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?