Stealing in the Workplace

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Blu Silberhorn
Issue Paper
Case Studies in Ethics and Law
November, 08 2009

Is stealing becoming more acceptable in the workplace? Generally, when people think of stealing or theft they are referring to the act of physically taking property from someone else. In reality there are many different ways that an employee can steal from an organization, and I have seen three different ways in my short career. The basic definition of theft is the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another, and this is one way in which people can take away from an organization. The most common way for people to steal from an organization is theft of time, and this includes; taking extra time on breaks and lunches, using work time for personal matters, and simply wasting time while at work. The last type of theft that I have seen in the workplace is fraudulently changing time sheets and expense reports. Many people have been involved in one of the three of these unethical practices and statistics show an increase in theft incidences.

A new study says you may be working in a den of thieves. An overwhelming 79 percent of workers admit they have or would consider stealing from their employers, according to a survey released last week by forensic accounting firm Michael G. Kessler & Associates. And the loot is far more sophisticated than mere pens and paper clips (Jacoby, 1999).

It may not be right but at some point in time some of these actions have become acceptable. Throughout this essay I will tell you why people steal, and I will be giving three different examples of theft that I have encountered in my life. For each experience I will give you some background information about the unethical behavior, I will tell you whether I think the action(s) where right or wrong, I will explain how the situation was handled and the outcome, and lastly I will show some research that will help me reach a conclusion to the issue. Stealing from the workplace has become very common and the majority of people have been involved in a situation involving theft, so I want to get a better understanding of why stealing has become acceptable practice in today’s business world. To get a better understanding I first need to know why people steal from the workplace.

Knowing why people steal is an important factor in understanding why theft is becoming common in the workplace. There are a few different reasons why people steal from their employer. The number one reason is greed; people want more and they will do anything to get it. The availability to steal large amount of money or products is there and people want to cash in on this opportunity. The second reason is vindictiveness; employees are looking to get even when they feel they have been wronged. It is easy to say that you were shorted on a pay increase and make up for that with company product. And finally there is need; some employees may be struggling for whatever reason, and stealing company money or products could help them get out of trouble. In fact, only 8 percent of respondents in the Kessler study said they steal because they need to. And 49 percent said they steal out of greed, while 43 percent said they do it to get back at their employer (Jacoby, 1999). After looking at the percentages I got a better understanding of why people are stealing from their employers. Throughout my work history I have experienced each reason as well as different methods of committing theft. I would like to work chronologically through my work experiences to give you a better understanding of why these people were stealing.

My first encounter with theft happed when I was a Night Shift Manager at Econo Foods about seven years ago. I had always heard about people stealing merchandise from the store but I had never witnessed it until this incident. One employee was helping me finish up the “list” of tasks that had to be completed...
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