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Hit me up: I missed out on a promotion and I’ve started stealing things from work


by Rhona Mcauliffe
06th Jun 2018

Dear Rhona,

I’ve started stealing things from work and I can’t stop.  I’ve worked in the same company for about three years now and have recently been passed over for a promotion.  My boss is unpredictable and often plays favourites.  She can also be mean and has been known to humiliate staff.  Despite working long hours and always striving to impress I feel like I get no thanks or recognition.  My pay is pretty basic and I feel that she’s doing nothing to encourage me to stay with the company. 

I’ve been taking bits and pieces – mostly beauty products – since I started as there’s often lots of client product around the office.  Since I missed out on the promotion, I’ve been taking more.  The office admin does a general stock take and she’s started noticing that stuff is missing but I still can’t resist the urge to bag something at the end of the day and am staying later in the office to do it. 

In a way, I feel like the product is a reward for staying when my pay is so low but I know that doesn’t make it right. I’d never stolen anything before this and although I’m not planning on coming clean I do want to stop before I get caught.  I’m afraid if I confide in anyone I know they will report me.  What shall I do?

Verging on Klepto, Limerick.

 

My chest is as tight as a plumber’s pliers right now as I type against the ticking time bomb that is your imminent exposure.  I’m so glad you wrote because I think you might have lost all sense of perspective on this.

What’s concerning is that despite your colleague knowing that product is going missing, you are still lifting it.  This inability to regulate your new habit may indicate a deeper issue.  But first, The Reality Check: stealing from your employer, beyond a few extra envelopes from the stationary cupboard, is classed as gross misconduct and can result in immediate dismissal.  Not only would you be out of a job with no notice or pay off but you may also find it difficult to land another position minus a glowing reference from your current employer.

I’m leading with the hard hits here because although you seem to want to break the sticky-fingered cycle, you’re also ignoring the potential consequences.  Even though the product you’re bagging is seemingly abundant, the fact is it belongs to your employer, or your employer’s client, and it is not yours to take.  Being fired for stealing is every kind of bad for you – for your self-esteem, your relationship with your workmates and your long-term career.  There’s also no real win here.  Yes, you’ve got a salon’s worth of beauty booty but you haven’t braved a conversation with your boss.

A 2016 study in the Journal of Applied Behavioural Science explored how people react to unfair, manipulative and power-hungry bosses.  60% of respondents said that they had gone out of their way to get ‘revenge.’  Interestingly, in the majority of cases, they did more harm than good with only 25% saying they thought it was worth it.  It seems the sweetest revenge was very targeted and had a clear goal in mind. For example, the subject of one case study, Will, talks about how his abusive boss would shout and terrorise the office.  Catching him in action one day, Will posted pics of his boss brandishing his fist and losing his sh*t on the company website.  His boss’s superiors got involved, the boss was reprimanded – not Will – and he was forced to change his behaviour.

I’m definitely not advocating Boss Shaming here but if you’re looking for revenge, it seems exposing your boss’s behaviour with a view to creating a more pleasant working environment is your way to go.  Hiding a prawn in their office is not.

It sounds like your pilfering ramped up in response to not getting the promotion you felt you were owed, so your stealing was an act of rebellion.  Somewhere along the way, you got a buzz out of it or feel like you’re getting one over on your boss.  You’re not.  What you’re doing is the ultimate in passive-aggressive warfare, without ever addressing the real issue.  As you don’t feel valued or supported by your boss and your resentment is deep-set, my advice at this point would be to start looking for a new job.

In the meantime, commit to leaving work on time every evening to consciously minimise your opportunities to thieve (OTT).  Remind yourself daily of the potential consequences of being busted and resist, resist, resist.  If you really can’t stop loading up on work goodies, I would recommend seeing a therapist to help you work it through.  Kleptomania is relatively rare and usually connected to other compulsive impulse disorders but definitely worth exploring.

To deter further offending, work towards mending your ways and offer some kind of restitution, the overwhelming advice is to own up to what you’ve done.  This might be an essential step in moving on – the fear of admitting your misdemeanours, seeking forgiveness, accepting the consequences etc – but I don’t think this is where you’re at.  If your boss was reasonable and you had a good relationship I would encourage you to come clean but as it is, restocking the cupboards might have to do.  I would suggest (urge) you to replace every last pot of product that you’ve taken, before you leave.

And no more pre-leaver ‘pranks’ to settle the score either! Keep the head down, do your bits and run at the earliest opportunity.  Bitterness and resentment only hurt one person: you.  Best to leave karma to handle your boss while you focus on swerving a criminal record.

Rhona McAuliffe might not be a trained therapist but she does have very big ears, quite a long nose and a gaping heart.  If you have a problem that won’t just go away, she’d love to hear it.  Write to Rhona at [email protected]

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