If you hire a thief, you’re responsible

Question:

I’ve supported myself and my kids for three years by cleaning houses. Five months ago, I got tired of turning potential new clients down and decided it was time to hire one or two cleaners to work for me. So I got a business license, opened a company bank account and made two hires. Both were women I knew well from working out with them at the Alaska Club.

It turns out one’s a thief.

At first, I didn’t believe it, because some of the people we clean for throw amazing things away and when we take them out of the trash there’s always the risk they’ll see us wearing or using these items and claim we stole them.

But my client, who’s been my client for more than a year, contacted the police and apparently my new employee did steal. Now my client’s suing me. I can’t believe it, as I’m not the one who stole. I reminded her that I’ve cleaned her house for a year, am a young mother struggling to support myself and have suffered from this, as she and two other clients dropped me for what I DIDN’T do. The conversation turned ugly and I admit I screamed at her.

What do I do – besides never hire anyone ever again?

Answer:

Your clients trust you with access to their homes. When you hire employees, you say to your clients: “This person represents me. Since you trust me, you can trust that I wouldn’t bring anyone into your home who would steal.”

You say you knew both new hires well because you worked out with them. Did you conduct background checks on them? If not, you breached your clients’ trust. Over the years, I’ve used Alaska’s Court View to check out potential house cleaners and found a surprising number of them have theft records.

Here’s what you do. Realize that you’re both a victim and someone responsible. You need to own responsibility when you have it. Call your former client and apologize, both for screaming and for giving a thief access to her home. Ask her if there’s some way, short of a lawsuit that won’t recover much for her, to work this out.

Meanwhile, my hat’s off to you for supporting three kids and starting a business. You’ve learned a painful lesson but you’ve got grit. Good luck.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com

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