Misuse of Company Property

What to do if you notice coworkers misusing company property

By Freddie Rohner, iHire
Professional stealing supplies from a coworker

You notice multiple employees misusing company equipment/property (Angela uses the company printer for her job search materials, Donna uses the office as a meeting place for her friends every weekend, Bob constantly uses company stamps to mail his personal bills).

Misuse of company property is a serious issue that, unfortunately, many people see as “no big deal.” However, there are different types of infractions. No one would say that stealing a pen from work or taking a box of staples home should carry the same punishment as embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars. The principle remains the same, though. Company property is just that, company property. It is for the use of company business and nothing else. Because administrative staff members are the gatekeepers of the office, they are often the first to witness an employee’s improprieties, so if you become aware that coworkers are misusing or outright stealing company assets you must either report the person or make an effort to stop their behavior immediately. By making no attempt to stop the party at fault, you become complicit in their crimes.

The situations mentioned above involving Angela, Donna, and Bob have varying degrees of severity and, therefore, could be dealt with in different ways. For Angela, using the company printer for her job search materials is a very minor transgression. Yes, it’s tacky, but probably not worthy of being ratted out to management. The best thing to do is to approach Angela individually and mention that you are aware of what she has been doing and that she must stop immediately. That’s it. If it happens again, you can inform her that you will be reporting her to management that very minute and suggest that she come with you so that she can explain herself to her boss.

With Donna, the infraction is more severe but the response is the same. You must confront her individually first and inform her that you know she has been meeting up with friends at the office every weekend. Tell her that this cannot be tolerated because, although she undoubtedly trusts her friends, the office is a workspace and home to confidential and potentially proprietary information that no one outside the company should have access to. If she refuses to cease using the office as a destination or stopping point for her friends to congregate then her superior must be made aware of her behavior.

Bob’s situation is the most serious of all because although stamps are not legal tender they do hold value and represent company funds being used to benefit an individual employee rather than the business as a whole. This is much closer to embezzlement than either of the first two examples and, as such, must be dealt with in a more efficient manner. No warnings for Bob. The best thing to do is mention what Bob has been doing to your personal supervisor immediately and allow them to confront Bob or pass the word along to Bob’s manager.

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