Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I know for a fact that some of my coworkers are stealing from the office. I think it’s because we’ve all had our salaries capped and benefits cut and this is their way of “getting back” at the company. I know people have stolen coffee from the kitchen and office supplies like scissors, pens, and reams of paper. I also witnessed a coworker running a big stack of her family Christmas cards through the company postage meter. I don’t want to be the office rat, but I think this is wrong and if management finds out, then we’ll all be blamed. What should I do?
Ready to Rat?
A couple 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 make more cutbacks more likely. Salaries capped and benefits cut is a believable but only first step in this economy. Second steps are likely to make for fewer coworkers. You will risk the ire of your coworkers from 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 there’s a widespread set of new behaviors you’ve witnessed since the recent cutbacks. Say, Stealing is wrong, whether it’s postage, copies, or stationary. I’m not naming names, now. Don’t come to me to explain the past. But the next time I see something I won’t be the person you’ll have to explain things to. We’re all in this together. If we want Company Name to survive the recession, we’re going to 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 may, repeat may, get you a few brownie points with those who decide who’s out first and last.