Someone Took My Soda!

Question:

We are a small office and all use the same refrigerator. Today, I had a drink disappear and I went around and asked everyone if anyone had taken it. I said it could have been a mistake and they thought it was theirs. Everyone said no. One girl (who has done it to someone else before)said she didn’t take it, but when she left I checked her trash and she had spilled it in her trash but the can was no where to be found. I had written my initials on the bottom of the can. What can I put in an email to try to get the point across that it’s rude to take someone else’s stuff?

Signed,

Angry and Thirsty


Answer:

Dear Angry and Thirsty:

There really is no purpose in sending out an email saying it’s rude to take someone else’s stuff. Those who didn’t take it don’t need to be told–and may resent being treated as if they were accused. And the one who took it knows it was wrong, so it won’t make any difference.

If you believe you can prove which coworker did it, based on the evidence of spilled soda in her trash, you should tell your manager and ask that something be done to stop this type of stealing.

My concern is, can you really be sure? If she was drinking a can of soda, wouldn’t someone have seen her if you have a small office area? Where would she have thrown the can if not in an office trash container. If she would have had to leave the office, would someone have seen her go?

I’m not saying she didn’t take it, just that it seems it would be hard to drink a can of soda and have no one notice, unless you are in separate offices. If I have my doubts your manager might have them as well.

Whether or not this theft gets solved, look for other ways to secure your food and drinks. One of the best ways is by using a plastic bag, tied tightly. It usually requires time or scissors to get it open, so no one can easily get into it. A paper bag would work too, but the plastic bag takes up less space.

Some people advise putting signs on the refrigerator. However, food is often taken anyway. Once the refrigerator door is open, the temptation seems to be too great for some employees. That’s when making the food or drink less easily accessible becomes the best prevention.

As an aside, make sure you don’t leave anything in the refrigerator more than a day or two. One of the most common reasons people take items is that they’ve seen it for several days and rationalize to themselves that someone has abandoned it.

This issue is among the most difficult to deal with in an office because, as is your situation, unless someone was seen with it, it’s difficult to prove. If you think you can prove it though, treat it like any theft, from the viewpoint of asking for supervisory intervention. You can bet if she had taken a can of pop from the 7-11 store THEY wouldn’t ignore it.

Best wishes with this situation. We would be interested in knowing what you end up doing about it. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know.

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.