"YOUNG" WORKERS STEAL OFFICE SUPPLIES
"YOUNG" WORKERS STEAL OFFICE SUPPLIES
2006-06-09 at 11:10:00 am #15709
Young Workers More Likely to Steal Office Supplies
SAN FRANCISCO (June 06) — Younger workers are more likely to make off with office supplies for personal use than older workers, and they’re less prone to feel guilty about it, according to a new survey.Nearly one in five, or 18%, of workers report having taken office supplies for personal use in the past year, according to a survey of 1,630 employed adults in the U.S. from staffing agency Spherion Corp. and Harris Interactive.
Which objects hitch a ride home with them?
“Pens, notepads, the occasional stapler,” said Joelly Saber, practice director of professional services for Spherion (SFN) , based in Ft. Lauderdale. “Maybe an occasional mouse pad, those little staple-remover things, manila file folders. I know I’ve done some envelopes.”"We were surprised to see people are honestly admitting to it,” she said. “It looks like most people don’t really consider it stealing.”Of course, some employers may beg to differ, and are within their legal rights to do so, said Anthony Oncidi, an employment partner with Proskauer Rose, a law firm in Los Angeles.In most cases, an employer wouldn’t fire a worker for taking a notepad, he said. “But if they decide for whatever reason that was a problem, they could. At-will employees can be fired for good reason, bad reason or no reason at all.”The urge to pilfer appears to fade with age, unless younger people just ‘fess up to it more readily. Nearly a quarter of workers 18 to 29 report that they have taken supplies from the office within the past year, compared with 13% of workers age 50 and over, the survey said.Overall, one in 10 U.S. workers surveyed doesn’t believe taking office supplies for their own use is wrong. Seventeen percent of those 18 to 29 were unapologetic versus 7% of older workers at least 50, according to Spherion.Whether intentional or not, young workers may practice more of the grab and go style of office-supply nabbing in their quest to work hard, make an impression and move up the career ladder, Saber said.”It seems to be the younger folks are trying to prove themselves more,” she said. “They’re newer to the workforce. They’re putting in a lot of hours; some are traveling quite a bit and commuting. With that go some of the office supplies.”Some also may be working from home or making themselves available off hours via mobile phones and laptops, thus blurring the boundaries between when they’re on duty and off.The financial value of purloined office supplies tends not to exceed $10 to $ 15 per episode, Saber said, so most companies don’t suffer a significant hit.But a retailer or other low profit-margin business, for example, may see a cumulative impact if enough people take desk items here and there, Ondici said.Some employers monitor public supply rooms or closets with surveillance cameras to determine if they’re leaking money through small-scale thefts and to find who’s responsible, he said. “It does indicate to the employer I think there may be a problem of trustworthiness.”But managers who go so far as to terminate an employee for taking office supplies need to be careful that they apply consequences fairly, Ondici said. Otherwise they may invite a lawsuit if the employee perceives he is being set up for discrimination.”The less serious the violation the more likely the employee will assert the reason is a pretext for some other motivation,” he said.Employers also would be wise to ask for an explanation before jumping to conclusions, Ondici said.”Most employees with Blackberries and cell phones and so on do not leave their job at the office door when they leave,” he said. “If there is some arguable work-related reason for taking the office supplies, you can assume the employee will assert that. That’s why an employer would be well advised to get an explanation from the employee as to what they were doing before taking some drastic action such as terminating.”Still, most employers aren’t staking out their supply rooms in search of perps, Saber said. “I think they’re more concerned with the science projects in the refrigerator … the stuff that gets left behind for weeks.”