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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.

I had one employee who was always in the know. It had even become a joke around the office — this employee seemed to always have his finger on the pulse of whatever was coming. He knew when reorgs were going to happen, when someone big was hired or fired, even the littlest details.

Once, I was on the board of an employee evaluation committee for selecting the employee of the month. This employee was among the newly submitted nominations, and after some quick voting, he was elected next month's employee of the month. The meeting adjourned right after the vote, and because the committee was aware of how quickly he found out about news, we made a point to immediately walk across the hall to where he worked and announce his award and congratulate him. Finally we would be able to surprise him.

As I went to shake his hand he passed me a note in the handshake and smiled. It read, "EOM-I know, Congratulations to myself!" Mind you this was before cellphones, and I was in the room with all the voters, and no one left early. Everyone chalked it up as yet another story that backed up his uncanny ability to sense the future.

It turns out that his uncanny ability was in remotely monitoring PC microphones and even hidden video cameras. He was eventually caught taking video of people in bathrooms — a serious felony.

Red flag No. 4: Says they can hack a coworker or company systems

Most employees who hack coworkers often tell other coworkers that they can easily hack coworkers or company systems. It's strange but often true. If a disgruntled employee verbalizes what they could do if they wanted to, consider yourself warned. In most cases, no one tells leadership about the threat, thinking nothing of it, or if they do, leadership blows it off.

Lesson learned. Verbalizing such a sentiment should be enough to take action. First, educate your employees to report these passive-aggressive threats. When they are reported, take them seriously. Have management talk to the employee with an HR representative present, and search the employee's hard drives for hacking tools and evidence of unauthorized access.

This also applies to employees caught with unauthorized hacking tools (if hacking tools are not part of their job). Ditto for employees found with collections of other users' passwords (if having those passwords are not part of their job).

If an investigation reveals the employee has not been actively hacking in an unauthorized manner, they should be warned that such behavior is not condoned and can result in their immediate dismissal, and their actions should be heavily monitored for a set period.


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