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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.

You may think I'm being too tough, but decades of experience have taught me to nip these threats in the bud. I've found a few employees with data they should not have, and I believe treating the event seriously can help remind innocent employees to toe the line and stay out of trouble.

Red flag No. 5: Switches screens away from company assets as you walk up

The scenario plays out often: Stop by a cubicle, and watch the coworker quickly flip to a new screen. More than likely they are trying to hide the fact that they are goofing off and not doing company-related work.

But if you see them switching screens when they are obviously working on company assets, that is a huge red flag. Any company website or database they are working in should be able to be seen by a team leader. If this happens more than a few times, make sure you investigate properly.

Red flag No. 6: Never takes vacation

An old accounting canard says to be wary of employees who never take vacations. Because they have to constantly cover up their tracks so they don't get caught, they simply can't take a day off. This is why many companies force employees to take vacation.

I once worked with a woman who had been at the company for more than four decades. She was a hard worker, loved by everyone, although a bit cranky at times. She also never took a vacation, even when threatened. I was her boss for five years. At every annual review I would note that she didn't take a vacation and I would cajole her to take one. She would say something nice or funny in response and say she would soon. But the next year would roll around and still no vacation.

The third year I threatened to fire her if she wouldn't take a vacation. I even marked down her review score and reduced her bonus. Still she did not take a vacation, but I couldn't follow through with the threat. She had been with the company so long, and I had a soft spot for her, as everyone did.

In the fifth year we forced her to take a week's vacation. Lo and behold she continued to show up during the week to "see how things were going" in her absence. I physically had to escort her off the premises. I was truly worried about her health given how much she worked.

Then the checks started to arrive — it turned out she was getting kickback checks from all sorts of telco-related companies for more than 20 years. She had also given her son a job doing telco in the company, one for which he never showed up, and the company was paying for both their cars. In total, she had stolen more than half a million dollars over the course of 20 years.


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