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But We Trusted Her…The Psychology of Employee Theft

It’s an old story. She was a popular employee with a large smile and a friendly voice for everyone. She never took a vacation. She was always at work and ready to help with any issue. Her bosses loved her.

Looking back, there were signs that things were “off”. She bought a new car every year despite having three teenagers to support. Her clothes were expensive, and she wore fabulous jewelry. Her husband was disabled, so she wasn’t getting the money from him. Everyone was too polite to ask, of course.

One day her new car was broadsided by an old station wagon, and she landed in the hospital. Her coworkers in the accounting department prayed for her quick recovery. They all volunteered to work extra to get her job done in her absence because they wanted to repay her for all the times she had done the same for them.

No one would believe it at first. Her coworkers wanted to know who the new vendors she was paying were. Nobody in the accounting department had heard of them. Why did they all have the same address? There were also orders to old vendors, but no receiving documents to show that the items were ever received. Then one-by-one, long-time suppliers would cautiously tell the same story of a woman who played part-time extortioner. She would offer to continue to do business with them…for a price. After all, she told them, no one cares if the janitorial or computer support vendors change as long as her bosses were happy. If anyone asked, she would spin a story. Everyone at work loved her.

They couldn’t help but wonder why she did it. They were very kind to her and gave her the run of the accounts payable department. She was independent and had practically no one breathing down her back.

The fraud seemed to start about four years ago when her husband had heart surgery. She wasn’t so stylish back then. In fact, she seemed sad and scared most of the time. Everyone was praying for things to get better for her. It looked like they did.

The bosses were reluctant to press charges because of the publicity. However, they decided it was best to hold her accountable.

She was defensive in court. She told everyone who would listen that she was the company’s best employee. She stayed late, she covered shifts for everyone, and she ran the accounts payable department all by herself. Why were they so ungrateful?