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Office Theft: Why Employees May Steal At Work

01/11/2012 05:28 EST
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It's like stealing candy from a baby, but worse.

By the time noon hits, the last thing you want is to find out your sandwich was stolen from the employee fridge. How many times have you found your frozen dinner missing or caught your co-worker using your milk without asking? When it comes to defining theft and borrowing at the office, it can get tricky, says Jancy King, director of Toronto Psychological Services.

"You can dress it up if you like, but you're still stealing," King says.

If your workplace is experiencing theft, don't jump to conclusions about your co-workers who commit the crime, says Dr. Will Cupchik, a psychologist based in Toronto.

After working with over 700 theft cases, he says there are two types of common thieves. An atypical theft offender is someone who usually never steals and often feels ashamed or embarrassed, while a typical theft offender has no remorse and will strike whenever they please.

"When honest people start stealing stuff, they have experienced or anticipate an unfair personal meaningful loss," he says, mentioning that people who fear losing their job or are dealing with family health issues are more likely to steal from others.

Last year, 43 per cent of people admitted to taking things from work to keep for personal use, according to an AOL Jobs survey. Eighteen per cent of people claimed to have stolen items valued over $50.

It's not just Post-It pads and yogurt containers that go missing. In 2009, 58 per cent of people said stealing ideas from co-workers was common at their workplace, according to a survey conducted by Angus Reid.

Preventing theft can get fuzzy, especially when you may not know someone's intentions, King says. Leaving your name on your sandwich or bringing up the issues to a management team is the first place to start.

WATCH:

Here is a fun way to protect your lunch from your hungry co-workers.