You Can "Smell" Embezzlement

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Several years ago, my client and I started his medical practice. He became very successful. As he began to understand the practice management portion of his office, it didn’t "smell" right to him.

He thought one of his employees, Peg, was stealing. Before she left on maternity leave, Peg trained a new receptionist, who was inexperienced, sweet though not too bright. When Peg was gone, the theft seemed to stop. When Peg returned, it returned. Now they were working together and the front office was not running properly.

He called me back in to do an evaluation. Peg was very resistant to my questions and did not like me observing her. I asked each employee to fill out a form listing all their duties. Peg was the only one who did not comply.

Over the weekend, the doctor and I were alone in the office. We went through drawers and files in the front office. We found white-out in Peg’s drawer, something he had forbidden months before. We also found an entire file of referred patients without appointments, a problem he thought he had corrected.

We didn’t think the new receptionist was part of the theft, since she didn’t handle the money. But she was not making those appointments.

On Monday, when Peg saw what we removed from her drawer, she was smart enough to know we were on to her. She quit.

Lesson: A swindler plus a sweet and simple employee are a calamitous combination.