All those sticky little fingers
By Larry Ballard
By Larry Ballard
A reader pointed out that I twice mentioned the number of felt-tip pens that disappear from the office supply room.
"You must be feeling guilty," he said.
Well, yes. Maybe a little.
Sure, I have a few company pens lying around the ol' rumpus room. But it's not like I pull up to the loading dock every night on a forklift and cart them home in bulk. Geez.
Mild guilt turned to flat-out fear, however, when I heard that four in 10 bosses have fired someone in the past year for stealing stuff from work. The survey, by careerbuilder.com, concluded that all those legal pads and sticky notes add up to more than $50 billion a year, which could cover the salaries of nearly four job-training administrators.
The survey apparently did not include the guy I know who took the company car to a mechanic and paid him to swap its new tires with the bald death traps from his '84 Honda Civic. Or the school lunchroom employee whose refrigerator featured a 10-gallon container of ketchup and enough frozen wiener winks to feed a Division 1-A college football team.
Neither of them got caught.
But Annie Donnelly did.
Donnelly, of Farmingville, N.Y., is a former medical bookkeeper who stole $2.3 million from her boss. Prosecutors last month determined that she spent the money on ... drum roll ... lottery tickets.
("She obviously had a gambling problem," the district attorney said, an utterance that will go down in understatement history.)
Of course, I don't condone such behavior.
Neither does my new friend, John Case of Del Mar, Calif. He's one of the country's top experts on the subject.
He writes books, does consulting work and runs employeetheft.com.
According to Case, the top five reasons people give for stealing from work:
"There's no question that management has started to realize the need to take it to" office thieves, Case said. "Employers know they need to go on the offensive."
That means more hidden cameras, sensors and other high-tech doodads, coupled with training on how to spot culprits and incentive programs to encourage tattlers.
"Company loyalty is pretty much gone these days," Case said. "Honest employees have to know: 'What's in it for me?' "
Here are some sobering statistics:
Jane Randolph works for Employee Theft Anonymous (etheft.com), a Web site that takes tips and forwards them to employers so whistle-blowers can't be identified. (Note: It also helps if you take off that whistle around your neck.)
Randolph acknowledges that traffic is a tad slow.
"With the anti-snitch syndrome being what it is, most honest employees simply look the other way," she said.
Which made me ask: Does it really need to come to this? Do we really want a system where co-workers turn on their colleagues?
There's a better solution. And it's pretty simple: Let's all stop stealing.
Let's vow to never again pilfer, purloin, pinch, filch, nick, embezzle or lift anything from the workplace.
To set an example and get the ball rolling, I drafted a 40-page Honesty Pledge. I'll be the first to sign it, too.
The paper? Well, I got it from the supply room. Come on, they owe me that much.
Now ... anyone got a pen?