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Employee stealing semen

PD Staff Published on 30 August 2013

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“It had already been a long shift dealing with several other problems when I happened to notice that a semen straw was missing from the tank.

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I keep accurate records and notes when it comes to A.I., so I’m sure the straw wasn’t misplaced.

There are only a couple of workers on the dairy with access to the semen tank, and only one that is working on the current shift – so I’m pretty sure I know who took it. My initial reaction is to confront the employee right then and there. I’m not entirely sure what the heck an employee would do with a semen straw in the first place.

“If the semen straw was intentionally stolen, is it necessary to explain to all of my employees the costs and consequences of stealing from the dairy, even something as unimportant as a semen straw?

Perhaps showing the employees all of the expenses that go into operating a dairy would make them more conscientious about taking care of the dairy’s property? Is that too much information that could backfire? And what should I do with the alleged thief?

Should I immediately fire this employee to make others aware that there are repercussions on the dairy for stealing? This would also set an example to other employees that zero-tolerance for theft will be enforced on my dairy. What should I do?”

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Mary Kraft
Human Resources Director
Quail Ridge and Badger Creek Dairy Farms
Fort Morgan, Colorado

I attended a baseball game with my son’s fourth-grade class. The boys were all given their seat tickets and told to find them. They all did, including one boy who found an adult already in his seat. He politely asked the man to move since that was his seat.

The man blew up at the young man for not reading his ticket properly since he was very sure his ticket was for that particular seat.

This tirade went on for several minutes. After making an embarrassing scene, the attendant arrived and showed the man that he was actually in the next section over. Talk about egg on his face.

I would be concerned the same thing might happen here. If you have no video of the employee taking it – no proof – then you must wait for a different opportunity to confront that person.

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The most you would do here is destroy everyone’s confidence in your “captaining the ship” if you appear to be leaping to conclusions. There are lots of explanations for the missing semen, many of which do not include theft.

But it is an opportunity to start weekly meetings so you can develop a team mentality about the goings-on on the dairy. In a regular format, you can help people understand the business mission, protocols and expected behaviors.

Perhaps the best motivator is to be using the word “our.” Our dairy, our workplace, our livelihood, our trustworthy community.

I believe we are the parents of our dairy family and have to communicate constantly, educating about our values, ethics, standards, expectations and behaviors. You set the tone of your workplace.

That said, you will always be getting new people into your family, and you have to repeat the community speech, which helps everyone.

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Jorge Estrada
President & CEO
Leadership Coaching International

Given a long shift at work, you already feel you have a short fuse, so be aware, since you could have an explosive reaction which will demotivate everyone – so try to cool down before approaching.

Regarding stealing: You are right, this is a great opportunity to establish and enforce on a fundamental principle and policy. By the way, do you have written policies for the dairy?

For something as basic as stealing, many places of work have a written policy that is explained during orientation and on-boarding of new employees and communicated frequently throughout the life of employment.

Whether you have a policy or not, you would serve the situation best by going to the employee directly.

Rather than going directly and accusing the employee, I recommend you approach him with a statement followed by a question, like this: “I just went to the semen tank to check count and I noticed one straw missing, do you know what happened to it?”

If he were to say no, I would be more direct and say, “Only you and the other worker have access to it, and you were here this shift.” I think with this approach you will gain more access to what happened than if you bust into it coming across accusatory.

If the policy is that anyone caught stealing is fired, then you know what you need to do.

Regarding the rest of the team, a day or two after taking action with the alleged employee, have a short meeting; it is an opportunity to go over the policies you are trying to enforce to maintain order, respect and a pleasant working environment.

It is also an opportunity to describe the consequences to these types of actions and to cover the economic impact on the dairy.

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Steve Riesenbeck
Dairy Management Consultant
DairyWorks

The key word here is “alleged” thief. It sounds more like speculation than confidence that you are positive this employee stole the straw.

You don’t have the proof for an immediate termination based on theft; what you do have is a platform to establish “this is how we do it here.” Establish a check and balance and send a message that this type of activity will not be tolerated.

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Re-enforce the “three strikes” of a verbal warning, a written warning and then termination.

Make sure everyone knows there is a system in place to track and monitor (in this case semen inventory) on a routine basis and people will be held accountable for their actions.

You would be more than justified to give this employee a warning based on the fact he did not check inventory at the end of his shift, if that is what the protocol said to do.

I am not recommending checking semen inventory every shift due to the potential negative impact on semen quality. I am merely making a point that management establishes the protocols, and if they are not followed, there are consequences and discipline or re-training.

As you stated, you are not entirely sure what the heck an employee would do with a semen straw … It most likely was an inadvertent incident that an employee felt wasn’t important.

One possibility could have been something as simple as using an improper technique (not using forceps to grab the straw from the cane of semen, resulting in dropping a straw to the bottom of the tank).

By not coming to you to explain what happened, it became a real issue when presented after you had a “long shift dealing with several other problems.”

Employees make decisions all the time. All decisions are not “cowside.” The goal is to develop a system for these decisions to reflect management’s goals. Be clear, fair and firm. But first, be sure the systems you have in place are trained to the crew and understood by all. PD

Illustration by Fredric Ridenour.

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