We recently received an email from the Manager of a nursing home regarding theft from an elderly resident. With her permission we are publishing her query as we believe other care home managers will be interested in the response from our Warwickshire polygraph examiner. We have changed the location details to protect the Manager’s privacy and that of the home.
Polygraph employee screening
In June this year I became the Manager of a lovely nursing home in the Cotswolds. I’m in a bit of a dilemma since I have only been in the job a short while. The care workers and nurses I inherited are mainly wonderful but I’ve got a problem with one girl who is related to the owner of our facility. I’ve always had an interest in forensic psychology and regularly read your blog. Your articles regarding pre-employment screening and theft in the workplace hit a nerve. I am trying to find a way to get this girl to take a lie detector test and wonder if you have a Warwickshire Polygraph Examiner who can advise me.
Looking back on past records there have been a few incidents that have occurred over the years. Complaints are few but those that have been made related to unexplained bruises on residents, worries that residents are not being fed adequately and theft. All complaints have been promptly addressed and successfully resolved with no action taken against the home. However, as a new manager I want zero complaints and to be able to trust all my staff implicitly.
I’ve suggested to the owner that he inserts a polygraph screening clause into our employment contracts so that staff members take periodic lie detector tests. At the time he said he wouldn’t object to it but has so far done nothing about it.
Theft in the workplace
Within our contracts of employment we do say employees are subject to random security checks. Not long after my appointment as manager a resident complained of a missing bracelet. I searched the lockers of employees who had been on that particular shift. I didn’t find anything but a week later an ornament which had huge sentimental value went out of a dementia resident’s room. As you can imagine this was horrible for an already frail and confused lady and her family.
There were three members of staff on that wing during the shift when it went missing. I checked their references. One was great, another seemed to have references pending but no follow up had been done and the other was the girl who is friendly with the owner. Her file has very little in it apart from basic background checks and certainly no references. Her response to the missing ornament was to ask how the resident would know it was missing when she had dementia. And how did we know that she hadn’t moved it?
I reprimanded her for this and gave her a written warning for her conduct. She denies taking anything and I’m wondering if there is any way I could make her take a lie detector test to prove what she’s done. I think you can change the terms of someone’s contract with enough notice but I’m not sure, what do you think?
- F., Warwickshire
Response from Warwickshire Polygraph Examiner
Thank you for your enquiry which has been passed to me for response.
To immediately answer your question – no, you can’t make anyone take a lie detector test. Your employee would have to agree to it. However, all is not lost.
If contract renewals are due you can insert a polygraph clause in them. You’ll need to draw attention to the clause to ensure that existing employees are aware of it and are prepared to accept it. For prospective employees naturally your new contracts can include a polygraph clause. Another way of getting employees to accept periodic lie detector tests is to send a memo to them. Tell them to read it carefully, sign the memo and return it to you.
If you have a lot of staff our SCAN (Scientific Content Analysis) questionnaire is a more effective route to take. Staff members complete a questionnaire and their answers are analysed to identify deception. For smaller groups of employees periodic lie detector tests are ideal.
In terms of the theft issue you have right now, you might want to call us for some advice as to how you can persuade the suspected employee to agree to a test. One obvious way is to ask all employees to take a test and send the one you suspect to me first. If deception is found, there is no need to test the others. In this way no one feels that they have been singled out.
As a Warwickshire Polygraph Examiner, I can tell you that you are not the first nursing home to have experienced this problem and likely won’t be the last. I have many nursing home clients who have implemented periodic lie detector tests and they have seen a significant decrease in theft and abuse.
I will also be happy to discuss our polygraph services with the home owner either at your facility or in my office. Nowadays with so much focus on abuse and theft in care homes, lie detector tests are a small price to pay for maintaining or restoring an excellent reputation.
I look forward to hearing from you in due course.