General Crime

Office Theft Management

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Most offices lose supplies almost daily due to employees helping themselves – details on how to cut down on office shrinkage and how to keep company morale high.

Every employer has horror stories about the person who walked off with ten cases of copy paper; boxes of pens disappearing at the same time as school starts and notepads vanishing by the truckload. And while most employers don’t mind seeing a few pens disappear out the door some are finding thousands of dollars disappear yearly into a black hole of employee petty theft – hardly something that can be overlooked for long.

There are a variety of solutions to this problem depending on how the employer wants to handle it – and of course, how serious the problem is or is perceived to be.


One solution is to implement a hard and fast rule: sign in/out for everything. Every pencil, every Post-It, every copy made at the Xerox machine is accounted for. But that leads to an increased amount of paperwork for all involved, and tends to decrease office morale. Not to mention you might have to hire an extra person to keep track of all the details; perhaps making up for that lost cash at the end of the year. In large companies there are specific employees dedicated to just this task, tracking and keeping records of the thrifty departments and those who are lax about keeping track of their supplies and hence need more money at the end of the year to replace lost equipment.

So how to maintain some sense of supply security at a low cost?

Make it known that while a certain amount of leakage is expected there are limits to your generosity. It’s one thing to hunt down and discipline an employee for taking a pen home, another to discover that your assistant has been using the color printer to make fifty copies of his son’s English assignment. A short memo can lay out the borderlines of what is acceptable and what is not – including the punishments, which can range from just being forced to pay back the cost of the supplies used to dismissal depending on the legal relationship you have with your employees. Laid out properly you should have a reduction in your losses due to just putting it out in the open and letting the workers know where the limits are for such things.


Another option is to include freebies inside and outside the office. Make certain products available for the specific purpose of having them spread outside the work environment either through “borrowing” or handing them out to guests. T-shirts or posters are readily available at a low cost and it will raise the morale of your employees to get something for nothing and make them more cheerful about their workplace; probably leading to less theft as they don’t feel the need to “get even” with the employer.

The morale of your employees is directly related to the amount of theft in your workplace. Arrange casual days, BBQs and other boosters to make your workers happy and comfortable with the environment.

There will always be supplies lost no matter what you do. People will walk off with pens; customers and visitors will help themselves to a “souvenir” and accidents will happen. The toner will leak over a stack of Xerox paper; the new photocopier accidentally prints fifty copies instead of five due to a computer programming error. But by allowing your employees a degree of freedom with the supplies you’ll not only save in the long run by not paying someone extra to monitor your stockroom, you’ll have happier employees who won’t see the cheap satisfaction in “stealing” from the company.

In the end a small investment can result in a reduced shrinkage for your company and happier employees – hopefully raising your profits and lowering your turnover in the long run. A few dollars spent on free lunches or shirts might just save you that hundred dollar copying bill that no one wants to confess to; or that stack of pens that mysteriously keeps disappearing each week.

Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc

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