When Bad Things Happen by Good People

The biggest disappoint that I ever face is when someone betrays the trust that I have put in them.  It happens, not all the time, but occasionally, on a personal and business level.

A large part of the issue is that I inherently believe in the goodness of people.  Everyone is honorable until they prove otherwise.  I would hate to think that my assumption is a “problem” but it does open the opportunity for disappointment.

Up to this point in my life, my biggest disappointments in this area seem to be business related (mainly because my children have never disappointed me!) and, being in retail, the breaking of trust can cause more financial damage that most other businesses.

Here is how I see it.  Someone comes to us looking for work.  We agree to hire them to work for us in one of our stores.  We reach an agreement that the employee is receiving a fair wage for the work performed.  To me, the agreement is that we will provide employment, compensation, and the opportunity to advance and improve the employee’s skill level and compensation rate.  In exchange, the employee will take care of our customers, operate our stores to our standards, and protect our assets.

Based upon this relationship, we leave that employee, sometimes with colleagues on duty but sometimes alone, responsible for tens of thousands of dollars worth of assets and inventory.  Why do we do that?  Because we trust them.

But, every once in a while, as with all retail businesses, an employee walks away with cash or inventory that they have not earned.  I know the excuses – hard economic times, emergency financial situations, disgruntled with the company, temptation.  But these are just excuses and not reasons.

What has happened is a break of trust.  It hurts.  Deeply.  Whether I personally know the individual or not I always have the feeling of “how can someone do this”?

In talking to the perpetrators I’ve often heard that they did it because no one was going to get hurt – just the company.  But they don’t take into consideration that the company is made up of individuals.  If we lose money through theft then we can’t pay our employees or offer them better wages or benefits.  The money that comes into our company goes back to the employees as we try to a better business and work place.

If the result of that theft is someone who is innocent of wrongdoing loses their job – then someone was hurt.

From a business perspective it is pretty clear cut.  CMSI is responsible, above a certain limit, for losses at a store through theft.  These folks are our employees and our systems are in place and we are responsible to our clients.  We have the ability to find out who stole and how much is missing and we prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.  Therefore, not only is money lost but yet another life is wrecked.

As upset and angry as I get about such a break of trust I work very hard to give people the benefit of the doubt from the beginning.  It is easy to be cynical and untrusting but I don’t want to live in that kind of world.