When a Good Manager Goes Bad: Protecting Your Self-Storage Investment From Employee Theft

By Linnea Appleby Comments
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Theft of time. Taking an extra hour here and there to get a haircut, tires rotated, doctor appointments or other personal errands is theft of time. So is solitaire, reading, Facebook, Internet surfing, watching TV, excessive cell-phone use and taking tips for helping tenants unload their truck on your time. Double-dipping is not allowed.

Firing an Employee

So, here you are. You’ve discovered a long-term trusted employee is stealing. It might be the first time; he’ll swear it is. Most likely it isn't, and you both know it.

The trust is broken. He knew it was wrong and did it anyway. He promises to never do it again, but it’s too late; there are no second chances with theft. He knew the consequences. Your only option is to terminate his employment.

When you uncover theft, it must be dealt with swiftly. Once you know, any waffling or delay on your part sends the wrong message to the rest of the staff. Terminating a good manager for theft is difficult for both parties. It’s a position in which neither of you expected to be. There are feelings of betrayal, denial, embarrassment, shock and guilt. It can be particularly difficult when the manager lives on site and now needs to vacate the premises quickly. In some cases, there may be legal action involved.

Schedule the termination and get it done at the soonest opportunity. Rearrange your schedule if needed and, most important, prepare. Plan what you’re going to say, then keep it short and get to the point. If you need to, write it down so you don’t get pulled off your message. Have a witness, if possible. Explain the circumstances or events that led to your decision. There’s no need to review every infraction one by one or even have much of a dialog. Keep your emotions out of it and beware of being drawn into his. It’s not personal; this is business. It should take less than five minutes.

Change the locks immediately, collect any keys and company items. Remove his access from the software and gate systems, call-center and alarm-contact lists. Set a date by which he will vacate the apartment and storage unit, and make arrangements for him to retrieve his personal items from the office. Conduct a complete audit. What else don’t you know? If you’ve been a little lax in audits, now’s a good time to catch up, review and re-evaluate your business.

Whether it’s a good manager gone bad from the events of life or one just looking for a buck on the side, there’s no middle ground when theft is discovered. The trust is now gone and it cannot be repaired. Be aware of what’s happening in your manager’s life and keep an eye out for early signs of theft. Audit with random regularity. If something seems suspicious, question and investigate until you’re satisfied with the answers. If there is theft, there’s no going back. Make it quick, then move on.

Linnea Appleby is the owner of Lime Tree Management, a self-storage management and consulting firm in Sarasota, Fla. For more information, call 941.350.7859; e-mail lappleby@limetreemanagement.com .

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