Is it possible that the productivity and morale of your team suffering at the hands of toxic employee cliques? An uncomfortable workplace atmosphere or a downturn in performance might not lead you to think first of toxic employees. You might question the competency of your leadership or your own business strategy first, but a negative evolution within corporate culture can have a surprisingly erosive impact—often going unnoticed until substantial damage has been done.
At a most basic level, the formation of toxic employee cliques inevitably leads to a loss of profits, stalling workplace momentum, operational issues, and a rise in staff turnover. At the more insidious end of the scale, toxic culture can culminate in discrimination or workplace harassment complaints, and all of the potential legal and reputational complications that can follow.
Of course, every organization wants to see its employees get along. Strong working relationships can foster fantastic morale and cohesion when those bonds are healthy. So, how can employers tell the difference? Here, we will examine some of the tell-tale signs that a toxic employee clique may be impacting your business, and how professional workplace investigations can help you transform corporate culture for the better.
Negative Narratives Become Currency in the Workplace
While feedback is a vital progression tool within any company, a constant negative undertone is a strong indicator that toxic employees may be steering the dominant narrative within a workplace. That chronic negativity may manifest as gossip, backstabbing, or rumor spreading, or it may appear in more passive-aggressive forms—such as body language, sarcastic tones, disrespecting boundaries, cynicism, victimhood, and undermining others.
While team members of course need to vent on occasion, holding workplace narratives within a negative frame leaves no oxygen in the room for motivation, objective seeking, or innovative thinking. Toxicity tends to nourish itself, relegating the needs of others and of the company itself to the wayside.
A Tight-Knit Group Shows Signs of Ostracizing Others
Those who are embraced by a toxic employee clique may not notice the need for alarm bells immediately. However, for those left on the outside, the impact of a workplace clique’s presence will be felt immediately. Those excluded will begin to feel undervalued, dissatisfied, and demotivated. Meanwhile, the root cause of lost productivity and a dropping bottom line can remain elusive for those who don’t know the warning signs. While workplace friendships can be immensely valuable, they should never come at a cost to colleagues’ well-being, or company success.
Toxic Employee Clique Behavior Slides Into Bullying
While some forms of bullying are obvious, workplace bullying can be surprisingly hard to spot—especially when toxic employees resort to covert or manipulative behavior. While hostility to colleagues can take place within the workplace, cyberbullying can become pervasive before management even notice a blip on the radar. When toxic employee cliques demand conformity, both those within and outside of the group can start to avoid creative thinking, out of fear or reprisal. This waste of professional talent means less innovation within your business, and less work satisfaction for your employees.
Toxic Employee Cliques Thrive When Left Unaddressed
Failing to call out toxic employee behavior inevitably validates and emboldens the clique mindset, while further disempowering those outside of that unhealthy inner circle. Valuable and committed employees may well seek a better work environment elsewhere, while new recruits will be vulnerable to getting sucked into quickly-entrenched patterns of damaging behavior. As the performance of others begins to suffer, those within a toxic clique may respond competitively, showcasing their comparative strength and actively sabotaging co-workers.
Tacking Toxic Employee Cliques Head On
Many leaders and company owners don’t consider the value of corporate investigations until a major incident occurs. However, conducting a thorough investigation at the first point of suspicion—or even as a maintenance strategy—can allow organizations to nip toxic behavior in the bud before it begins to spread. Tactics such as breaking up cliques by asking employees to take on projects in different groups, or reworking—and re-training—codes of online and in-office conduct can be effective.
However, it is essential to understand the scale of the problem in order to resolve it effectively. The impartial assistance of an expert investigator can be invaluable in revealing an honest picture of the current corporate culture within your organization. Learn more about the Corporate Culture Audits and Corporate Investigations offered by Lauth Investigations. Not only will we help you uncover the true state of play, but we will aid you in drawing a road map towards the type of workplace culture that will allow all of your employees to shine.
When corporations make the investment to evaluate their corporate culture, it’s important that they choose a vendor who offers a comprehensive audit program. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) saw an overall increase of 13.6% of sexual harassment filings in 2018. That’s not counting other filings for discrimination based on age, race, and sexual orientation. This has placed corporations on high alert as the nation’s capitalist climate gears up for change in their workplaces. This means that when leadership opts for a corporate culture audit, it’s important that their money is well-spent, and one of the best moves to make is hiring private investigators to handle the audit.
Many corporate culture audits are performed by independent risk assessment firms, which is to be expected. Risk assessment firms specialize in identifying the weak points in a business from their workforce background to their brick and mortar security. However, if leadership is going to invest in improving their corporate culture, it’s important that they pick a program that offers comprehensive services. While risk assessment firms might employ highly capable auditors capable of identifying security oversight or performing background checks, every business is different, and it’s important that the program selected fit every business true-to-form. That’s where a private investigator can be an invaluable asset.
Private investigators as a profession have a lurid
reputation for following philandering spouses and people suspected of worker’s
compensation fraud. The same tool chest that allows them to perform those
services is the same one that makes them ideal candidates to perform corporate
culture audits. Private investigators have an eye for detail, diligent drive,
and a meticulous ability to evaluate and make recommendations based on what
they’ve observed. These are the types of professionals you want when it comes
to assessing the culture of your business or organization.
Independent risk assessment firms are just as excellent in
identifying the risk factors that put a business or organization at risk, such
as vulnerabilities in their securities, faulty hiring processes, and at-risk
employees based on their history—but what about the human element within a
corporate culture audit? Corporate culture audits are so much more than
comparing documents and surveying brick-and-mortar locations. It’s also about
understanding how current employees function in a workplace ecosystem. Private
investigators, with a wealth of experience in evaluating human behavior and
emotions, can be the boots-on-the-ground investigators who can speak with
current employees and collect data on their impressions of the current work
environment and how the culture can be improved. Some of the questions private
investigators may address include, but are not limited to:
everyone in the company invested in the same things?
are the valued differences between your corporation and the competition?
are the key measures of success within your company?
is the functionality of the leadership in place versus the leadership required
are the environmental factors that are contributing to the decline in culture?
is the history of your company’s culture from its foundation?
are the subcultures that have formed in your organization and what is their
role within the company?
By answering these questions and calculating the human responses, private investigators can provide executive leadership with recommendations based on more than what exists on paper; for example, the last item on that list regarding the identification of subcultures. Private investigators do not only look at the behavior of individual employees, but also how those employees relate to each other. In workspaces where there are employees of 10 or more, it is hyper-common for subcultures (or groups) to form. This happens when individual employees gravitate towards one another as a result of their shared interests, goals, or gripes. Their comradery can either contribute to the cycle of corporate culture, or undermine it. When a subculture forms because the employees all have similar degrees of dissatisfaction with their job (regardless of the reason), their validation of one another in solidarity can be a cancer within the organization. This is why it’s imperative to hire corporate culture auditors who have a high level of understanding of human behavior—they can provide a comprehensive picture of how their current employees are contributing to the cycle of corporate culture.
private investigators may not be able to dismantle subcultures, they can change
the conversation within those subcultures. Groups of employees who bond over
poor treatment from a supervisor or frustration with current internal processes
will have to find other things to talk about once these issues are addressed
and remedied appropriately. This is one of the ways that we improve the cycle
of corporate culture. When employees see pervasive issues being addressed by
leadership, they are inherently more engaged in the process, which can increase
the quality of communication, the level of productivity, and the overall health
of the workplace. Private investigators are some of the best professionals to perform
these audits ultimately because they have a grasp of human behavior that allows
them to accurately pinpoint the issues and make recommendations to leadership.
The growing awareness of sexual abuse in the media has the public on high alert in all walks of life—a steady stream of investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct within religious communities, sport teams and franchises, civil service, and the workplace to name a few. It seems like every week the news cycle is dominated by another story in which a religious leader is denounced following allegations of sexual abuse against minor members of congregation. Investigations into United States Olympic teams have the parents of minor athletes with their ears to the ground, as the horror of Larry Nassar’s crimes continue to shake out in civil court. Leaders within these communities are educating themselves on how the power structure of these institutions leaves minors vulnerable and in many cases are depending on the services of independent private investigators to conduct unbiased, thorough investigations.
In cases where there are allegations of abuse, there is an immediate division between the survivor and the alleged predator. Many of the parties involved will immediately fall on one side or the other. Employers, colleagues, and public relations representatives in the alleged abuser’s life will begin a rash of character defenses, claiming that there’s no way an individual as friendly/respected/admired as them could be capable of such disgusting actions. Parents and loved ones in the survivor’s life will rally in support as they attempt to take on not just their abuser, but potentially an entire institution as well. All of the parties directly involved have a stake in the outcome of the investigation. Institutions that are suspicious of predatory behavior in their ranks often prefer to handle the investigation in-house, using their own investigators in the form of management, attorneys, or employees in another supervisory capacity to do the fact-finding. Not only can the qualifications of these individuals range across a spectrum of investigative prowess, but because they are employed by the employer of the abuser, they likely will have some sort of bias as an investigator. This is why it’s so important to hire an independent, third party private investigator from the onset of any allegations of abuse. Like any unimpeachable structure, the integrity starts at the foundation, with thorough fact-finding by an experienced, qualified investigator. Ethically, a private investigator’s only loyalty is to the truth, and without any stake in the outcome of an investigation, their findings can withstand a higher level of scrutiny than an investigator employed by the abuser’s corporation or institution.
The most qualified private investigators for sexual abuse investigations have a wide array of experiences in multiple areas of criminal justice. Unlike the resumes of corporation and institutional employees, they will have likely majored in an area of criminal justice, have worked law enforcement, have been retained by either the prosecution or defense to assist in a case, and have an intimate knowledge of criminal procedures and investigative methods. Independent private investigators have to be able to work multiple angles in an abuse investigation, vetting every statement by survivors and witnesses, as well as doing thorough fact-finding on the alleged abuser in the form of an extensive background check, with special focus on their work history and criminal record. This kind of comprehensive groundwork lays a strong foundation for any litigation that might take place following the solution of the investigation. And because the private investigator is an objective third-party, the case will have integrity in a court of law.
Another specialty of a seasoned private investigator is surveillance and undercover operations. An investigator who is able to move through a crowd completely unnoticed, melting into the background while they keep an eye on the subject. Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking like you belong, and surveilling the subject from a short distance, or keeping a digital eye on the subject in the form of a camera or tracking device. Regardless, subjects behave most naturally when they do not know they are being watched. Hiding in plain sight, private investigators are able to document an abuser’s movements, correspondence, associates, and schedule to establish means and opportunity with regard to the allegations. Private investigators specializing in undercover operations have an advantage when interviewing witnesses and subjects, building a rapport that allows them to open up to the investigator. This form of subterfuge is often crucial in abuse investigations, particularly if the allegations have not yet become public knowledge. This time is valuable to an undercover operative, because when there are abuse allegations in an institution, there is often a circumventing culture of silence within it. Employees and associates are instructed not to speak to press or law enforcement regarding the allegations, there has not been need for any sort of legal gag order, and these potential witnesses will have their guard down. Private investigators and their field investigators can garner credible leads, leading to a more comprehensive, thorough investigation.
There have been many institutions, particularly in the Catholic faith, that have been accused of what has been characterized as a “cup and ball” routine in which supervisory entities will transfer employees or members of clergy accused of sexual abuse to remote branches of their network, often in different jurisdictions, to prevent law enforcement and investigators from doing their due-diligence. Private investigators are given an autonomy that is free from bureaucratic or jurisdictional chains. They can follow leads to track down multiple witnesses and can track an abuser’s movements—all across state lines.
Regardless of an alleged abuser’s reputation or status, allegations of abuse must always be handled with due-diligence and a sense of urgency. Corporations and institutions have it only in their own interest to eliminate potential predators in their ranks. The cost to retain a private investigator to conduct a thorough, objective investigation is a small fraction of the potential cost to these entities in the form of lawsuits that result from an investigation, usually on the part of survivors who were vindicated in their accounts of trauma and betrayal on behalf of mentors and leaders in their lives. Retaining the services of a qualified private investigator can go a long way to bringing predators to justice and preventing potential ruin of institutions that otherwise provide a great service for individuals in communities across America.
Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. For more information, please visit our website.
ShutDown: Consumer Fraud Investigations Halted
The United States government has been shut down for almost four weeks, sending shockwaves throughout a nation already gripped by tumultuous politics and controversial issues. In addition to institutions like the National Parks System, and the National Institute of Health, all federal employees have currently been laid off from duty, and a majority of their services suspended. The ripple effect is dizzying, with many of the governments services being on hold for the duration of the shutdown. Many consumers across the country are not aware of the shutdown’s impact on some of our nation’s best departments, so you can imagine their shock when they phoned to report a consumer complaint, and were told the government couldn’t help them.
When running normally, the government requires a wealth of quality communication to run smoothly. As many federal employees remain on furlough, therefore not being compensated, everyone’s level of communication with one another is atypical and—as many federal employees are called in without pay—constantly breaking down. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the federal agency that fields the influx of consumer complaints. A consumer submits their complaint about a business or financial entity to the CFPB, which is reviewed. According to the CFPB, after the complaint is reviewed, “We’ll forward your complaint and any documents you provide to the company and work to get a response from them. If we find that another government agency would be better able to assist, we will forward your complaint to them and let you know.” The CFPB remains in operation and was not effected by the shutdown, but if the agency is ill-equipped to deal with the complaint, they may never get off the ground, as the appropriate department might be effected by the shutdown. This leaves many consumers displaced when it comes to voicing their concerns about products and services.
This suspension of protection services has allowed the beast of robo-calls to fester and become feral, as consumers cannot block or report harassing robo-calls. They’re left screaming into the void. Alex Quilici, the chief executive of YouMail—a smartphone application that helps consumers block robo-calls—describes it, “It’s a neighborhood with no police on the beat.” YouMail estimated, just last month, there were 5 billion robo-calls made, and 50% of calls made in early 2019 could be coming from scammers and robots attempting to fraudulently obtain your information. These horrifying statistics are the codas for a chorus of federal employees who are aware of the scope of the problem, like Jessica Rosenworcel, the Federal Communications Commission Commissioner, “The number of robo-calls consumers are receiving is insane. The problem just keeps growing. Shutting down the government is not going to help.” As of this moment, there is no one to administrate the “Do Not Call” list, the national registry in which consumers can ask specific companies not to contact them.
The Federal Communications Commission is just one of many threads woven into the Federal Trade Commission. Another voiceless victim of the shutdown is the victim of identity fraud. Louette Duvall is one of these victims. Not long after the holidays were over, Duvall’s car was pilfered by thieves while she was at her job. They made off with her purse, her briefcase, and a wealth of identifying information that amounted to a scammer’s treasure trove. Fraudulent charges started rolling in as she scrambled to alert all of her creditors and financial institutions that she had been robbed. She began calculating the full scope of the theft’s ramifications: New checkbooks ordered, extravagant items ordered in her name, new credit cards, the list goes on and on. When she called the Federal Trade Commission to let them know her identity had been stolen, she was told they could not help her due to the government shutdown. FTC data prior to the shutdown stated that the agency received thousands of calls a day regarding identity theft alone. That’s thousands of crimes going uninvestigated every day, a Washington Post reporter pointed out when they became a victim as well. Not only are new crimes going unreported, but investigative resources are also frozen. The Consumer Sentinel Network helps investigators track the movement of identity theft and related frauds to build cases against the perpetrators, and it remains down as of day 26 of the longest government shutdown in history. At a minimum, the FTC is still allowing individuals to file complaints so that they be issued an affidavit for their creditors’ purposes.
News coverage of the shutdown has attempted to sharpen the big picture for Americans when it comes to the ripple effect of the government shutdown. While many federal agencies might be unable to assist consumers with complaints, there is recourse for consumers experiencing the myriad of issues helmed by the Federal Trade Commission. There are online, step-by-step resources for obtaining documentation to dispute fraudulent charges and claims. Consumers can also retain the services of a private investigator. One of the most beneficial aspects of hiring a private investigator is that they are the top of the chain of command in their firm. They are the ones calling the shots in any investigation, not a supervisor nor a superior. They will represent your interests and your interests alone. As is the case with many frauds and thefts, perpetrators tend to either operate remotely, or move quickly to evade law enforcement. Acting independently, private investigators will be able to move as fluidly as a scammer, crossing jurisdictional boundaries with little to no red tape. Statistics surrounding fraud indicate that many federal investigators in charge of tracking down scammers and thieves are inundated with a never-ending stream of complaints. This means their attention can be divided over and over again across a heavy caseload. A typical private investigator only handles between 3-4 cases at a time, meaning your case can be a priority for them and not just another file in a drawer.
Political pundits and talking heads don’t project a sunny forecast when it comes to the shutdown—no end in sight. As the shutdown enters its 27th day, many Americans who have been the victims of consumer fraud and identity theft who do not yet know the full scope of the shutdown’s impact will receive an ugly surprise when they turn to the federal government for help. While the government gets its house in order, know that there are options for victims of consumer and identity fraud. Consult a private investigator today to learn how their specific skill set, experience, and independence can help you get right the ship when it comes to fraud.
Indianapolis, Indiana is home to many impressive things. The city of over 800,000 is most famous throughout the country as home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the Indianapolis 500. In addition to a rich visual and performing arts culture, it’s also home to the nation’s largest children’s museum. Families across the United States cheer for one of two major sports franchises based in Indianapolis: the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, and the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. It’s also home to one of the country’s best private investigators.
Family-owned and operated for more than 30 years, Lauth Investigations International has specialized in complex corporate, financial, and private investigations worldwide. It is one of many private investigation firms based in Indiana’s capital. Given recent crime data, Indianapolis is a city where a well of clientele may never run dry. One of the areas of criminal investigation most associated with private investigators is missing persons and violent crime, so it’s no a wonder why so many private investigators have set up shop in Indianapolis, with violent crime on the rise.
Relative to its size and population, Indianapolis is comparable to Portland, Oregon or Charlotte, North Carolina. Portland has a crime rate of 227 per every 100,000 people, which is lower than the national average crime rate. North Carolina experiences a higher than average crime rate of 441 per every 100,000 people. As of 2016, Indianapolis’ reported crime rate was 823.2 per every 100,000 people. A CBS News report ranking dangerous cities placed Indianapolis as the 12th in the nation, citing the violent crime rate at more than three times the national average.
News media is saturated with headlines concerning violent crimes committed against Hoosiers, so it was a surprise to most when the FBI reported crime was actually down 10% from 2016 to 2017, especially burglaries and robberies which were down 17%. Violence—especially gun violence—however, is climbing. As of October 1st, 2018, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had investigated 127 homicides and 109 murders, with 12% of those cases attributed to robbery. The recent murder of Tykece Mike-Jones is a tragic example. He was killed over a cell phone he was attempting to sell to a person he contacted through the internet—another in a string of killings IMPD has been putting on blast to warn citizens. According to the FBI, 2017 was the third record-breaking year for crime statistics in Indianapolis, and stats from the first half of this year have projected 2018 will be no different. Law enforcement attributes the overall drop in crime to the increased ubiquity of surveillance cameras in the metropolitan area.
Firms like Lauth Investigations International can assist in many types of criminal investigation. Just as in the case of violent crimes, private investigators combine the skills of law enforcement and the autonomy of a private citizen to conduct concurrent or independent investigations into a person who vanishes under any circumstances. But not all missing persons cases are the result of a person meeting a violent end. As “the crossroads of America,” Indianapolis experiences a moderate to high level of human trafficking. One of the most complex issues in human trafficking is tracking traffickers across multiple jurisdictions as they transport victims from city to city. Law enforcement can often be handcuffed by jurisdictional issues, but private investigators use their autonomy to pole vault over this red tape in pursuit of leads that might otherwise go cold. Due to his experience in complex missing persons investigations, private investigator, Thomas Lauth has worked with Interpol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Consulate and other foreign embassies on a myriad of cases, including human trafficking.
Indianapolis private investigators are not limited to cases of violent crime and missing persons, however. Every major metropolitan area will always have cases dealing with infidelity or child custody, but private investigators based in Indianapolis have ample opportunity to service local businesses with their skill-set. Indianapolis is home to a diversified body of businesses, but its five top industries are:
- Real estate
Many business owners—especially small business owners—often are not aware of how a private investigator’s services can protect, or even save, their companies. Every business needs valued employees, and finding the right person can often be an arduous task. The candidate might be qualified, but how much about their record can be independently verified? Hiring a private investigator to do background checks for employees will ensure that any verification of their qualifications will be vetted. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many employers are making independent background checks a regular step of their hiring process in order to weed out potential predators in their workforce. All types of business can experience the full spectrum of employee theft (from vanishing office supplies to full-on embezzlement), violation of non-compete agreements, and offenses under the umbrella of employee malingering, including FMLA abuse. The independent involvement of a private investigator in the investigation of any employee misconduct will lay a strong foundation for any HR or legal consequences, ensuring that the investigation is thorough and objective from beginning to end. Kristen Justis, the Managing Director of Client Relations for Lauth Investigations International, commented on the role Lauth can play in bolstering local business, “We have a wealth of opportunities to help private citizens every day. We help frantic parents find their missing child, or put a spouse’s suspicions of infidelity at ease, but those are the cases that sensationalize this industry. Many business owners are not aware of how the services we offer can go a long way towards extending the longevity of their businesses.”
Every major industry operating in Indianapolis can rely on the services of a private investigator to protect their business—not just from its own workforce, but potential consumers as well. Finance, insurance, and real estate of all kinds can benefit from a comprehensive vetting of a consumer after their request for services. Financial institutions and insurance brokers may check a consumer’s credit, but a full background check on an applicant can sharpen the big picture when making a cost-benefit analysis regarding any transaction. In the housing industry, any landlord renting or leasing their property can be fully informed about their tenants when they employ a private investigator to run a background check. An analysis of Indianapolis’s economy by the Indianapolis Business Journal concluded that the apartment booms the city experienced were driven largely by empty-nesters and childless millennials, projecting that it would only continue to grow.
Indianapolis already has a national economical reputation for developing and sustaining niche markets, such as the market around motorsports and auto-racing. As the metropolis continues to grow in population and economy, so will the opportunities for Indy-based private investigators to support their community.
Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on missing person and investigation topics. For more information, please visit our website.