Magazine article HRMagazine

How Do We Stop a Lunchroom Thief?

Magazine article HRMagazine

How Do We Stop a Lunchroom Thief?

Article excerpt

"Why would someone do this?" is often among the first questions asked in the wake of a lunch theft. Unfortunately, people find myriad reasons to justify taking others' food or other small items and will often minimize the impact of their actions as "no big deal." (Terms like "petty theft" don't do much to counter this perception.)

But it is a big deal. Any type of stealing is not only frustrating to those directly affected by it, but it erodes trust and sows an environment of suspicion in your workplace. That's why HR should take steps to discourage this behavior-by warning, counseling or disciplining as necessary-and maintain a professional culture that is fair and respectful.

Start by educating employees about theft, including that of food, and the employer's position on it. Discuss it at staff meetings and through other communication vehicles, noting that you've informed senior management of the problem. It is helpful to give specific examples of how stealing people's lunches can affect them. For example, it may be challenging for those with food allergies and dietary restrictions-or even tight budgets-to replace stolen food. Make it clear that any theft is a violation of your company's policy and that disciplinary action will be taken when employees are caught.

At the same time, dissuade any would-be vigilantes from taking matters into their own hands by engaging in food pranks like putting hot sauce on their pasta, which could be harmful or invite retaliation, or using their own cameras for surveillance, which may be against company policy or illegal. …

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