Pay For Item I Didn’t Take?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about paying for missing items:

My nursing manager has sent a letter addressed to me and four of my colleagues asking us to pay for some items of food stock that are missing. In other words, she is accusing of us of stealing the food. We are all shocked and insulted as we didn’t even get asked first if we knew anything. Of course we don’t know anything about this, so what can we do?She has told some other staff members about it, so now it has become quite embarrassing. I wrote her a letter saying I refused to pay, as I didn’t take the items, but she hasn’t responded.

Signed, Wrongly Accused

Dear Wrongly Accused:

Probably your nursing manager is very frustrated and angry over knowing that someone stole food items, even though she might not know exactly who did it. So, she wrote a letter telling everyone who had access to the food that they had to pay for it.I can understand her anger, especially if it has happened before or if it is likely someone of your group at least knows who took the items. However, it was poor judgment on her part to demand repayment from all of you and you were correct to say you won’t pay for something you didn’t take.I’m sure she didn’t have approval from anyone higher up to write the demand.

The higher levels of an organization large enough to have a nursing manager would know that there is no way to force you to pay for something in those circumstances.

Nevertheless, if the higher level managers of the organization you work for as a nurse thinks you and others stole something, they could fire one or all of you, whether or not they have proof. They aren’t obligated to have proof to fire someone. So, this is potentially very serious and you will get a better result by showing concern about the thefts rather than only being angry about the accusation.

Apparently someone stole food. Not necessarily one of you five, but someone. Maybe your manager is wrong that it happened on your shift. But if she knows it happened on your shift, it certainly would appear that one or all of you either took the food or knows who did.I often suggest that employees look for ways to ensure that items at work can’t easily be stolen, because that is one way to ensure they aren’t ever accused of taking it.

The employees have as many reasons to want to protect things from being stolen as managers and owners do. Many places that have potential for theft keep almost every closet and cabinet locked and only one person can check out a key to those who need access. It’s inconvenient but necessary to avoid loss.In other workplaces, employees must keep purses, jackets and bags in lockers to which they do not have access during working hours. That way they have no place to hide stolen items.

Cameras for monitoring an area are not a good solution most of the time because it is a waste of time and money to monitor all the time. If the cameras aren’t monitored it’s almost impossible to go back and review them accurately after a theft is discovered Perhaps you and the others can talk to your supervisor, tell her you are as concerned as she is, and that you can promise that not only did you not take the items, you would report anyone who you ever find out is stealing and you will look for ways to save money and reduce loss in every way.

A concerned approach and an effort to discover how the items were stolen or why they are missing, may help to convince everyone of your sincerity. If you get the chance, talk to your manager even before she responds to your letter. This is the time to want her to have confidence in you, not just to dislike her for accusing you.If she continues with accusations and is unreasonable about it, go to HR or go to the level higher than her. Ask for assistance in resolving this unpleasant situation.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.