The Truth About Stealing at Work

Posted on August 25, 2011 by Katherine Razzi

You may think that stealing at work never happens and only really bad employees steal.  But, the truth of the matter is 46% of employees have stolen from his or her organization.  This is becoming an increasingly significant problem that organizations are facing.  The economic recession has left people feeling desperate and has challenged employees’ ethical decisions.

What constitutes stealing at work?  There is the obvious form of stealing, which would involve taking money from the organization.  Unfortunately, high status leaders have landed themselves in jail for stealing significant amounts of money from organizations.  This sends a troubling message to the general public: It is okay to steal to get where you want to go.  Many of the leaders that have been involved with illegal activity have managed to walk out of jail with a couple million dollars left.

In most cases, stealing at work begins small and magnifies into a large quantity of theft.  Most people believe taking a pen from work for personal use is not considered stealing.  However, stealing from an organization is taking organizational property for personal use.  After an employee takes a single pen and gets away with it, they may take a pack of pens.  Unless caught, the employee may begin larger forms of theft until someone realizes missing products.

Still not convinced theft in organizational settings is a problem? Take a few minutes and do a Google search on theft in the workplace and you will be surprised with the news articles you will discover.  Just last week an employee at a convenience store in Wisconsin was caught on videotape stealing $5,000 from her till.

Why do people steal at work? Studies have indicated several different reasons as to why employees participate in theft.  Data supports the notion that many employees engage in theft as a form of counterproductive work behaviors.  Counterproductive work behaviors have several underlying causes such as low satisfaction, a lack of organizational commitment, or conflicts with supervisors.

An interesting reason for theft is often tied to an employee’s salary.  Research has indicated that some employees who feel he or she is not being compensated accurately for their job feel they must make up for the difference.  In stealing from the organization, some employees feel they are getting what they deserve.  I often think of the quote I heard from coworkers at the nursing home kitchen I was employed at in the past, “I can eat the food because I don’t get paid enough.”  Despite the deliberate breaking of organizational policies, these employees truly felt they were entitled to something extra from the organization.

What do you do if you know a coworker is stealing? Most large organizations have hotlines or voicemails for employees to anonymously leave information about such matters.  By reporting theft to an anonymous hotline, an employee takes away the fear of retaliation.  It is never a good idea to keep information about a coworker stealing to oneself.  When the organization discovers the theft and that coworkers did not speak up, it reflects poorly on employees’ loyalty to the organization.

How often do you believe theft in the workplace occurs? Should organizations be concerned?

 

 

About Katherine Razzi

Katherine Razzi hails from the Midwest and holds a B.A. in Applied Behavioral Science from National-Louis University, Evanston Campus. Career-wise, Katherine has worked as a commercial artist for many years up until she received her degree from NLU. Coursework includes intense studies in cultural diversity, management, organizational dynamics, morals and ethics, group interaction, and psychology. Working at TNS Employee Insights has given Katherine the best of both worlds where she can be of service with her vast experience as a graphic artist, and her education, topped off with plenty of life experience. Aside from creating paper surveys, Katherine now enjoys writing blogs and other marketing collateral for TNS Employee Insights.

What Others Are Saying

  1. Katherine Razzi August 25, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Another good post, Gail! In my working career, stealing supplies from the workplace seems to have always been rather common place and in stronger economic times, even forgivable. However, even then, it certainly was unethical to take home office supplies forgiven or not. I think we have all come to realize the old adage; “Every little bit adds up.” Therefore a pen here, an eraser there can become a pack of pens here and a pack of erasers there if the supply cabinet is not monitored. At a former job, I suggested that we have a sign out list posted on the cabinet door with name, date, item and quantity taken. Individuals also noted if the supply was low. Once a month, the person ordering supplies carefully studied over the list. Even though if one is going to steal, they probably wouldn’t sign the list and if they were going to still take home the supplies they signed for, it’s hard to track. However, for the majority and conscientious employee, this worked very well and I still believe it deterred others from stealing. And besides, my desk was in the room with the supply cabinet.

  2. Pingback: The Security Threat That’s Hiding in Your Office - Blog - Employee Theft, Fraud and Malfeasance Threaten Your Company Property and Data

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