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When Someone Has Been Into the Cookie Jar

It would appear that they have found at least one of the people responsible for setting some of the fires in California. Such events make one want to punish the person responsible and yet, what can be done to pay for what has happened? You cannot go back and replace all of the pictures, letters, and so many intangible items that were destroyed. You cannot undo the violation of trust, security, and community.

It made me think about ways that are required to handle situations inside a company when someone has violated rules, procedures, or the law. A few days ago Seth Godin posted a piece about a story regarding 800 Apple employees who, after receiving a free iPhone, tried to also grab the $100 rebate that was offered to people who bought one early on. I went over to the original story at ARS Technica's Infinite Loop Blog. The comments are the best part. The comments on Digg are also pretty good.

Should they have been fired?

What would you do to such employees?

$100 is not that much is it?

The trouble is that our society has gotten soft on "little" crimes or crimes where the person cannot payback for what they have done. Sure, we all want to be given a second chance when we make a mistake, but at some point, this is just abusing the tolerance, or charity, of others.  In some cases, this is just trying to see what one can get away with.

Given today's laws, you can fire a person for theft, but you cannot tell anyone about it. You can be sued for telling the truth! Granted you probably could win but the cost would be significant.

The violation of trust is a big factor in how we feel after we find an employee breaking the law or trying to steal from the company.  It is this feeling that must be controlled so that the response is appropriate. Gather all the facts and try to understand the motivation. It might just be a misunderstanding. Reduce fear on both sides so that as much truth as possible can be put on the table.

In the end, I believe Apple did the right thing. These people showed a lack of judgment, a willingness to steal, and are good candidates to repeat the offense. If they really did learn from their mistake, then so much the better for their next employer.  If they did not, then their next employer will suffer because no one can expose them for what they are; thieves.

What message is sent to those who did not steal if you do nothing?

What is your thought on this?

4 Comments/Trackbacks

Good post, Roger. I am less concerned with the punishment than I am with the lack of values driving people to commit such acts. To fix this, we need to start at the beginning of people's lives: It's too late once they become adults. Then all we can do is punish.

I don't think we owe anyone a job who cannot be trusted. That may seem like punishment to some but I think it is consequence.

Great Post. I would give them a choice: own up to it and tell their team at least, or pack their things and go. Those who won't own up, I'm better off without. Those who want to stay enough to admit are serving my values better by becoming an example to the rest.

To answer your question, I think firing them without creating a clear statement for the rest to see isn't good enough, and I'm sure even within the limitations of this law you mentioned, more can be done.

I think you have it moving in the right direction. I believe the opportunity to own up is a very good suggestion.

As for the law, well all you are advised to say by lawyers, who know what can get you into trouble, is to confirm that the person did work there, the date of hiring and departure, and salary. Any observations about character, behavior, or personality will invite a lawsuit. You can tell the truth but it may cost you. That is a very sad thing to have to write, but true.

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