Am I Being Accused of Stealing?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about fear of suggestion of stealing:

I’m a salesperson and I always work with one other person. Last week my boss commented that I remember a lot of things in the store. He told me, “I hired you to be my eyes when I’m not here.” (He doesn’t have insurance to cover losses of clothing, which is something I don’t understand.) Now he is saying that a blouse has been stolen, but I know that’s not true because I’m aware of all the items in the store. I didn’t steal anything, never did and never will. What should I do?

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

We do not provide legal advice, so this response focuses solely on what to do if you did not take an item from the store. Could it be that your boss isn’t saying YOU stole a blouse, just that a blouse is missing? You say you work with one other person all the time. If that person is someone other than your boss, the boss may have told that person the same thing–and she is worried too.Unless there is clear proof that you took an item, no criminal charges can be made. And the amount is probably so small that no charges would be made anyway.

So, your main concern will be how your boss reacts to what he says has happened. (If he really believes it DID happen.)Why don’t you tell your boss how worried you have been and want to know if he thinks you took something from the store. He may say no and put your mind at rest. If he says yes, then you can assure him that it isn’t true.Ask him what makes him think something has been taken and exactly what style and size of blouse he thinks has been taken. It could be there is an explanation for why he isn’t seeing it as he passes the space where it used to be. Remind him that you know the stock well and you do not see anything missing.

If he has proof that a blouse is missing, that still doesn’t mean you took it, unless there are never any customers in your store! It’s sad for a business person to lose stock–and almost no insurance will cover day to day losses of that nature. But, that is part of a retail business, which is why he wants someone to be his eyes when he’s gone.The bottom line is that your boss won’t be able to prove that you took something and you can’t prove that you didn’t, if an item is missing.

But, perhaps you can prove that nothing is missing. Or, your good history there will be remembered and the boss will accept that he must be mistaken, since he has confidence that you wouldn’t steal.Do not offer to pay for the blouse or offer to do anything that would seem to be admitting your guilt about it. Sympathize about the loss and promise to be even more vigilant in the future. That is about all you can do at this point, but that should be enough to let your boss know he can trust you in the future as he has done in the past. If he continues to actually accuse you or to demand that you pay for the lost item, you’ll know that it’s time to find a new place to work. As difficult as that might be, it would be better than working in a place where you will be unjustly accused. Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.