Get advice on how to deal with jerks at work Check out the book 'Jerks At Work' and other titles by Ken Lloyd Ph.D. Return to the homepage Learn more about Ken Lloyd, Ph.D. Submit a question to Ken Lloyd, Ph.D.

You asked, Ken answers ...

This item is filed under these categories:

We have noticed an increase in petty theft recently. The employees know that theft is grounds for immediate termination, but we're trying to figure out the reason for the increase. Could it be the economy?

There can be any number of reasons for employee theft, but the most likely reason in your company and many others right now is that we are in the middle of theft season. Each year in late August and early September, so-called petty items such as pens, pencils, staplers, and notepads all go out the back door. Do you notice the theme? They are all back-to-school items.

Employees have all sorts of rationalizations for taking these items, such as by saying they never take anything else, everyone is doing it, the items are not expensive, the company has plenty of them, and it's not that big of a deal. The problem, of course, is that it is a huge deal. It's theft, pure and simple.

You are certainly right in letting the employees know that such behavior is grounds for immediate termination. Be sure that the wording you use does not send a subtle message that undercuts the significance of the problem. For example, words such as "petty theft" and "shrinkage" tend to trivialize the matter.

If the problem is serious, you may need to implement increased security measures, but the first step is to let the employees know exactly what you have found and reemphasize what will happen to those individuals who are caught. Although it's the employees' children who are returning to school, your employees may need to learn some lessons as well.

Comment on this item

Your name (optional)
If you leave this blank, we'll list you as "Website visitor"

Your comments
Please keep your comments focused on the topic. Thanks!