollar computer rack, computers, and networking equipment identical to what we had at work. When he realized I recognized the equipment, his expression was clear. It had been a mistake to invite me to his house, at least without first hiding the stolen equipment.

He tried to convince me it was depreciated equipment that accounting had already written off and he had verbal permission from the previous boss to take the equipment home for "training" purposes. A quick phone call and a check of the visible company serial numbers confirmed this was active equipment. Luckily most criminals aren't exactly masterminds.

Red flag No. 2: Says past employers didn't trust them

A saying has borne me well in life: "If you're always the victim, you're probably the problem." Many employees, if not most, have had bad experiences with one or a few previous employers. Often it's why they left. But if an employee complains about all his or her past employers, you're guaranteed to join the list over the slightest provocation.

Here, the red flags are complaints that past employers didn't trust them — especially if they then relate stories where common sense takes a backseat or is absent altogether. I remember one employee who complained that his old employer didn't like him looking at executive payroll files. I did a little monitoring and found he was accessing all sorts of data he didn't have a good reason to. I'm sure I was added to his list.

Red flag No. 3: Knows information they shouldn't

An employee who always seems to know what is going on before it is generally announced should probably be viewed with suspicion. This may be tricky to assess at first, but here pattern recognition is your friend.


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