Vincy Workplace
April 5, 2013

High-class business theft

When you think about someone stealing something, you probably think of these common scenarios: common street criminals who steal to maintain a drug habit; malicious people who steal for the thrill; or kids who steal to impress their friends. These are the stories that are most often reported in newspapers and on television. But another class of criminals steal in plain sight and smile while doing so.{{more}} The criminals in this class are professionals, too: trusted employees who go to work every day, do their jobs, and leave for home after a full shift — with company property.

Every business experiences some sort of financial loss from employees who take items home from work. Many of those losses are absent-minded thefts — pens forgotten behind ears, paper clips stored in pockets and other small supplies that were strategically placed during the day for convenient use — that “innocent” employees either return the next day or figure “oh, it’s just a pen; I’ll just keep it here by the phone.”

However, other losses are intentional thefts — items that were purchased for work use, taken home, and utilized for personal gain. The items are usually not large or very expensive, but over time, and with multiple employees doing so, the loss of these materials could spell financial ruin.

Let’s cite a few industries and get this out in the open:

Healthcare. It should be no surprise that the hospital is experiencing a loss! A few bandages, some aspirin, refilling your friend’s prescription at no cost, first-aid ointments or even a few scissors. Isn’t that stealing?

Hospitality. The next time you enter the house of someone who works in a hotel, check out the linens…chances are they have hotel sheets, hotel towels, hotel soaps and shampoos, and maybe even a few bathrobes with the hotel logo. Isn’t that stealing?

Restaurant. Have you ever wondered why your friends who work in restaurants hardly ever go to the grocery store? Some of them “shop” at the restaurant: a few pounds of meat, a few containers of sugar, a roll or two of paper towels, a bag of flour, a bottle of wine. Isn’t that stealing?

Lumber and hardware. A few nails once in a while, a piece or two of lumber every now and then, an extra sheet of galvanize, some varnish, a screwdriver…doesn’t someone have to pay for this stuff? Isn’t that stealing?

Office. Things are really bad when an office worker takes an order: “Girl, bring me two pens and pencils, please, for Marcus’s school bag; and don’t forget some of those small writing pads.” Can we say highway robbery? Isn’t that stealing?

No, not all employees steal, but there are those whose eyes and desires lead them to think that their thefts are not really stealing — because their acts are disguised behind a pretty, professional wardrobe and no one comes out of the crime with handcuffs, their picture in the news or a jail sentence.

Oh, and by the way, if your supervisor says it’s okay to take “that” home, remember that the supervisor is probably not an owner, nor does he likely have a financial interest in the business.

Chances are, it’s probably not okay.

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.” For a FREE SPECIAL REPORT on Avoiding Career Killers in the Workplace, send an email to
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