Theft is one of the most common workplace ethics violations. Not only is it illegal, but it cuts into the organization’s bottom line hurting everyone from investors to the employees of a workplace. It's crucial that every organization identify the areas of employee theft and ways to combat the problem. The follow are example and information on the various types of employee theft in the workplace.
Examples of workplace theft:
• Stealing workplace resources such as office supplies, unauthorized photocopies and computer printouts.
This is one of most common type of theft in the workplace. Most employees do not consider this theft. They have justified it by concluding that the cost is so low that it does not affect the organization in a profound way. However, stealing office supplies and making personal copies and print outs adds up to a large dollar loss when the entire organization engages in these activities.
• The theft of merchandise from retail locations or manufacturing facilities. This includes overstocked, discontinued, returned and damaged items or the use of an employee discount for non-qualifying family or friends.
Most employees understand that shoplifting or theft of merchandise is wrong and against the law. However, many employees can justify their behavior for several reasons.
1. The company doesn't pay me enough so I deserve it.
Answer: Shoplifting and employee theft cause huge losses for organizations making them less profitable and less able to give their employees better pay and benefits.
2. I need to test the products, so I can sell them more successfully.
Answer: If this is necessary, then the company will provide assistance for this or get assistance from the manufacturer. It is never ok to make this decision on your own.
3. It’s a returned, discontinued, overstocked or damaged product and we aren’t going to sell it anyway.
Answer: Organizations have mechanisms for these problems. In many cases, manufacturers will allow returns and exchanges for damaged, overstocked, returned or discontinued products. Also, there are secondary markets for these types of products. In any case, stealing these items will lose money for the organization.
4. When I buy products with my employee discount for family and friends, the company still makes money.
Answer: This is not necessarily true. The profit margin on most retail sales is razor thin; most of the time, the organization will only break even or may even take a loss after the employee discount is applied. Offering your discount to non-qualifying family and friends takes away potential customers from the organization.
• Illegally copying or downloading patented or copyrighted materials such as software, video, pictures, music, books or any other intellectual property that your organization does not have the explicit right to use or reproduce.
This is possibly the least understood area of employee theft. Videos, software, pictures, books, music and other intellectual property have specific licenses associated with them. An employee cannot simply go on YouTube and download a video to use in the workplace. The rights to this video must be purchased. The same goes for pictures and music. When a song is purchased on I-Tunes, it does not give an employee the right to use that song in a corporate presentation. These rights need to be purchased - stress that approval must be given by management before using intellectual property for any use.
• Taking credit for or stealing the work of co-workers and passing it off as your own or taking full credit for a project you were given assistance on.
This type of theft is a huge drain on employee morale and productivity. Stress that this behavior is not acceptable in your organization and that it could result in disciplinary actions. Organizations that work as a team and share success have been proven in study after study to be more efficient and successful.
• Reporting more hours than actually worked, falsifying pay records or reporting inflated business expenses for reimbursement.
This type of theft occurs all the way from hourly employees to CEOs and can result in very serious disciplinary actions. Make sure that the participants understand that this type of theft is a crime and that it hurts everyone in the organization.
• Deliberately doing less work than you are capable of out of laziness or to lower future expectations.
• Socializing with friends or family during work hours via the telephone, social networking sites, instant messaging or any other means of communication.
This type of theft is very common in every organization and severely damages productivity. Not only are culprits hurting their organization with this behavior but they are unfairly burdening their co-workers with extra work. Stress that social networking, that is not job related, is a way of stealing from the organization.
Other forms of time theft:
• Internet shopping
• Reading the news
• Watching non work-related videos
• Viewing non work-related pictures
• Spending long periods in the lunchroom or at the water cooler.
Employee theft is a serious ethics violation. However, employee ethics training
can greatly decrease the incidents of theft in your workplace. Make sure your entire workforce understands what is considered theft and the repercussions for stealing. It will improve your bottom line and the efficiency of your workplace.