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Electronic Sabotage In The Workplace

by on
in Human Resources

"Logic bombs" and sabotage aren't the makings of a James Bond film. They're problems any employer can face in this electronic age. Sometimes, employee malice is to blame. Other times, it's a lack of knowledge.


Intent To Harm 


There was no lack of knowledge on the part of a UBS PaineWebber system administrator. Angry that he only received an annual bonus of $32,500 (he was expecting $50,000), the employee planted a logic bomb in the company computer system that deleted files on 1,000 computers. His vengeful ways netted him eight years and one month in prison and an order to pay $3.1 million in restitution to his former employer.

Fearing he might be laid off, a computer administrator in New Jersey allegedly also planted a logic bomb in his company's system. Fortunately for the company, it discovered the bomb before it went off. Had it detonated, it would have wiped out critical information and caused widespread financial damage.

While it might seem like you've got to fight e-prowess with e-prowess, one of the best ways to prevent employees from resorting to electronic sabotage dates back to pre-computer days. Your tactic: Meet the potential causes of employee discontent head on.

For example, if a raise or bonus isn't on par with what an employee has come to expect, explain why. If it's because the company has fallen on hard financial times, say so. Otherwise, the employee is apt to suspect it's personal. Wherever possible, point out non-monetary perks, such as flex-time or a generous vacation policy. If the raise/bonus is based on the employee's performance, tell the employee in what areas he/she needs to improve, and then offer to help the employee get back on track.

If a layoff is fueling your fears of employee discontent, keep an open door for employees to vent.  Just because you tell retained employees the company has no intentions of more layoffs, doesn't mean they will believe you. Get employees to buy in to what you are saying with employee-recognition and morale-boosting efforts. Try: Anonymously placing employees' favorite candy bars, a flower, etc., on their desks on the heels of a layoff.  It will put a smile on most of their faces and get them talking about something other than the layoff. 


An Honest Mistake 


On the flip side of the e-coin, some employers are inadvertently sabotaging themselves by not properly retaining electronic information.

Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures made in December highlight the importance of electronic document retention. Even though the rules only concern those involved in federal litigation, their effect is far-reaching seeing as many states have adopted the federal rules, which would then apply to state litigation, too.

And even if you don't reside in one of those states or are not currently in litigation, managing electronic information should be a top priority, since failure to do so could come back to haunt you later in court. If an employer cannot produce relevant electronic information during litigation, it's possible that a judge could tell a jury that the company destroyed it, and the jury could assume that the missing information corroborated the employee's allegations. That's the last thing you want.

So don't waste another minute. Create a policy that spells out how, why, and when electronic information must be retained and destroyed. Be sure to include a "litigation hold" provision. The provision covers how the routine document retention and backup processes are altered to avoid losing any potentially relevant information once litigation is anticipated. Also, name a member of IT to be responsible for ensuring compliance with litigation hold procedures.

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