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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.

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.

But as technology becomes more powerful and computer systems become increasingly rife with sensitive data, one facet of the people side of IT finds itself under increased scrutiny: Trust.

Over the past three decades, I've made wonderful hires, people that my gut told me were the right candidates for the job, then went on to prove themselves beyond my wildest expectations. But every once in a while, I've missed early warnings signs that an otherwise great candidate or talented, hardworking employee lacked, let's call it, a strong moral compass.

When someone you admired, trusted, and invested yourself in ends up embezzling from the company, illegally accessing private emails, or using customer credit card data to buy computer equipment for their home, your incorrectly placed trust in that person will haunt you.

The truth is you can't always tell who has the potential to go rogue. But over the course of my career, I have found a few red flags to watch out for. None is surefire, and it's always good to give folks the benefit of the doubt. Consider the following to be less a litmus test than a set of hard-earned lessons in dealing with employees who've gone rogue.

Red flag No. 1: Unexpectedly fails background check

One of the best hires I've made over the past three decades was a woman who told me she made a horrible mistake when she was a teenager. She had been part of a group of employees on a U.S. Federal Navy base commissary who had been caught claiming customer refunds that were not real. She was prosecuted in federal court, and unlike the common throwaway line, this fraudulent act ended up on her permanent record.

During my interview with her, she was very candid about the incident and seemed very contrite. She assured me it would not happen again. The background check revealed it was the only trouble she had ever gotten in — not even a speeding ticket to her name.

I hired her and she remains a top performer 10 years later. She's a manager now. Her employees love her, and she's never let us down. Perhaps not surprising, she was also one of my best colleagues when it came to spotting rogue employees. This is an invaluable skill. It's also testament to the fact that no company or employer should automatically discount hiring someone who is able to demonstrate they have left prior bad decisions behind.

 

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