long nose emoticon.

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.

In an ideal world, all employees would be 100% honest and never seek to twist the rules in order to benefit. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world of unicorns and fairies. A polygraph test, commonly known as a lie detector can give you the extra information you need to rectify a situation.

With data theft and criminal activity on the rise in the workplace, smart employers are looking to polygraph tests in order to detect deceptive job applicants and catch criminals in the workplace. Ideally, they shouldn’t be necessary, but when time is of the essence, a polygraph test gives you the information and confidence you need in order to make the right decision.

How do they work?

A polygraph test, popularly known as a “lie detector test” isn’t 100% accurate, but is the best solution to detecting lies. Whenever we lie our heart rate increases, respiration rate goes up and perspiration also tends to go up. A polygraph test begins with a baseline measurement by asking questions we know to be true such as “What is your name?” and “How long have you been working here?.” The baseline measurement is compared with the readings taken when the crucial questions are asked. A spike at the point of answering suggests that the person is lying. In order to make sure, polygraphists change the wording of the crucial question.

As it stands, there are no laws banning the use of polygraph tests in the workplace. Moreover, the use of a polygraph test in the workplace can help to keep employees in line.

Notably, the reason why a polygraph test isn’t 100% accurate lies in the fact that extraneous variables can affect the results. Nervousness and stress levels can affect the readings. This could result in a false positive.

It is also worth noting that you need to get the consent of the employee before administering a polygraph test. It is best to get this on a signed document. Moreover, you aren’t allowed to use the results of a polygraph test to discriminate against an employee. It is best for you to have another form of evidence should you want to sack an employee. For instance, should you suspect an employee of leaking information to competitors, you would need computer records which show that they did it.

Due to the risk of a legal challenge, it is also best to involve the police if you suspect them of doing something unlawful.

When should you use a polygraph test?

An overuse of polygraph tests can reduce staff morale. The feeling of constant investigation and monitoring can affect staff performance. Taking this into account, it is best to be very selective about when you use a polygraph test in the workplace. Here are some examples:

1) Interviewing job applicants

The job market is highly competitive, and there is sometimes little to distinguish between applicants. Applicants can sometimes feel the need to exaggerate their achievements, or simply lie. If they can lie during the application process, they are likely to remain deceptive while an employee. The results from a polygraph test gives you more information to choose the right candidate.

2) During investigations

The workplace can be chaotic. Employees sometimes try to hide their mistakes by pinning it on others. Business data and techniques are susceptible to theft. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what can go wrong. A polygraph test can be used to detect those who might have committed a criminal act. This can help to focus your internal investigation before alerting the police.

3) Pre-employment screening for employees who have direct access to controlled substances

If your business involves the manufacture or distribution of controlled substances, it is important not to employ an addict. It isn’t uncommon for a drug addict or dealer to seek out employment in a company which deals with controlled substances in order to feed their habit or ‘business’. This can have a big impact on your business during auditing, plus there is also the financial loss. A polygraph test helps to detect potential drug dealers and addicts before they disrupt your business.

4) If your business works with children

You have the responsibility of making sure that every employee knows the right safeguarding rules and won’t cause harm. A criminal records check is mandatory, but a polygraph test gives you the extra information you need.

Final thoughts

In some circumstances, courts rely on the testimonies of polygraphists. Therefore, although you might be able to conduct the test yourself, it is best to have it done by a professional.

Moreover, an employee can choose to not participate. This isn’t an admission of guilt. They might understand the extraneous variables which can affect the results. With business becoming more competitive, employing the use of a lie detector can give you an advantage.