Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being labeled a thief:
I am an Automotive Technician. The person who works to the left of me could not find his $150.00 flashlight one day. Upon hearing this, the person on the right of me said, “Oh, Scott probably stole it!” I knew he was joking so it did not bother me.
The next day the flashlight person found his flashlight in a drawer of his toolbox. Upon hearing this, the person on my right said, “I felt guilty about taking it and put it in his drawer when he was not looking.” I still did not take this seriously because we all misplace tools and or lose tools frequently. I even joked about it.
At the end of this day the technician on the right of me couldn’t find two of his wrenches. He immediately accused me (jokingly he says) of taking these wrenches. He was sure he put both of them on his toolbox. I told him “Ok, I joked with you about the flashlight, but I don’t think joking about stealing is funny anymore”. I even helped him look for them.He told some other people about this situation and they asked me if I took them or had given them back. From this point on every time he brought up the subject I told him I don’t think this is funny and I do not appreciate this.
Now the wrench technician and I are not speaking and I honestly believe he thinks I stole his tools. Other people say I am making a big deal out of this, but I feel I am justified because accusations of stealing are serious and I do not think it should be joked about.I feel if I do not stand up for myself every time someone loses something it will be “Scott probably took it,” and as I said, we are always losing tools. The wrench technician and I got along before this except for one time he did not talk to me for 2 weeks because he was looking for a machine which happened to be next to me and I did not hear him asking about its whereabouts so he thought I was ignoring him. This situation has made me ill. I do not want to go to work. I feel as though everyone is looking at me as a thief. Any advice you can offer will be greatly appreciated.
Signed, It’s No Joke
Dear It’s No Joke:
Joking has turned into accusations, or at least a label that harms your reputation. How might you stop this? You have done about all you can. You have insisted that a joke was a joke and you want no more of that. The kind of situation in which you are working makes missing tools and mistrust easy. Perhaps it would clear the air if you take time out for a meeting with those of you who work closely and to set forth a written agreement on the rules of tool use. Also possibly if each mechanic/technician would paint his/her tool handles with a different color that could signal to whom a tool belongs at a glance.I recommend that you do not talk about this again informally. Rather put your faith in straight talk: talk that makes the rules of tool use clear, talk that builds rather than destroys trust, talk that creates the highest motivation possible–to work together as a team to please and keep your customers. Does this make sense? Will you keep me posted on what you do and what works or fails?Think and act with WEGO mindedness.