I have to say, with our current employees, pilfering has not been a big issue. But, as a business owner “minding the store” is a full time job in itself. We have experienced so many variations on this theme that it is difficult to imagine, looking back, at all of the ways, often little ways, employees take more than the employer agreed to give. And, this is in a non-retail environment! Pens, notepads, videotapes to record tonight’s TV program (back when we used them) have all gone missing. Once even a 6 pack of sodas from the office fridge – as if it was fair game to take it home. Shrinkage is the term used sometimes for such phenomenon. But, it is more than this. Taking personal calls, using the computer for personal business, or texting with friends and family all take away from the work the employee is being paid to do. And, as employers, one does not want to be perceived as “the meanie” who enforces the rules. But, what is important is to have rules. Rules that make it clear that behaviors such as personal calls, etc., are discouraged (I have always tried to leave room for emergencies). Perhaps some employees don’t see the harm in what they are doing so the rules provide boundaries and give managers/employers the ability to stop abuses – pilfering of any sort. Lastly, there are blurred lines in the work world and some give and take is part of the deal. If employees are expected to use their personal devices (smart phones) or take calls after business hours, it is only fair that they be given some slack in how they are monitored for their use of company time and resources. Equilibrium is found when neither side feels they have been taken advantage of in the work relationship. When there is no equilibrium, something will change.
One of my brothers says I am a “black and white” person; that is, for me, things are either right or wrong, with little gray area in between. This being said, I equate employee pilfering to stealing; to me, there is absolutely no difference. Stealing, misappropriating, pilfering, borrowing without permission, and other similar behaviors are, to me, one and the same. In my view as a social psychologist (which, I might add, is supported in the research literature), if someone steals something of little value, he/she is predisposed toward stealing just about anything. And, to me, stealing can take many forms. In our work environment, stealing TIME is just as wrong as stealing something more tangible. I have never understood why employees come to work if they are not there to actually work. If there is personal business to attend to, I wonder, why can’t the employees tend to it on their time, instead of my time, the time I am paying them to work? Texting, checking social media sites, making personal phone calls, and all the other things employees do on my and my partner’s time, that is, during the work day, leads to a lack of productivity and overall, my disdain for the person who persistently wastes my time. My company has written policies prohibiting all forms of employee pilfering, including conducting personal business on work time, however, these policies are ineffective in the event an employee sneaks around while I am busy, working, all the while he/she is not. The only thing I can do is try to catch the thief in the act, then bid him/her adieu!