My Coworkers Are Stealing From the Company

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My Coworkers Are Stealing From the Company

What Do I Do?

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Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother,

I know for a fact that some of my coworkers are stealing kitchen and office supplies from work. I even witnessed a coworker running a stack of her daughter’s wedding invitations through the company postage meter. We've all had our salaries capped and benefits cut, so I think this is their way of "getting back" at the company. I don't want to be the office rat, but if management finds out then we'll all be blamed. What should I do?

—Ready to Rat


Dear Ready to Rat:

First, some basics. Stealing is wrong no matter what the timing or motivation, but almost everyone has taken a pen home, inadvertently or not. “Getting even” in seemingly small ways adds up to big losses for any company, losses that only hurt the bottom line and increase the chance of more cutbacks. Salaries capped and benefits cut are only the first step in this economy. Second steps are likely to make for fewer coworkers. You will risk the ire of your coworkers by naming what’s happening, but it’s the right thing to do for several reasons.

Send your coworkers a group email. That may sound more cowardly than talking directly and specifically to the light-fingered ones, but it also establishes a paper trail and does not specifically accuse any person. Make it short. Say simply that you’ve witnessed an outbreak of new behaviors since the recent cutbacks, and that stealing is wrong, whether it’s postage, copies or stationery. Tell them that you’re not naming names at that point, and you don’t want any explanations, but the next time you see something you won’t be the person you’ll have to explain things to. Remind them that you’re all in this together, and if the company is going to survive the recession, you all have to pull together.

Then forward your email to your boss saying you won’t fink now but you do want the company to stay healthy. This won’t win you any friends, but it might — I repeat, might — get you a few brownie points with those who decide who’s out first and last.

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