Illustration: Ashley Siebels
Have you ever taken office supplies home? Stole some pens and paper from your employer for your kids’ arts and crafts class? Used the office printer to print personal concert tickets?
In a recent anonymous survey by Papermate as part of the launch of a new pen, 100% of office workers admitted to have stolen a pen at work. Other academic researchers have reported that up to 75% of employees admitted to stealing office supplies in the past year.
The damage in economic terms caused by these “petty theft” behaviours have been valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually, may be responsible for roughly 35 per cent of an organization’s inventory shrinkage annually, and an average of 1.4 per cent of its total revenues.
So if these behaviours are so harmful to our economy, why do we engage in them?
When you start a new job, your employer tends to make a series of promises to you with regards to your employment that are not necessarily part of your written contract.
Imagine that your employer promised you “flexible working hours” and a “collegial work environment.” By making these promises, your employer has created a set of expectations. These expectations form the basis of what we call a psychological contract.
As long as your employer keeps up his/her part of the deal, you will be a happy, committed and loyal employee. The only imperfection to this situation is that it rarely exists. We know that over time, employers and employees’ perceptions of what was promised may start to drift apart.
In reality a lot of people will perceive that their employer is deviating from his/her original promises. Indeed, about 55 per cent of employees report that their employer broke promises within the first two years of employment, and 65 per cent of employees have experienced a broken promise within the last year.
At this point you are probably thinking: “So if they break their promises so often, they must at least apologize for them, right?” Sadly enough, a series of recent findings has indicated that employers hardly ever seem to notice that they did something wrong.
As a consequence, they only try to justify or rectify their actions about six per cent to 37 percent of the times. It therefore seems that employers break promises rather frequently, but they do not seem to acknowledge their wrongdoing or intervene to offer a solution.
If you wrong us, shall we not be vengeful?
Because these promises are such a central part of your employment agreement, you feel that when your employer breaks them, you can take what is “rightfully” yours.