When Employees Sabotage Our Business

When Employees Sabotage Our Business

Most of us our aware when we ourselves sabotage our business, out of fear of success, or some other subconscious belief. And when this is happening, we ourselves may not be immediately conscious of it. Until it happens enough for us to take notice and fix it! And business owners can also be unaware when an employee does the same thing.

For example, many of the clients I worked with took a hit during this most recent recession. And, given that many businesses were no longer around, the fact that my clients were standing was a testament to their tenacity. But often, their long time employees don’t necessarily see it that way. They blamed my clients for the bad times, and seemed oblivious (from my perspective) of my clients having taken such good care of their employees when the times were good.

However, the employees just wanted great bonuses and lots of overtime, even when the market was no longer allowing for that. So when hours became cut, the holiday party, bonuses and vacations were cut – there was resentment. A few employees out and out started stealing from these companies. Others were claiming hours worked that were bogus. (Another form of stealing.) Which is of course a much easier thing to manage and address than more subtle forms of sabotage.

More subtle forms of sabotage can actually be more costly and are often overlooked because it is with the day to day operations staff in the office, not in the field or on the floor.

Some examples of this type of sabotage I have seen from either employees with an agenda (i.e. actually working for a competitor) or simply feeling angry include:

* Passwords being changed to intentionally lock the owners out of their financial data. (This is really common, so don’t give anyone else full rights to your financial systems or other important systems.)

* Files simply not being put in any order either electronically or inside the paper files intentionally. I’m not talking about 1 or 2 files, I’m talking about intentional disruption of process by placing key files inside a file marked “misc” or similar shenanigans. Intentional ignoring of electronic naming conventions, refusal to use the shared filing system, etc.

* Bills for really important things like internet or electricity “forgotten.”

* Hacking of company systems once an employee has been fired.  (which means stop using simply passwords and changing 1 letter or number)

I’ve seen client take 10-12 months to recover from just 1 employee inside their operations office intentionally sabotaging them and their business.

So here’s my advice.

If things are going great, start implementing a knowledge management plan right now. And also make sure you, as the owner, have access to all systems that cannot be changed by anyone else. Think of these things as insurance.

And if you unfortunately do have a key employee you think could be sabotaging your business, go ahead and talk with them. See if by venting their frustrations and you reaffirming their role and responsibilities the issue can be resolved.

And, as you are giving them that chance (with a time limit in your mind as to how long they have to turn things around) be actively making sure they are replaceable. And as soon as they are out the door, either by their own choosing, or yours – change all the passwords to any accounts they may have had to things they would NOT think would be the logical next passwords. And before they leave, make sure you have a checklist of their daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly tasks documented – so you can double check that you have everything you need.

(In consulting we call this Knowledge Transfer/ Knowledge Management. More on how to develop a strategy for this in another article Capturing Employee Knowledge Through Knowledge Management.)

So how about you? Are there any areas of sabotage occurring in your business? If so, how are you dealing with them?

And for those who want a little humor to their situation: Here’s The Beastie Boys with Sabotage.

For more on employyes, see Capturing Employee Knowledge Through Knowledge Management