ask the readers: I think my boss stole my company iPad

I’m throwing this very interesting scenario out to readers to weigh in on. A reader writes:

Several people in our department, including me, have company-issued tablets and laptops. On Tuesday, I went to a coworker’s office to talk for maybe 20 minutes, and when I came back, my tablet was gone from my desk. (I noticed about half an hour later when I opened my desk drawer where it’s kept, but that was the first time I’d left my desk since putting it in that drawer.)

The tablets all have tracking apps, but when I pulled it up it still showed the office’s location, so it’s not like some random stranger broke in, took my iPad out of my desk, and left. I assumed someone in the office had borrowed it (weird, but it made more sense than anyone stealing it) and waited until the end of the day to see if it got returned. It did not. (If I had it to do over, I’d send out an email to my officemates asking if anyone had seen it, but I was so nervous that I hated to draw attention to the disappearance.) When I pulled up the tracking info later, from home, it showed my boss’s address.

Wednesday morning, I went to her office and said my iPad was showing at her house and asked if I might have accidentally handed it to her when I gave her a pile of stuff the day before (even though I knew that wasn’t how it happened). Without even looking through the stuff on her desk, she said no way and that “those things are never accurate.” She isn’t very tech savvy and seems to think that because GPS is sometimes off by one or two houses, that means it could randomly pull up her house, in a town 20ish miles away, totally by accident.

I said I would take another look around, but now I don’t know what to do. I’m terrified to report this because it’s in our use agreement that we’re responsible for replacing lost devices. But I know where it is and that it wasn’t taken by accident—it’s not like I left it on top of my desk and she could have picked it up with a pile of stuff. I guess I could have kept it on me to avoid this, but I can’t really carry both it and my laptop around every time I have to go to the bathroom or meet with a coworker. I think it should be safe to leave these things on/in your desk in a closed (to the public) office with at most six people in it.

Technically she’s the one I’d report a lost device to and she’d move that up the chain. I don’t know if she will do that right away since I said I’d look for it again. Since I know where it is (and saved a screenshot of the tracking info in case she manages to disable it), should I approach her boss with that? Should I file a police report like I would if it showed a stranger’s address?

There’s one other thing—while I was trying to figure this out, I remembered that there have been a few weird incidents in our office. One employee thought there was some money missing from her wallet, because she’d withdrawn five twenties from the ATM a few days prior and only had three left. But she said it was possible someone at her house took it even though that had never happened before. Our admin was short on her petty cash by $100 once, and this manager told her she must have calculated wrong. The same woman who thought she had money missing was complaining one day that she couldn’t find her parka, but she never followed up on it so for all I know she found it again, so that’s even more iffy. But I’m starting to wonder if the incidents are all connected. We’ve only had this manager since January, and both of those money incidents plus the jacket thing happened since then; prior to her arrival, nothing ever went missing like that. Should I bring up those incidents because of the possible link, or is it inappropriate to speculate?

Also, was I wrong to leave my devices in my desk (or on top, which is where I leave my laptop?) I mean, like I said, it would feel weird to have to unplug everything and carry it to the bathroom or other offices, but I’m willing to do that going forward if that’s considered best practice when you have company property.

Thanks for any advice you might have. I definitely can’t afford $400 for a tablet and this is really freaking me out.

Well, readers, what say you?

Read updates to this letter here.

{ 295 comments… read them below }

  1. Natalie*

    Having dealt with a very similar incident in the past six months, I would suggest that you go to HR immediately. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200…go now. Take the screen shot of it being in her house, and also be prepared with the incidents of the other missing items. You may not need to disclose that info, but it could be helpful. My fear is that she will get ahead of you on this, and that might not turn out well.

    1. Meganly*

      Absolutely, go straight to HR (or, if there isn’t one, your boss’s boss).

      Also, can you lock any of your drawers? Because I would start keeping stuff locked up, and take the key with you to meetings/the bathroom.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      I wouldn’t bring up the other incidents because it’s purely speculation on OP’s part and it’s more likely to make her come across as paranoid than anything else. She has no proof for the other incidents and quiet frankly a missing $105 is not worth fighting for. As for the ipad, I agree to go to HR, but don’t go in guns blazing accusing the woman of stealing your ipad. What you want to avoid is a “her word against yours” situation (because trust me that won’t end well). Honestly, if possible I would even avoid talking to HR, but since you have to replace out-of-pocket it it seems you have no choice. I would go to them and say the following, “I left my ipad in my desk and it went missing. When I look for it with GPS, it’s showing up at Manager’s house. I followed up with her to see if I accidentally handed to her with some papers, but she seems to think she doesn’t have it. I don’t really know where to go from here…” HR might pursue it. Hopefully, they just let you off the hook for having to pay out of pocket to replace it.

      1. Plynn*

        What CoffeeLover said. Don’t go in with a whole list of unfounded accusations, just stick the simple facts of when it went missing and what you tried to do to find it.

      2. Jessa*

        Yeh, just go in with the “I GPS’d it and it came up at her house. It might not any more because I told her thinking it was innocent.”

  2. Smunchy*

    Do you have an Internal Audit department? If so, report it to them and they can take it from there. They are (or should be, if structured properly) independent from management and have authority to investigate incidents, or outsource the investigation, if necessary.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I think this is unnecessarily escalating things. Internal audit usually deals with large scale, material losses. They’re not really there for a person that stole a combined $500. They’ll spend more on resources to catch her than they will save in loss.

      1. Smunchy*

        I disagree – I am an Internal Auditor and theft is theft. External auditors will ask (or should ask) this if there have been any incidents (such as theft) during the planning stages of the financial statement audit. If they hear that there was a possible theft and management did nothing, that won’t look good.

        If the organization has a Security Officer (IT or otherwise), they could also handle the initial inquiries regarding the disappearance of the equipment.

        From a previous job, we found out the hard way that personal properly typically isn’t covered under an organization’s general property insurance. Company issued equipment is, but the cost of the iPad may be less than the deductible.

        In yet another previous job with a company-issued laptop, we were advised to put the laptop in a drawer if we were not taking it home for the evening. There was no requirement for it to be a locked drawer – just closed. I think the OP acted properly. No one should be going through closed desk drawers without the OP being present.

        1. CoffeeLover*

          I’m also in internal audit. People are expected to safeguard their own stuff. We deal with large scale theft, not with petty theft. I suppose it depends on the mandate of OP’s internal audit department.

          1. Jamie*

            There are different types of IA, though. I’m the head of our internal audit team – but we’re do QC IA. Our financial audits are conducted by an external firm – although their number for confidential whistle blowing is posted everywhere.

            So if this were to happen here I would absolutely want to be informed as IT and I would hope that people here would feel comfortable going to any member of upper management with a concern of this type…but even though this would be outside my scope as an auditor an IA would still be a safe bet because they would know the reporting protocols and generally have an inherent rule following policy bent so they would be a helpful guide even if not directly in their IA wheelhouse.

            Let’s just say if this happened here and someone went to one of our other IAs and they ignored it because it wasn’t a quality issue they’d be off the team – because common sense dictates that you report this even if it’s not your job to write the CAR.

          2. ITPuffNStuff*

            I’m not sure people can be realistically expected to protect company property from company employees on company premises. Imagine if all employees treated each other as thieves, locking their desks every time they go to the bathroom, keeping equipment locked to the desk with security cables, and generally treating each other as if the company is a den of thieves and no one is worthy of trust.

            While these approaches may reduce losses through stolen assets, imagine the impact on company culture and the ultimate effect on productivity. Is that the kind of business you want to run? Ultimately the company needs to hold itself responsible for thefts on its own property. One could even argue that the company has a share of culpability (in both the legal and ethical senses) for items stolen by company employees from a company premises because the company placed that individual on the premises by hiring him or her.

            Certainly, all employees are responsible for whatever happens to company assets as soon as those assets leave the building, but theft from company premises, by an employee? That is 100% on the shoulders of the company, and the person who committed the theft.


          3. Jessa*

            I think there’s a difference when it’s on company property and you’re supposed to have to pay for it. I’d be really upset if internal audit wasn’t willing to help me when someone stole something ON company property that they’re going to want me to pay the better part of a week’s pay (more if you get paid less) to replace.

        2. pidgeonpenelope*

          I’m a fraud analyst who would find employee theft and have to report it to our internal audit dept. If an employee steals another employee’s mobile equipment, this is something that my internal audit dept would want to know about.

          1. CoffeeLover*

            I see what you guys are saying, but from OP’s position I think this is going to escalate things too much. Is it the right thing to do in a black and white world, probably. I just think there’s better ways of dealing with this without involving internal audit. By better I mean less damaging for OP’s peace of mind and job security.

      2. Jessa*

        I also disagree. I think that ANY property that the OP is responsible for replacing particularly something more than $50 should be reported. This is not a stranger stole it or the OP lost it, this is another employee taking it. Theft is theft. AND the OP would be responsible for replacing it.

  3. Beth*

    Report the iPad immediately with the screen shot of where it is. Do not tell them you know whose house it is. Let them follow up. Do not bring the rest of the issues up. They are speculation. Focus on the issue at hand (your iPad) about which you have proof. I misplace iPhone all the time and I know the “find it” app is incredibly accurate.

    1. Kelly O*

      I like this idea, honestly. It’s not confrontational about who may have taken it, but it does show you’re doing your due diligence in trying to locate the device.

      You could mention that you’ve asked around the office to make sure it did not accidentally get mixed up in other things.

    2. A. Noni Mouse*

      That’s a great, non-confrontational way of bringing it up. Let someone else figure out whose address that is and see what happens next.

      1. some1*

        But how is the LW supposed to explain why she is not reporting it to her manager? The letter states the protocol is that she is supposed to and the manager is supposed to escalate it.

        1. Kou*

          Well she did, and the manager said the GPS didn’t mean anything and kind of dismissed it.

        2. Jessa*

          In most places with any kind of chain of command, there are procedures for what to do when the person next IN the chain is the problem. Now is it possible that someone else lives near to the manager? yes. But in that case the manager should have still taken it seriously.

          A piece of 500 dollar equipment went missing from INSIDE the office. This is not something a manager should brush off.

    3. Kay*

      My only concern would be that the OP already discussed knowing whose house it was with her boss, so it could come back to bite the OP. That could just be my naturally suspicious nature though.

    4. TheSnarkyB*

      In my opinion, this isn’t applaudably non-confrontational. It’s straight up passive. What is OP gonna do when someone fails to do their own due diligence and just charges her for the amount without looking up the address in the company database (why would they)?
      If someone else is anything less than sharp, OP is gonna have to go back and go “*cough cough* ahem… isn’t that.. isn’t that Jane’s house?”
      It just sets the whole process up wrong (IMHO).

  4. Del*

    Yikes! Seconding Natalie, definitely go to HR (or if you don’t have an HR department, go to your boss’ boss) and do it ASAP! Theft of company property is a HUGE issue, and you don’t want this on your record! Does your company have any kind of a protection policy for reporting internal ethics issues? (Most companies I have worked for have had a protected reporting hotline, but I’ve usually worked for fairly large companies.) Or, since this may very well be the resort, do you have security camera coverage? If your boss went into your desk to get it, that should be pretty visible on security footage.

  5. theotherjennifer*

    agree. And also to IT – tell them you need them to track the iPad… you can play Mickey the Dunce like you don’t know how to do it… but something is definitely amiss. While you are responsible for it – say taking it home, traveling for work, etc., you can’t be possibly be held responsible for inter-office theft – and by no means should you have to unplug all your devices and schlep them to the ladies room or to the cafeteria – that’s absurd. But when you get it back, I suggest you lock it in your desk and I would also lock my laptop anytime I left my desk.

    1. twentymilehike*

      tell them you need them to track the iPad… you can play Mickey the Dunce like you don’t know how to do it

      I don’t think I would suggest this, though, because what if that just makes OP look like she’s not capable of handling the responsibility? If someone came to me asking for help to do something that I knew they were capable of doing, or should be capable of doing, then I’d probably count that as a point against them. Especially if someone finds her screen shot and then knows that she was just playing dumb. Then she looks manipulative.

      1. Jessa*

        Especially since the manager has already been told and may take measures to move the device or something else to make them look innocent. You say that you tracked it. That you got x address out of it.

        I am not a thief but if I were? When told that it was tracked to my house? I would TOTALLY drop it somewhere in the office. I would bet that if they now search the item you will find it closer than you think. It will be placed somewhere that makes the OP look bad. So definitely report. Report now and fully.

      2. Becky*

        Depending on her relationship with the IT department, she could ask them to track it again, explaining she wants independent confirmation before going higher up.

  6. GG*

    Yes, go to your IT department and HR (or the boss above your boss if you don’t have one) immediately.

  7. Liz*

    Yikes. There really is no easy course of action here… but my first question is, are there locking drawers at your desk? If your office does not provide a safe secure place to lock up valuables, they can’t REALLY expect you to bring them with you everywhere, and you should feel reasonably safe stowing an iPad in your drawer.

    Is there an HR department in your building? And can you trust them/him/her, and are they not a friend/ally of your boss? If so, it might be worth having a conversation about what they feel you should do if you suspect an employee is stealing, and perhaps there is a pattern? You want to not indicate who it is or that they are senior, but that you want to know what HR’s desired protocol is. And then take it from there.

    I can’t decide if I think you should confide in a trusted coworker and ask if they’ve noticed the weird pattern, too – on the one hand, good to bounce your idea off and see if you’re imagining things. On the other hand, not good to start gossip.

    1. The OP*

      Our desks are so, so old. They have keyholes, but the keys have been lost to the ages. At least we have nice chairs. Oh, and iPads. :P

      We’re just a little satellite office so none of the major departments are in our building.

  8. AMG*

    Um, wow.

    Option 1:
    What if you play dumb, go to IT or HR as though you perhaps were unaware that you needed to report it to your boss? I’m all for honestly and being on the level, but this softens the accusation and let’s people draw their own conclusion.
    Also, how do you know it’s your boss’ address? Would other people recognize her address?
    I would also bring up the concerns that ‘someone’ might be stealing and it’s been going on since January. Let IT, HR, or boss’ boss draw their own conclusions.

    Option 2:
    Go to your boss’ boss and explain it the way you have here, and let the chips fall where they may. Puts you in jeopardy if she gives your manager the benefit of the doubt.

    Option 3:
    Eat the cost of the laptop. Feels creepy though, like you are covering for get to avoid getting in trouble.

    I’d go with #2, but I have gotten in trouble for speaking up at the wrong time/wrong way in the past, even though it was the right thing to do.

      1. Jamie*

        I wouldn’t eat the cost if it was $1. On principle I’d quit my job and stop to file a police report with my screen shot if forced to reimburse for the cost.

          1. yasmara*

            OK, I don’t understand this. Obviously, most people would not actually *quit their job* over ONE DOLLAR. Am I wrong here? But a $500 iPad, and the potential risk of being branded as unreliable, is a completely different category, at least for most of us.

            1. Jamie*

              It’s the principle. Being charged anything is accepting responsibility as if I were in error. Even if no money was involved I would leave a company that insisted I accept responsibility as if I were negligent when I was not.

              I’ll always own my mistakes and if I was at fault I’d be the first to pay…but I won’t take the fall for anything when I acted properly and followed reasonable practices.

              So yes, I would quit my job over $1 or no dollars…because what I’d really be leaving over is the lack of respect.

    1. AMG*

      I agree, which is why I said it felt wrong. I know plenty of people who would do it though, hence listing and refuting at the same time. :)

      1. Jamie*

        Sadly there are a lot of people who would pay. If any of them are reading here…stop that!

        1. Original Dan*

          Can’t pay my mortgage if I quit my job no matter how right I may have been :-(

  9. Lisa*

    Be glad it has a GPS device on it. Go to HR and tell them you its gone, and was removed from your desk but you don’t know when. You can play dumb and ask if they can track it with GPS for you. Or you can put your manager’s opinion about GPS being unreliable on the table and state what the GPS location was.

    Also, tell HR you do not want a replacement if you can’t leave it unlocked in your desk when away for less then 15 min.

    **********Take the screen shot of it being in her house**********

    Forget the other items, just focus on this instance and let HR do the digging. You are in no way obligated to tell your manager that you are going to HR.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to play dumb and pretend you haven’t tracked it, because if the manager has disabled tracking in the meantime, what is the OP going to do then? I think the OP needs to explain she tracked it and hand over the screenshot (whether or not she says it’s the boss’s address is up for debate though).

      1. Kelly L.*

        This. Or even just moved it, now that she knows the OP has tracked it. No playing dumb–bring the screenshot!

      2. Lisa*

        What are the chances anything happens to the manager? Fired – depends, on a PIP or just a warning – probably. Depending on how valuable this manager is, she is prob sticking around. Which means OP has to be able to work with her manager being in charge of OP’s future at the company – reviews, maybe raises, at the min – assigning work that could be undesirable. I fear retaliation any which way it gets reported / handled since OP already told the manager she tried to track it.

        1. Anonymous*

          I agree with this. And as has been mentioned before it isn’t about what should happen but what in the real world will happen. I think that it is likely that there will be retaliation against the OP here. Unless the boss is found to be a thief and fired the OP may find a lot of impact on their work, good projects taken away, raises denied, even may get fired. And I think that while others have mentioned to not ever eat the cost on something like this, there is a point where principle and the need to sleep indoors conflict.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            See below, about explicitly asking for help in guarding against retaliation. That’s really the only feasible option. The OP shouldn’t not report just because the company MIGHT mishandle it.

        2. Chinook*

          What would happen to the manager would depend on whether or not this has happenned before. A good manager would not have told the other employees if someone had been accused of theft in the past. You have no idea if items haven’t mysteriously disappeared elsewhere in the company when she was around.

          Also, some managers have definite ideas of what is an immediate firing offence. I had one boss who was very supportive and flexible but when an employee mentioend to him that another employee approached him with an offer to sell him drugs, the alleged dealer was gone within the hour with no explanation to the reason why to the staff (I wrote up the paperwork, so I knew the reason).

          Lastly, can I take this moment to remind people, especially women, not to leave their wallets or purses somewhere in the open. My husband is a cop and he can’t get over how many cases he gets called to where someone reports their wallet stolen from their desk only to find out that they had left their purse on their desk, open, where anyone can have access to it. He even had one case where the same guy would pretend to be a contractor in less secure buildings and just wander around the offices, lifting wallets from people’s desks. Those that had put their bags in a drawer or even under their desk were never hit.

          1. Natalie*

            Yes, definitely. We get reports of these types of thefts from our tenants all. the. time.

            Do not let people wander around your office just because they say they are a contractor. Do not leave your money, purse, or expensive electronic lying around. Locking them up is the best option, putting them inside a non-locking drawer or cupboard is 2nd best.

          2. SerfinUSA*

            Where I work, contractors have to check out keys issued by the lockshop and checked out via campus police. You’d be amazed how many contractors’ employees are felons or wanted.

          3. EnnVeeEl*

            I and other people I know have caught office creepers, etc., several times. I had some CDs stolen long ago – and they were under a pile of papers. They search tops of desks but don’t go into drawers, etc. Lock up your personal items.

          4. Jazzy Red*

            People at my workplace tend to steal food out of the refrigerator/freezer. Our office manager used to send an email to everyone about this, and would always say that if someone is in need and hungry, to see him for help. I don’t know if anyone ever did, but I do know that the OM would have discreetly helped the person.

            It would be interesting if the OP knows someone who used to work with this manager, and if things disappeared there, too.

      3. ChrisTheLibrarian*

        The only problem I could see with not mentioning it being her boss’ house is that she already confirmed that with the boss. If whoever this is reported to goes back to the boss to say, “Hey, OP reported this iPad missing. Did she report it to you?” Since the boss does not sound like a particularly honest person, who knows what she would say. She could immediately go on the defensive: “Yes, but I don’t know why she said it’s at my house.”

        Going to, for example, HR immediately without some specific reason is going to be weird. Why would you go to Human Resources for a piece of missing equipment?

        If it were me, I would start with IT or the boss’ boss or IA (depending on the workplace, culture, and what the OP is comfortable with) and say, “I left my iPad in my desk while I was in a co-worker’s office. When I came back, it was gone. I thought someone borrowed it, but when it wasn’t returned, I tracked it. *present screenshot* I know the procedure is to report it to Boss, and I did. She confirmed that this is actually her house, but that she doesn’t have it. So I have no idea where it is. How do I proceed from here?”

        That is exactly what happened. I would say it in a genuinely confused, not suspicious or accusing tone. But that way the OP will not be caught in a lie at any point.

        1. Julie K*

          But that way the OP will not be caught in a lie at any point.

          I think this is important. OP hasn’t done anything wrong, so it wouldn’t be good if s/he were caught in a lie, even a small one.

        2. myswtghst*

          Agreed. I think it’s important to be honest, but not accusatory. The OP hasn’t done anything wrong yet, and shouldn’t start now.

        3. Julia*

          Agree – because, after all, it’s possible that the boss has taken it home by mistake in a pile of stuff and doesn’t realize that it’s there. Or even if that’s not the case, she might well be able to spin it that way.

      4. JPT*

        I’m with Alison… playing dumb seems, well, dumb. You asked her and she said she didn’t have it. You don’t need to even imply that you think she has it, just state the facts: “It went missing. It showed up in the office but I couldn’t find it. It showed up at this address later, which I know is hers. She says she doesn’t have it. What’s next?” If any conversation about this took place in e-mail give them that and the map screen shot. And if you can still locate it, LOCK IT and WIPE IT so she can’t use it.

  10. fposte*

    Seconding Natalie.

    And is there IT in this office? I would presume they’ll have the MAC address and other serial number info for the iPad, for verification.

    On the security issue–do you have a locking door? I’m curious because your suggestions only include carrying stuff around. I actually lock my door whenever I leave my office and there’s no staffer sitting right in front of it (part-timer chair), but if my office door wouldn’t lock I would not imagine that I was expected to keep an iPad or laptop on my person at all times, and I would ask IT what they considered to be appropriate security for this workplace.

    1. GeekChic*

      At many places I have worked, supervisors have all keys to the offices and drawers for their underlings. In some places this was to conduct random searches. In others, this was just how things were.

      At other places I’ve worked, lots of people had keys to almost every door in the place (IT, maintenance, etc). I do at my current organization as I’m in IT.

      Just because you can lock something doesn’t mean you are the only one who has a key….

      1. Jamie*

        No – but it narrows down the list of suspects from everybody to those with keys.

        Besides IT never steals electronic gear – we know it’s akin to kidnapping someone’s child. Some lines you just don’t cross.

        Or perhaps I’m too attached to my gadgets.

        1. Chinook*

          Jamie, I think if IT wanted to steal electronic gear, they could do it more steathly. All they would have to do is order an extra one or two and take them home. That way, they also get to have the “new computer” smell too!

          1. Jamie*

            The best part of a new computer isn’t the smell…it’s peeling the protective plastic off the casing.

            On the Big Bang Theory when Raj got his new phone and invited Howard to share in peeling off the plastic. That was VERY nice of him, because I wouldn’t share that with anyone. It’s one of the best visceral treats in the world.

              1. Jamie*

                Everyone talks about bribing IT with brownies, but when the packing department wants a favor they bring me a strip of bubble wrap.

      2. fposte*

        In addition to what Jamie said, people need to know what the CYA level is–it’s not just about making sure electronics don’t get stolen, it’s about knowing what you need to do to make it not your fault.

        1. A Bug!*

          Honestly, that’s my level of CYA for pretty much everything. Since I started working in personal injury law, my baseline for “should I do this thing” is “have I done my due diligence? If this went wrong, who would be liable?”

          (My highly-developed sense of guilt covers everything else.)

  11. Jamie*

    Are you kidding me? This is crazy. No you were not wrong to leave it in your desk – you even put it in a drawer which is more than I would think to do.

    I am SO glad you kept a screen shot of the tracking – I was actually yelling in my head for you to get a screen shot before she disables tracking. Really good move.

    Can you go to IT directly? If you can report it missing, but here’s the screen shot and tell them what your boss said about the accuracy. If you’re worried about fall out fake being confused like you aren’t accusing her of lying. Plausible deniability on your part and they’ll put 2 and 2 together before you finish the sentence.

    If they have them set up up to be managed remotely they can also wipe and lock the iPad remotely the next time it connects via wi-fi or data connection.

    I would love to advise you to report it stolen and get a police report, but I have no idea what office politics are like for you or how badly you need your job.

    1. Chinook*

      I second the idea of going to the IT department so they can set up a remote wipe of the iPad. They would then know how best to deal with this. Take along the that screenshot of the location as well to verify your due diligence.

    2. Marmite*

      Yeah, the police call is difficult, but it might be possible to report it stolen to the police without mentioning the tracking, so that OP would have a police report and insurance may cover the loss rather than it being out of her pocket.

      I’ve done this once when I had a work Blackberry stolen by a teenager in a school group I was working with. My employer didn’t want to go the route of proving which child had taken it so they asked me to just file a police report saying it had been stolen on x date at roughly y time and nothing further.

    3. AF*

      I was thinking the same thing – you shouldn’t have to worry about company property sitting on your desk when you go to the bathroom, especially when there are so few other coworkers around. It certainly narrows down the pool of who may have taken it, so that’s pretty damn ballsy of the boss to think that she could get away with it.

    4. Blinx*

      Can the IT department remotely “take over” the iPad? If so, can they use the iPad’s camera to take pictures of whoever is currently using the iPad??

      1. Jamie*

        I know you can remotely lock and wipe (if you’ve set it up to do so) but I don’t know if you can take it over that way like you can with a laptop.

        But that would be so creepy – I’d be afraid of what I’d see. Some people take them into the bathroom and there isn’t enough money in the world to make me capture that screen shot…

        1. Another Liz*

          If it has an installed application similar to Prey (which I have on my cellphone and personal laptop) you can send a code which will lock it/wipe it/turn on GPS/turn on webcam (or any combination of the above).

    5. The OP*

      I am SO glad you kept a screen shot of the tracking – I was actually yelling in my head for you to get a screen shot before she disables tracking. Really good move.

      Thanks. :) I have a very suspicious nature, so I screenshot and/or download just about everything. There have been too many student loan papers that went “missing” or apartment ads that suddenly changed on Craigslist after I viewed the place, etc.

  12. Rich*

    Wow! A couple thoughts here:

    1. During the workday, you don’t need to have everything chained to your desk. But when you leave stuff overnight, it should be locked away even if you don’t lug the stuff home everyday. You never know who’ll be in the office.

    2. If you have an employee handbook, it probably tells you to go to HR, legal, or some other designated senior person. I’d suggest starting with HR. They (we) can tell you how to best proceed. They’ll probably also want to see the screen shot. I’m not sure I’d speculate about other missing items in the office, since those are speculations. Let them connect the dots unless they ask about other possible incidents.

    3. Don’t discuss this with other co-workers.

  13. Erica B*

    Holy cow. I would have left the tablet in my desk drawer and felt safe about it. We have computers at work, and it’s not something that just walks away especially in a small office.
    Maybe you can track it again and see what happens. Call the 800 number/contact customer service for the iPad (app) and confirm it’s accuracy for when it’s lost. Then follow up with the person in question (if your comfortable) and say something like, “It seems like you were checking something on my iPad and forgot to return it as it’s showing up at your house on the GPS. Maybe you accidentally put it in your bag, but I really need it back.” If she pushes back to that, then I would take some sort of action.

  14. Lisa*

    I’ve been in the same situation within the last 6 months, with incidents that seem “weird” but innocuous on their own…however, taking the sum and looking at all the evidence simultaneously, it pointed to one person involved with a lot of theft.

    Head straight to HR/boss’ boss, IT, and Asset Protection/Internal Audit.

    1. Lisa*

      That person was fired. As far as I know, no criminal charges were filed (although they could have been based on the amount stolen).

  15. Sascha*

    I’d go straight to HR. A more reasonable boss would have responded, Yes I took it because I needed it for X (though taking it out of your closed drawer oversteps boundaries a little). When someone doesn’t intends to steal something, they don’t deny having it and then claim that the tracking software is malfunctioning. This is all sorts of suspicious to me.

    But like others have said, I wouldn’t mention the other incidents simply because you just don’t know what’s going on there. There could be reasonable explanations for those. But with the iPad, you have the screenshot, you have the conversation.

    1. Jamie*

      I wouldn’t mention the other incidents, either. I totally get how all together it seems weird, but it looks like you’re reaching and you’d don’t have to. GPS will make this case for you.

    2. IndieGir*

      Sascha, you make a great point. This boss is stupid and arrogant — even a normal, reasonable thief would have used the pretext of “accidentally” taking it once she realized she was caught. This person clearly has issues and may feel she’s above normal rules.

      Totally agree about not mentioning the other incidents as well. It just muddies the water.

      1. Jamie*

        If I had to wager a guess the next time they run the tracking it will show up in the office itself, like it was “lost.”

        Seriously, you don’t need to be tech savvy at all in order to use an iPad, but you should know a little something in order to steal one.

        1. IndieGir*

          Which is why it is so great that the OP has the original tracking screen shot. Frankly, if I were management I’d totally fire OP’s boss, b/c she’s both unethical and incompetent at being unethical. Think of all the damage she could do my company with that winning combination!

          1. Chinook*

            “Frankly, if I were management I’d totally fire OP’s boss, b/c she’s both unethical and incompetent at being unethical.”

            Reason for firing – keeps getting caught!

    3. Ellie H.*

      If the boss is revealed as a thief in this matter of the iPad, it might be possible to bring up the other concerns about missing money ($100 from the company, and $40 from a coworker) later on, after criminal proceedings (or whatever else happens) are underway and the iPad theft has been definitively established. But I agree that they should not figure into this iPad issue at the moment.

        1. Zahra*

          Oh, that one replied on the thread. IIRC, the conclusion was that she convinced her boss to clarify dress code for everyone (or something like that), without resorting to HR.

  16. wowjustwow*

    Go to HR or boss’ boss-whichever is available to you. Be honest and give them the facts. Ipad was in drawer. Disappeared between this time and that time. Asked boss if it was in her things. Boss answered no. Used location tracker, provide screen shot of tracker result (include date and time reference if there is one). Admit you know it is boss’ house and how you know that (have you been there, did you look in a company directory, did you use reverse lookup). Buy a desk lock for your laptop.

    1. fposte*

      Ask the company to buy a desk lock, maybe, but the OP shouldn’t have to foot the bill.

      1. Diane*

        Ask the company to buy a locking fridge, too, in case the boss starts stealing lunches.

      2. Jessa*

        This, I worked for a place that had desks so old that maintenance ended up drilling and putting a hasp lock on my ancient metal desk. I provided a padlock.

  17. Corporate Diva*

    Having gone through something like this within the past two weeks you should report it first to IT who will then conduct the audit. They most likely hav their own tracking on it as we’ll. they will then take care of it from there

  18. some1*

    I would only reveal that the location is your boss’s if you had a legitimate reason for knowing your boss’s address before this happened. Such as, you have been there at her invitation, have dropped her off, home addresses are available to employees in the department, you’re her admin, etc.

    If you, for examples, found out on Google, glanced at your boss’s ID before, or someone else told you where she lives, etc, I would not reveal the address in the effort of self-preservation.

    Also, I would lock your purse in your desk if you carry one from now on.

    1. some1*

      Actually, never mind, I re-read the letter and I think the LW knows the boss’s address for a legitimate reason, otherwise the boss would have most likely asked the LW how she knows where the boss lives when confronted with the tracking info. (I would.)

    2. IndieGir*

      Why do you say that? To me the perfectly natural thing would be to google the address I got from the tracker in a reverse address directory, which would likely give you the homeowners name. I just did myself, and I’ve got an unlisted phone number and still showed up there. I don’t think knowing it was the bosses address would convey anything negative about the OP, other than that she’s got google-fu.

    3. Cat*

      I actually think she should reveal it because of the conversation with her boss. Since her boss knows she knows it’s there, I think it makes sense to relay that conversation to whoever she’s reporting to. Otherwise, she’s leaving out salient details and that could come back to haunt her later, especially if the boss tries to spin the story when confronted.

      If she hadn’t had the earlier conversation with her boss, I’d agree.

      1. fposte*

        I also think it helps answer the “why aren’t you just pushing your boss on this, since she’s the person in the chain?” question. But I’d still watch the tenor of the conversation before I dropped this tidbit into it.

      2. some1*

        Thinking about it some more, yes, I agree that the LW should tell HR that it’s the boss’s address because she needs to tell HR why she is reporting this to them and not her manager.

        1. twentymilehike*

          Thinking about it some more, yes, I agree that the LW should tell HR that it’s the boss’s address because she needs to tell HR why she is reporting this to them and not her manager.

          Oooh! Good point!

  19. H. Vane*

    OP, I really your only options are to go to HR/boss’s boss/internal auditors. I don’t even think you need to act confused. Take the screenshot, be honest about what’s happening, and let them take it from there. She has made it clear that she intends to keep the ipad, which makes her somebody that you do not want to work for. A reasonable company will take action based off of the evidence you present, even without the other incidents. Seriously, she’s been there for only four or five months. It is unlikely that they feel particularly loyal to her, and she is a major liability to them.

    Please post an update.

  20. Newbie Here*

    Your boss’s response when you asked if you may have accidentally gave it to her is very odd. I would definitely go to another third party at your office. If you go straight to HR or your boss’s boss as a first resort, however, things may turn out badly. I hope you are in a larger office where you can go to IT first. It will “CYA”, if you know what I mean, if accusations that this person has stolen your property comes from someone besides you.

  21. Amy*

    I really hope that the OP updates us with the outcome of this situation when/if it resolves!

  22. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Here’s an aspect of the issue that we haven’t touched on yet: If the boss isn’t fired (which it sounds like she should be), the OP will continue to be working for her, and there’s likely to be tension (at a minimum) in the relationship. It’s possible that the boss will be nicer to try to erase this incident, but it’s at least as likely (and probably more so) that it will cause problems in the working relationship.

    Because of that, I’d say that it’s crucial that the OP talk to HR about this aspect of the situation. HR (or the boss’s boss, or whoever) needs to make it clear to the manager that there can be no retaliation of any kind, no matter how subtle, and that even a hint of that would be cause for very serious consequences. A good HR department (or a good boss’s boss) will get this automatically, but it would be smart for the OP to spell out for them that she’s concerned about retaliation and ask for their assistance.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t want the OP to read “you should look for another job” and think she’d be better off just not reporting this, rather than have to go through that hassle.

        She absolutely should report this. (And the boss already knows that she knows, probably.)

        1. GeekChic*

          I don’t know if I would trust a company to keep me safe from retaliation from this boss if they didn’t fire her. I’d be too boggled by why they weren’t firing her!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I could see an overly risk-averse company feeling like they were pretty sure she did it, but not being confident that they had sufficient “proof” to fire her. (Which is wrong-headed, but some companies think like this.)

            I’d fire her. But an overly bureaucratic, overly risk-averse place might not.

            Either way, the OP should report it.

            1. Marmite*

              I thought this was one of the advantages of at-will employment – they could fire her for any reason, including unproven theft?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yep, but tons of companies are still risk-averse and don’t do it — either because they don’t quite understand the law or because their lawyers have them too scared to act reasonably.

              2. Mike C.*

                Theft is cause just about anywhere, so I don’t see “at will” playing into this. No union contract or lack of at will employment is going to tolerate breaking the law against your employer.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The scenario I’m picturing is one where they can’t “prove it.” The manager says she realized she accidentally took it home after all, and even though it’s obvious to everyone involved that she stole it, there’s just enough plausible deniability that the company feels it can’t act because they can’t prove it. Even though they don’t need to.

                2. Marmite*

                  Same as Alison I was imagining unproven theft. Suspicion alone may not be enough to legally fire someone without at will employment.

            2. A lurker*

              I think the fireable factor is that the OP have her boss an out, a chance to return it, a chance to say something even as crazy as “I’m your supervisor and I wanted to review your work on the tablet/borrow it/whatever.” The OP said, “Hey, it looks like it’s at your house,” and the boss LIED. That’s what makes what happened theft. I think the OP would do well to emphasize this to HR, because clearly there is going to be retaliation if the company won’t fire this person.

          2. Jamie*

            I wouldn’t either – if it was proven that she stole and wasn’t dismissed. However I wouldn’t quit without something lined up so I would absolutely expect them to monitor this and make sure I wasn’t retaliated against while I was looking.

            Not that they would know I was looking, but for me that would be too big a hurdle to overcome. You don’t need to like your boss, but it would be impossible for me to have a professional relationship if I had zero respect and couldn’t trust not to pick my pocket.

            1. some1*

              “You don’t need to like your boss, but it would be impossible for me to have a professional relationship if I had zero respect and couldn’t trust not to pick my pocket.”


        2. some1*

          Oh, no, I agree, report & start job searching in the event the boss doesn’t get fired.

          1. Anonymous*

            This is incredibly depressing. Someone else steals something from you so you have to find a new job or eat the cost.

            I’m not saying it isn’t true, clearly it is, but it is extremely depressing.

          2. Ruffingit*

            I agree that it’s a sad day when you can’t trust your boss not to steal from you. That just speaks for itself in so many horrible ways. Definitely begin the job hunt just in case.

  23. books*

    When you get your iPad back, your first step should be to put a password on the home screen, so that if someone picks it up, they can’t log in and use it.

    Right now ask IT or whoever is in charge of office supplies to (a) buy you a lock for your laptop or (b) reimburse you for one.

      1. Jamie*

        If they are running Exchange they can force it. If you have our email on a phone/tablet it forces the password option on. If you don’t want to password protect it you have to disable the Exchange account.

        And please make it something that’s not 1234 (the most common one EVER) or 1111 or whatever. And don’t use your birthday. People tend to make those unnecessarily easy to guess.

          1. Jamie*

            The iPad itself has different password than the network admin password so they shouldn’t have it.

              1. Jamie*

                There are a lot of third party MDMs for Apple now which give you options for transfer depending on whether or not you want to save the data…and if not you can always wipe and restore.

          2. Natalie*

            I sort of doubt that, unless the company is pretty small. Our managers don’t have admin passwords – if they needed to get into my laptop for some reason they’d have to call IT like everyone else.

        1. fposte*

          I remember when the gmail passwords got hacked and posted that it revealed just how crappy most people’s passwords were.

        2. Jubilance*

          My company has prohibited our passwords from being anything simple like 1111 or 1234 – it won’t allow you to select them as valid passwords. More companies should do that.

          1. Editor*

            For four-number passwords, I take advantage of the fact I have moved around a few times and have changed addresses and phone numbers, so I use the last four digits of old phone numbers and previous addresses for some passwords. I can remember them, and I can write a note that says “apartment phone” or “Ohio address” to clue me in to the four digits. Those are both from 15 to 30 years ago, so it isn’t like someone could track them down easily.

            For longer passwords, I use a combination of prefix, suffix and main word, so an 8-character password would break down to ppwordss, where I have formulas for designing each part that makes it easier for me to remember. The prefix and suffix are letter-number combinations that incorporate any special characters needed in the password, and the word in the middle is not a dictionary word, but a formulation based on a pun on a dictionary word or a nonstandard keyboard walk. My work computer at lastjob required a new password every three months, so each year I came up with a new prefix and suffix, and then changed the middle every three months using a theme I could easily remember.

            So, to give an example, I might base the prefix and suffix on the word exit. The prefix might end up being 3x and the suffix 1D, where id is a variation of it. Say the theme for the word is animals; the middle of the password might be dogs. But it would be spelled with a d, then a zero, then gz. The full password would end up being 3xd0gz1D. It’s not the height of complexity, but it isn’t obvious even though I can remember it by writing “exit canines” in my purse calendar. Or I might use the same prefix and suffix and do a keyboard walk, where the middle is based on T and the keyboard walk keys are yuij, so the password would be 3xyuij1D, and my reminder to myself is “exit t.”

            1. Cassie*

              I use song lyrics because they’re easy to remember, taking the first character of each word and tossing in some numbers. If the lyric is short, I might spell out the last word. So like Britney Spears’ Oops I did it again becomes 01d1aga1n (the first character is a zero).

              Although I don’t usually use the title of the song which is more recognizable, just a random lyric in the song. That way, I can write “Britney” down which will serve as a clue.

        3. Just a Reader*

          My company requires this and IT doesn’t have the password. Phones/tablets are not to be shared due to sensitive info, with anyone, under any circumstances.

  24. Mason*

    I think that OP should go to HR or boss’s boss (don’t know the size of the company here) and should DEFINITELY provide the other speculation items. The boss isn’t going to get fired for the iPad – because she’s just going to say “Oh, you know what, OP was right! They DID accidentally hand it to me with some papers and it made it home with me! Silly me!” Then it is just a count down til the OP is forced out for “performance reasons”.

    The other evidence is crucial to get this escalated to firing (unless the company is going to try and set up a sting).

    1. Jamie*

      About the whole did I hand it to you by accident thing…I get why the OP did it – to avoid the conversation about the boss going in her drawer – but I wouldn’t have.

      No one should have to offer to accept responsibility for something that wasn’t their fault (when they were acting completely properly) just so someone else can save face for not acting properly.

      I’m not saying go through life casting blame and being confrontational – no one wants that – but don’t ever diminish yourself by offering up that you may have been careless when you weren’t.

    2. Cat*

      I was thinking about and I’m leaning towards your position on the other issues; it might make sense to proactively bring them up because she isn’t going to be able to bring them up later without looking defensive and out-to-get her boss. So here’s a possible script:

      “I wanted to talk to you about a pattern that has been concerning me lately. It might be nothing, but I thought it was important to bring it to your attention. There have been a couple of incidences of money and items that seemed to go missing; I dismissed them as coincidence but there have now been three occurrences, which I feel warranted a report.

      “The first was X [Insert neutral description.] The second was Y [Insert neutral description.] Most recently, my iPad was taken out of my desk drawer while I was away from my office. I used the tracking system and it showed this location [proffer screenshot], which I remember being near where [Boss] lives since [we had that BBQ at her house or whatever]. I thought that she might have gotten it accidentally with a stack of papers or something like that, so asked her and she said she hadn’t but that she believes the GPS on these things is unreliable.

      “That is all I know. I just thought somebody else should be aware. Thank you.”

      1. clobbered*

        +1 to Cat.

        Think of it from a different way. If you were the poor HR person who had to deal with this, wouldn’t you know that people have noticed their belongings go AWOL? HR is not a court of law, they have to make a judgement call as to how much seriousness they should place on such a report, and more data will help them make a better decision.

        If I went to HR and said “i… hear…. rats…. they whisper at me when I work late at night” they might look at me a bit funny. If I can add “And Jane is finding droppings in her cookie drawer”, they might decide that I am crazy about rats talking to me, but the exterminator is a good idea regardless.

      2. BrooklynMS*

        Why say “I thought that she might have gotten it accidentally with a stack of papers or something like that, so asked her…” since OP is certain it was in her drawer and you’ve suggested she make that clear. Instead, she should say “My first thought was to ask my manager in case there was some reason she needed to take it, but because I didn’t want to accuse her, I said to her that my iPad was showing at her house and asked if I might have accidentally handed it to her when I gave her a pile of stuff the day before, even though I knew that wasn’t what happened.”

        No reason to misrepresent anything that has happened…

  25. AnotherAlison*

    Just a question. . .

    Why is no one mentioning going to the police? Unfortunately, I’ve had a bunch of stuff stolen in the past couple years, and we filed police reports even though we knew we’d never see our stuff again.

    The closest incident to the one the OP asks about involves my son & gym shoes. First, the school said they couldn’t do anything, akin to losing the iPad and not knowing where it was, but then the kid who stole his shoes wore them to school. The office (vice principal) contacted his mom, who lied for him (we do know for fact that they were the same shoes because they had wear on the toe from left-handed pitching moves). We then brought in the box and a pic of my son with the shoes, and the next option was to file a report. Dunno if it’s going to happen because school is out next week. I don’t think the school wants to bust the kid, but my husband really, really wants to bust him. My son also “lost” $80 at school, and we’re just tired of people taking our stuff!

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I realize they might not see it as theft, since the manager is also employed by the company that owns the device. If they fired her and then she still had it in her possession, maybe. . .

    2. Anonymous*

      Well one option is to not bring “spare” items to school. It sucks, but in good weather you can probably get away with wearing the gym shoes all day. And if the kid needs to spend $80 on a regular basis, it’s probably time for a debit card. I know there’s the “fair and just” argument, but sometimes avoidance is just easier.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        As my son would say, “Well, Obviously.”

        I don’t think my son needs to have swamp ass feet all day, because someone else has no legal, ethical, or moral standards (these were fairly plain running shoes, not like near $200 Lebron shoes or something). My issue isn’t so much with the theft, as the lack of action when the perp is known. You have stuff at school, sh*t happens. I get that. The money was totally on him. We said, tough luck pal, don’t bring $80 to school. But, when you see the guy walking around with *your* stuff, and *you* are still expected to eat it (like the OP and her iPad), that’s not right.

        1. Marmite*

          That is hugely frustrating and would make me wonder what else the school is letting slide.

      2. Marmite*

        I was always amazed by the expensive stuff parents sent with their children on the overseas travel I used to chaperone. Aside from the risk of theft (which happened rarely but did occur) there is the risk of kids losing things. Thirteen year olds who aren’t used to getting up at 6am and aren’t used to being entirely responsible for all their belongings are almost guaranteed to leave something in their hotel room when we check out at 6.30 in the morning. I felt less bad for the ones who learnt that lesson with a $100 point and shoot camera rather than a $1000 state of the art DSLR.

        (And yes, teachers used to check the rooms, but kids will leave stuff in the weirdest places – I asked one boy where he’d left the iPhone he’d forgotten – in the bedside table drawer under the bible).

        1. Lynn*

          I did the exact same thing on a business trip at the age of 36! Fortunately I had left a good tip for the housekeeper, so she gave it to the front desk and they mailed it to me.

          1. Marmite*

            Yes, we were able to get quite a lot of things back when it was hotel rooms. Items left on trains, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, in the hotel lobby etc. were rarely seen again.

    3. some1*

      Ugh, I had an expensive ring & bracelet stolen from my gym locker in high school. When I reported it to my gym teacher she literally shrugged and told me I should not have left them there, and there’s no reason for a 15-year-old to have expensive jewelry.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        That sucks. My best friend had her flute stolen (insert American Pie joke here), and recovered it at the pawn shop. I bet that’s where your jewelry went, too.

        I remember a video going around a while ago about kids setting up video to catch who was stealing their stuff from the gym locker room, and it turned out to be the teacher.

        1. some1*

          The only comfort I had was that I had a very small ring size that most can’t wear and that it was an ID bracelet, so at least the thief couldn’t wear them.

          1. RubyJackson*

            My 88 yo mother threw a blood clot and had to be rushed to the hospital. They did xrays and surgery, but she later died. Afterwards, we realized the 1 carat diamond necklace she *never* removed since my father gave it to her 10 years earlier was not returned to us, nor was any of her belongings, like the clothes she was wearing. (It was horrible, like every trace of her just vanished) The xray technician remembers removing the necklace for the xray and then putting it back on her. When my sister and I went to the hospital a few days later and with a photo of her wearing the necklace to ask around, one of the nurses said, “Well, people shouldn’t wear expensive jewelry to the hospital.” Like it was her fault for not thinking of removing her jewelry as she was dying. What are people involved in car accidents supposed to do? Anyway, even after filing a police report, going to all the pawn shops in the area, and monitoring Craigslist for a year, we never saw the necklace again. The hospital paid us $5,000 for their negligence. It was no consolation to knowing someone robbed our dying mother on her death bed. Disgusting.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Ugh, that is awful. There is nothing worse than a thief, and anyone who would rob a dying woman is a ghoul. I hope something really awful happens to that person. Also, that all his/her fingers fall off and he/she gets a horrible rash on the behind.

      2. Cassie*

        I was a TA for gym in the 8th grade (there were three of us girls) -the other two girls would go through the lockers and steal stuff. They’d first check for unlocked lockers, taking bus passes or money out of backpacks. They figured the girls who didn’t lock up their stuff deserved getting stuff stolen. Then they’d target girls they didn’t like, by looking up the combo lock codes in the log book.

        I didn’t report it (I was a stupid kid who knew what they were doing was wrong but was also afraid of what they would do to me) – but the teachers caught on quick. I think within a few days, the two girls were no longer TAs. I don’t know if they were punished, suspension or anything (they weren’t expelled, though).

        I think this experience (and feeling helpless) is one of the reasons I want people to report illegal/unethical stuff when they see it. It’s not easy, but at least at work – people should feel safe from retaliation.

    4. Sydney Bristow*

      I’m not sure, but it might be the company that has to report it if the company is considered the owner of the ipad.

      1. Jamie*

        Nope – at least not here. One of my users had a laptop stolen and I just gave him the serial # etc and he went to the police department to file the report.

      2. MeganO*

        @Syndey Bristow: +1000 for your username. I seriously want to be her when I grow up/in my next life. Or tomorrow would be good…

  26. Dave*

    Document, document, document. Screenshot & print the GPS tracking data ASAP.

    I assume she’ll freak out at some point and figure out how to turn the iPad off, so get that info in a permanent form sooner than later.

    Next, since this involves your immediate supervisor, go one level higher. You know how sensitive the issue is, and convey this to your manager’s boss. Say that you didn’t know if you should have brought it up with HR or them.

    Start there and move on! If it comes down to your manager docking your pay or requesting money for a replacement ipad, you have to weigh your options, but again, I would start by moving up the food chain. Last resort, hire a lawyer and be prepared to find other work. Best of luck!

  27. Trenton_H*

    The proper procedure is to notify your boss of the missing equipment, so do so – in writing, and be specific about the circumstances. Also mention that “Find iPad” was enabled on the device, and that you’re willing to assist the IT department in tracking it down. Then provide copies – with screenshots of the iPad’s location – to IT or HR, or both.

    You did not mention whether the device was passcode-protected. Hopefully it is. My concern is now that you’ve revealed that you know its whereabouts, the person with the iPad will eventually figure out how to disable Location Services on it. So the sooner you document everything, the better. If your boss does hold you responsible for the loss, appeal to her boss, and provide copies of all documentation.

    You also did not mention whether you were in an office or cubicle. From a security standpoint, however, items like iPads and laptops *need to be secured*. If you’re in an office, lock the door. In a cube, put them in a locked drawer or cabinet – even if it’s only for 20 minutes, and even if it feels weird. Better to be the weird person who doesn’t have to cough up $400 bucks every time something disappears from the office.

    1. TL*

      I think the OP mentions she shares an office, in which case it’s probably not practical to lock the door every time she leaves.

      And she may not have a locking drawer – not to mention, one should have a reasonable expectation, at work, in a non-public place, that stuff in a drawer at your desk will stay in its drawer.

      Sorry, but this is all on the boss, not the OP. She acted reasonably and based her actions on reasonable expectations.

      1. Maris*

        That really depends on your company policy. My company is very security conscious (it is a key IT company) and risk adverse as a result.

        Policy here is: screen lock and password protect every device that is used to access company or client info. That includes your personal smart-phone and iPad if you use them to access or store company info.

        Laptops are to be cable locked during the day, and locked in a drawer overnight. Personal items (including your wallet) should be kept in a locked drawer.

        Reporting procedure is all losses and thefts are to be reported to the security department. If it was lost/stolen away from the office, you need to personally file a police report in that jurisdiction. If it happened at the office, security deals with the police. The good part is, having security handle these things removes it from the management chain to report. If Security comes back with a ‘X employee stole Y equipment’ finding – not only would that employee be fired, the company will also press charges.

        However, for all that – employees are not liable to replace company owned equipment that is lost or stolen.

        1. bearcat*

          I work somewhere with really strict policies too. Any equipment that is taken home AT ALL EVER has to be either logged in and out if it is occasional or follows a written and signed schedule if it is a regular occurrence. OP, if you’re company has this, you could at least get her on that one. If this happened at my company, they might ignore the theft if your supervisor lied and said she came into possession of it by accident, but they wouldn’t ignore that she broke with policy and took equipment home that wasn’t assigned to her and wasn’t allowed to go home without a written agreement.

    2. Chinook*

      Quick question since everyone seems to be referring to an iPad as $400 item. Where are you buying them? I always thought they were $600+ (or is it another case of a huge markup for crossing the 49th parallel?).

      1. Jamie*

        You can get older models for less – even from the Apple store as they do sell refurbished – especially to businesses. You can even get a 2 for around that at Best Buy.

        But when I go into Apple and get a new iPad (and I generally deploy either the 32 or 64 GB) by the time I add in Apple Care, a new case, car charger I’m up around 900+.

        Really excited about the new one coming out in the fall though – supposed to be so much improved when I broke my 2 I didn’t upgrade to the latest model because I’m saving that for the 5. Hope the release date rumor of September is accurate because I’m pretty excited.

        Although I have to say I prefer my 2 but I have an original that’s still alive and kicking and gets the job done. This is one of those things I thought was a toy and totally didn’t even want one until I had it…within a week it was as important to me as my phone.

      2. The OP*

        Honestly, I was guessing. My friend said she got hers for $380 or something like that, but then I remembered it was a mini. I was still afraid I’d have to replace it and I think my brain would have broken if I thought they cost even more.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      “items like iPads and laptops *need to be secured*”

      Uh, I should undock and lock up my laptop everytime I use the toilet? No, I think we have an expectation that company equipment is safe on company property. If we hire thieves, we need to take care of that problem, not slow down our work because our laptops aren’t safe in our cubes.

      1. Maris*

        You can *expect* whatever you like… the reality is, no office I have ever worked in (and I’ve worked in 5 different countries) is every totally theft free. I’ve worked for large corporations and small businesses. Its not just other employees, its the cleaners, the delivery guys (and, if your security is really lax) folks off the street that can wander in.

        Laptops really should be secured (during the day) with a Kensington Lock – every laptop has a slot for one. Its not going to foil a dedicated thief who has some time and privacy – but it will stop the walk by and swipe theft.

        They’re also great when traveling, if there’s not a safe, I chain my laptop to the towel rail in the bathroom (only fixture that’s actually fixed to the wall).

        1. Cat*

          Yeah, but the fact that a risk is actual and even imminent doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth mitigating. That depends on both the magnitude of the risk (which is going to vary with the size of your office, the cost of the item, the accessibility of your office, the security level of the information you store on electronic devices, etc.) and the cost of the mitigation measures (the cost of the locking devices, the time cost in having to unlock them every time you move the device, etc.)

          So, for instance, I know there’s a non-zero risk that someone could steal my purse out of my office while I’m in a meeting elsewhere in the building. And there’s a couple of women in my office who do carry their purses with them when they wander around the office. But for me, that risk is fairly small given the fact that our office is relatively contained. And the cost of (a) having yet another thing to carry; and (b) dealing with those kinds of paranoia vibes makes it not worth it for me personally. So I don’t do it. Offices have to make similar calculations regarding their technology and the results are going to be highly company-specific.

  28. A lurker*

    I think in the conversation with HR or the boss’s boss the OP should tell the WHOLE story, that is, the iPad was in the desk, the OP confronted their boss and gave the boss an “out,” with the “maybe you took it by accident,” and the screenshot. The boss knows that the OP knows she took it, so she really has crossed a second line in lying about it, which is what is making it such a fire-able offense.

  29. T-riffic*

    I just don’t understand why anyone would steal company property. I mean, the boss had to know that it had tracking on it, right? What was she thinking?

    1. AF*

      But if she’s not tech-savvy, she probably didn’t. She does now that the OP told her she tracked it, and clearly she’s not all that bright if she doesn’t understand why the tracking system would put it at her house.

      1. Marmite*

        Yup. Or she assumed her staff didn’t know/wouldn’t understand how it worked. Or she thought she knew how to turn it off and didn’t. Or she genuinely believes it’s unreliable. Or she forgot about it.

    2. Natalie*

      The boss may really believe that the slight variation with GPS means she has plausible deniability. Consider the non-tech-savvy people who claim they were “hacked” whenever they say something stupid on Twitter.

      1. Jamie*

        Or the people who deny that they didn’t do XYZ nor did they share their password with anyone when you show them that clearly XYZ was done at this time with their login.

        Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

        1. Natalie*

          I hadn’t really thought about this since we’re talking tech stuff, specifically, but people will do this even with non-tech stuff. When I was a kid a “friend” of mine stole some doll clothes my grandmother had made me. They weren’t completely one of a kind, but the only other ones were in the possession of my cousin, who the friend also didn’t know.

          I was pretty young, but I remember her saying she had bought them at an antique store. When I speculated on how odd that was since my grandmother had made them for me, she suggested maybe Grandma had made some more and then sold them to an antique store.

          Sometimes, people say stupid things when they get busted.

          1. Ruffingit*

            That is very true. People will often grasp at straws when they are caught. It’s a universal thing whether the item is $5 or $5000. Thieves are not averse to lying obviously. Unfortunately, quite often, their lies are ridiculous.

  30. Jubilance*

    Can you go to HR or a manager’s manager? If you work at a large company, most have ethics hotlines now after the Enron scandal – can you call them & report that you have a concern?

    1. SevenSixOne*

      If you go this route, be aware that it’s not 100% anonymous no matter what your employee handbook says. Call from a pay phone or borrow a cell phone from someone outside the company that you can trust not to blab– never ever a company phone line or any number that can be traced back to you!

  31. Liz in a Library*

    So glad you got evidence of this.

    If your workplace is functional, they will take a theft issue very seriously. I second everyone who says to report immediately.

  32. shannon313*

    Sounds like the boss is a klepto, presuming the incidents the OP mentioned are connected, which my gut says they are. This will not be a recent or isolated problem, and I bet an investigation into the boss will reveal past problems. That being said, such an investigation can’t commence until a proper report is filed. Bring it up, present the screen shot, and say the boss denies knowledge of the device’s whereabouts but the GPS refutes her statement. Then let the higher ups take it from there. I know retaliation is a legit fear, but if she did it once, she’ll do it again, and the OP could end up in this situation again.

  33. Julie K*

    I have a couple of questions about this situation:

    (1) Since the OP told her boss she would look around again, should she ask her colleagues if they’ve seen the tablet? Or is it too late for that?

    (2) I hate to use the “L” word, but is it legal to require employees to pay for lost equipment?

    About 10 years ago, my laptop was stolen from the office. My company requires us to file a police report when anything is stolen, so the cops came to the office and took a report. There are surveillance cameras in the building, but I don’t think they ever discovered who took it because it was small enough to go into a bag. Now we have a team of people who go around to offices at night and check to see whether laptops and other equipment are secured (locking cable or locked to the docking station). If they are, you come in the next day to a sticker on your monitor, which says that your stuff is adequately secured. If not, they take the laptop, and you have to call them to get it back. I assume they leave a different sticker in that case.

    1. Marmite*

      Here at least it is legal to expect employees to replace lost equipment if it is lost through their own lack of care (e.g. left on the Tube). Often when equipment like this is handed out there will be a user agreement to sign that will state the level of care expected and under what circumstances the employee will be required to replace the item.

      1. Jamie*

        Here too – and I cannot stress the importance of a very clearly understood (and signed) user agreement. When things are clearly in writing it just simplifies everything when something happens.

    2. Natalie*

      My recollection the last time this came up is that you can require an employee to replace something if they’ve agreed ahead of time to do so. Our company has employees sign an agreement before they get a company phone which I believe requires them to replace the phone if they do something negligent.

      If you didn’t have that agreement, you could certainly ask an employee to replace something, but if they refused I think you have to go through small claims court. You can’t, for example, just take money out of their check.

    3. fposte*

      Federally, at least, I think the only thing the law cares about is that you can’t dock their pay for it if it takes them below minimum wage.

    4. W.W.A.*

      I had a work laptop stolen from my locked house when I had brought it home to do some work. (That part was kosher under the user agreement.) Someone broke a window and grabbed a bunch of stuff off a table nearby.

      I suppose if I had been grossly negligent I would have been responsible, and I suppose I could have hidden the laptop in a closet or drawer when I left, but in any even they didn’t make me pay.

  34. Wilton Businessman*

    I would go to IT. Show them the screen shot of where it is and let them deal with it.

  35. Anonymous*

    Regarding what you should do with your equipment when you leave your desk – our laptops have lockable docking stations and we are all supposed to lock up our computers when we leave or desk for a period of time or when we leave our computer in the office overnight. I’m sure your IT folks could help you out with that?

    1. The OP*

      We haven’t ever had anything like that, but then again, being given devices is a recent development. I think they figure since it’s such a small office…why bother? But this might change that…

  36. W.W.A.*

    It’s interesting to me that a lot of people are discussing locked drawers, and whether OP was negligent in some way by leaving her office for 20 minutes without “securing” the tablet.

    I worked in an office where everyone had laptops in docks. It was easy to remove them. We closed and locked our doors at night, but it wasn’t generally our practice to lock our office doors every time we stepped away, on the off chance that someone might wander in and take the laptop. Was this negligent of us? If my laptop had gotten stolen while I had gone over to my coworker’s office 20 feet away to discuss something, do you think I ought to have been held liable?

    1. Jamie*

      IMO no. Yes, lock it overnight or if you’re going to be away for hours but for me it’s reasonable to assume you can leave something on a desk while you are in another office or running to the bathroom or whatever.

      I would not want to work in an office if you couldn’t not trust your laptop would be there in a few minutes while you were away from your desk.

      The exception to that would be if your office was open to the public. I should be able to trust my co-workers not to steal from me, but if the public has access to your area that’s like leaving it on a train – lock it up if it’s out of your line of sight.

      If you were one of my users and it was stolen while you were in the office but away from your desk I’d replace it at no cost to you and investigate to find out who walked off with it. If you left it on a bus or on the seat of your car in full view while you were elsewhere I would expect you to reimburse for the loss. It all comes down to what is reasonable care.

      And just on the topic – for me reimbursing for the loss is what the computer value was worth at the time – not the replacement cost for a new model. If you left your 3 year old laptop on a bus I’d expect reimbursement for a refurbished 3 year old model – not the replacement cost of the new computer.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I don’t think our docking stations lock, I’m in a cube, but our office is not open to the public. In fact, we’re required to leave them on overnight once a month so they get updates. I had never even considered that the laptop might not be safe.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Our docks lock but I was told it wasn’t necessary to take the key with us; just leave the laptop in the dock (unless we’re taking it home–we don’t take the dock). Our office is secured access; you have to have a badge to get past the lobby and it tracks every move you make. Also, there is a policy that if someone is in the office an employee has to be with them all the time.

        Of course, this doesn’t protect against employee theft. I imagine my company would come down pretty hard on it. I agree with the other posters. The OP should report it immediately. I liked what Cat suggested for a script.

  37. Lils*

    I don’t have a tablet and my organization doesn’t issue hardware. Out of curiosity, what’s the primary purpose of IT installing the tracking app on all work-issued tablets? Is it mainly so employees can find it when they leave it somewhere or is it to find thieves? Also, are the employees expected to figure out and use the tracking app themselves (is it easy?) or would most people need help from IT?

    1. Zahra*

      Find My i(Thingy) is an app provided by Apple, for anybody who wants it. It’s pretty easy to use. I would expect IT to use it (or something similar) for both reasons you mentioned: so people can find it if they misplaced it and so they can find it if it is stolen. After all, that’s how Apple found their “lost” iPhone prototypes in the last few years. It was not a fancy, corporate app that they used. They just used “Find my iPhone” and wiped/bricked the device remotely.

    2. Mari*

      iPads have this capability through Apple’s software–so this wasn’t something extra IT installed. They just have to have it enabled when it is set up. It isn’t hard to use–you just log in and click “find my iPad” or something like that. If the manager knew anything about how it worked I don’t think she would have taken the iPad.

    3. Jamie*

      Mostly to find it if lost or stolen and yes, anyone can use it.

      I lost my phone once or twice, which is weird since it’s rarely more than 6″ from my hand, but it showed me it was at my address. Now if the app was really helpful it would have told me it was in between the passenger seat and console of my car…but at least I knew I didn’t leave it at the store or something.

      1. Lisa*

        Jamie, you’re a tech person. Surely you can add that feature to the app. Shouldn’t take you more that an hour, right?

        (Sorry…been on for the past three days!)

        1. Jamie*

          Ha! I could get lost in that site. Anyone who deals with web developers or graphic artists should read that site before thinking everything is so easy.

          1. Lisa*

            I kid you not, I read through the entire 304 pages of entries in the last 3 days.

            I’m not even remotely connected to tech/IT/ web development/ graphic design (in fact I had to call my in-house tech support to figure out what was wrong with my Java this morning…two versions installed), and just reading the stories made me want to bang my head on the wall!!!!

            1. Elizabeth West*

              LOL I’m not either, but I’m a writer and I can imagine. I think those people are brain dead. It must be some sort of new zombie virus–your brain shuts down and then makes you order web design/development services.

    4. Parfait*

      It’s super easy, and it’s accurate enough that I can tell if I left my phone in my car parked behind my house or in the bedroom. Boss lady is definitely mistaken about the accuracy.

    5. Lils*

      Ok, thanks, so it seems like it would be weird if the OP *hadn’t* thought to use the app to track the missing iPad. And it would be weird for her to pretend to HR or IT that she didn’t know how to use the tracking app. AND it’s weird for the boss to pretend like the GPS doesn’t work accurately!

      This boss’ reaction reminds me of my old boss…get caught in a lie and BLOW SMOKE LIKE HELL!!

      Good luck, OP, I definitely want an update. I can’t imagine that this will be very comfortable for you, but you should pipe up and not eat the cost.

  38. The OP*

    Hey, all. Thanks so much for answering this so quickly, Alison. Last night I had made up my mind that unless this actually got posted with advice I hadn’t thought of that I was going to call HR while my manager took her lunch today. I checked here as soon as she left and whoa comments. Some of them definitely influenced how the conversation went.

    Since people were asking, we have a little satellite office and HR and IT are in the main office which isn’t even in the same state. Also, I knew this was the manager’s house because she had us over for dinner in February. Not that I memorized it, but when it popped up I certainly recognized the street and town.

    I called HR and explained how I found it missing and used the tracking app to find it. I said I didn’t know what to do next because I could tell it was at boss’s house (I told the rep about being there for dinner) but how I’d gone to her and tried to make it seem like an accident and the boss blew me off.

    I hadn’t been planning to bring up the other missing stuff because like most of you agreed, it’s speculation. But I ended up telling the rep anyway because the conversation just went that way–she specifically asked if we’d had anything disappear before, so I wasn’t going to say no.

    She told me to call the police and file a report, so I called, and an officer got here a little after boss got back from lunch. That was precious. I’m supposed to get a copy of the report and send it to HR. But the rep told me that they won’t make me replace the device since it was stolen right from the office where I’m supposed to be using it, yay!!!

    I’ll send an update if anything happens, but I’m just glad I’m not being charged for the iPad. Now that the policeman left, I finally get to take my own lunch where I’m downing sweet tea like it’s going out of style.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oooooh, so interesting! What was the tenor of the conversation with HR? Did you get any signals about what she was thinking or what might happen? (I wouldn’t be surprised if not, as they should be discreet about that stuff, but not all of them are.)

      How has your boss been acting since all this went down?

      1. The OP*

        I definitely didn’t feel like she didn’t believe me; she sounded really sympathetic. But (and I expected this) she made no promises or speculations or anything. I need to be really discreet in my own job so I know the tone.

        I don’t even expect to necessarily hear anything. It might be like when you report a bogus charge on your CC. You get a letter when they take it off but it’s not like they call and tell you they tracked who used it.

        I could *feel* her staring while I talked to the policeman, but I carefully avoided looking that way. She was in her office when I left for lunch. I’m planning to put on my helpless Southern belle act when I get back and tell her the nice policeman said we-all need to lock up our valuables and…leave the office in pairs or something. Idk, I’m still a little charged from all the excitement. I might need some smelling salts here.

        1. Adam V*

          I actually did get a call from the cops when my debit card was cloned – they made a bunch of purchases in the same city (but a different part of town) and one of the stores had cameras, so about an hour after I called him with the information, he called me back asking “do you know anyone who looks like ?” I didn’t.

          No real resolution though – the bank reimbursed me the money and I never heard from the cops whether they caught the person responsible.

          1. Adam V*

            Argh, that should have been “do you know anyone who looks like [description]?” (Using angle brackets gets me every time!)

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I hope seeing the policeman put the fear of God into her. Stupid twit. If my feet and my knee weren’t completely dead from two days of solid skating, I’d put my skates back on and kick her with the toe pick. Hard.

          1. EnnVeeEl*

            If she is as crazy as I think she is, maybe it didn’t bother her at all.

            Stealing a work IPad and then coming up with that lame excuse when shown the screen shot? She has NERVE.

    2. Jamie*

      This is a great update – and nicely handled by HR.

      You know we will need more updates, right, to see how the police react to the screenshot and how this all shakes out? :)

      1. Zahra*

        Oh yeah, we’ll want more updates, especially to see if your boss retaliates and how HR handles it further down the road. I’m definitely adding this post and comments to my RSS reader so I don’t miss any update (unless you’re emailing it to Alison so she can make it its own post).

    3. Adam V*

      Nice! What was the boss doing while you were talking to the officer? (Freaking out in her office, I would assume.)

      1. Jamie*

        Trying to come up with an answer to the inevitable questions…

        “Oh THAT iPad! The one from your drawer! I thought you were talking about a different iPad! I have that one, for serious work related reasons. I misunderstood that when you asked me if I had the company iPad issued to you that you meant that one…the one issued to you.”

    4. Eva*

      It’s exciting to read your comments as events unfold, OP!

      I’d like to know if you gave the officer the screenshot of the tracked location or if you tracked it together while he was there? What I mean is: Did he understand the time sensitivity of the iPad possibly being removed from the thief’s home before the police might get around to tracking its location on their own?

      1. The OP*

        I pulled it up in front of him and printed it out since it still showed the same location (I checked before calling). The screenshot would have been a last resort since it’s not like you can’t fake those.

        I’m wondering how stupid she had to be not to bring it back once she realized I knew how to track it. Or at least bring it anywhere other than her house.

        1. Adam V*

          Too bad you can’t lock your desk *now* – in case the boss comes in early tomorrow and puts it in your drawer before you get in, then tries to play it off like it had been there the whole time.

          1. The OP*

            Damn, I never thought of that. But I did show him the drawer it had been in. Maybe that will help.

            I’m going to photograph my desk drawers with timestamps before I leave tonight. Which will be very soon after I come back from my late lunch.

            1. Adam V*

              I might suggest (if this happens) is that you call the police back and tell them “it showed back up in my desk”, and maybe ask them to come back out and fingerprint it?

              If the cop looked in the drawer and verified it wasn’t there, plus you showed him the screenshot saying that it had been at your boss’ house, he’s not going to be fooled into thinking “oh, she must have just missed it. Multiple times. And so did I. And the other stories of missing items? Coincidence.”

              (Side note: I didn’t mean to worry you. You’re doing the right thing, and it’s going to work out.)

              1. ITPuffNStuff*

                I can’t imagine the boss’ fingerprints on the iPad would be worth much here. It would prove that the boss touched a piece of IT equipment that belonged to her employer. Given the inevitability of that kind of contact in the normal execution of her job, it seems a bit useless as evidence.


            2. Adam V*

              Also, it might be worth a call to the HR person to say “can we get the desk drawers in this office re-keyed, to prevent this sort of thing in the future?”

            1. Elizabeth*

              Oh, you know! Computer stuff! Computers always act weird. It must be a virus! Or probably it was hacked. Or hacked with a virus.

    5. EnnVeeEl*

      Good for you for standing up and doing the right thing and protecting yourself. I was seething reading this and realizing you might be on the hook for replacing that IPad and that…that…woman told you that lame lie, and was going to let you take the fall for it. I can’t wait for the update and will thoroughly enjoy reading how she was fired and escorted out of the building. I don’t take pleasure in that kind of stuff, but I will in this firing. I hate thieves.

  39. Your Mileage May Vary*

    OP, does your boss have family members that come by and hang out at the office? Like kids who get off the school bus and stay there until going home with mom at the end of the day? If so, is there a possibility that one of them lifted it? That way, it could be at the boss’ home but she may not have any idea of it.

    1. Adam V*

      If that were the case, I’d have been thinking “how would her iPad end up at my house? I didn’t take it… oh, my relative was here yesterday…” and my response wouldn’t have been “oh, GPS is so unreliable”, it would have been “I’m going to call my relative RIGHT NOW and ask some rather unpleasant questions. Please hold off on doing anything until I get back to you, which I promise I’ll do before the end of the day.”

    2. The OP*

      Nope, nothing like that. We have occasional appointments and maintenance comes in at night (I take the devices home at night), but it’s a tiny office and I would have known if anyone was there. The office is locked so the admin has to let people in. We rarely have anyone come in for any reason.

    3. Lils*

      I thought of that too, but then I wondered why the boss was so dismissive and quick to make a rather asinine excuse like “those things are never accurate” without even pausing.

  40. TheSnarkyB*

    Go to HR, follow the many great suggestions here, but please, please ignore all of the advice to play dumb. (whether they be about not knowing how to track it, not having printed it out, not knowing it’s her address – all of it). It’s not doing you any favors. And if you’re a woman, it’s not doing us any favors.

    1. The OP*

      I’m all for playing dumb to save my skin–like how I acted like she must have just taken the tablet by accident, and how I’m planning to go along with her story to her face that she has no idea why it’s showing her address. If she brings it up I’m all for playing like there’s a mad thief on the loose out to get us all arrested. But I agree it wouldn’t have been appropriate to play dumb with HR or the cops.

      If nothing happens to her, at least I did what I could to keep her happy in her cocoon of innocence. Hopefully that translates to no retaliation.

      1. B*

        Good saga!

        OP, if your boss does bring it up with you, you can keep the conversation short. You addressed it with her and she didn’t feel it was a big deal, so you went to HR to report the theft as required (since you’re technically supposed to compensate the company). HR then told you to call the police. Done.

  41. Adam V*

    I’m reminded of the recent story about the iPad that was “left” at the TSA area of the airport, and it disappeared, but it “happened” to show up at a TSA agent’s house. When he claimed it wasn’t there, they remotely made the iPad play a loud alarm… which they could hear from the front door. And then he went back inside, and came out with it… claiming his wife had taken it. (From the secured area of the airport.)

    Ah, here it is:

  42. Timara*

    If it walks, talks and looks like a duck then it may well be a duck. And since it is only May and your manager has been there all of five months and it seems like there’s something new missing every month … hmm, unless someone else new was recently hired, I’d point the finger at her too.

    Like others, I suggest going to HR. The good thing is that you have proof. The bad thing is that if nothing comes of this you’ll have potentially ruined the working relationship you have with your manager.

    On a bright side, at my job if your laptop or work cellphone ends up lost or stolen you’re fired. However, we have locking cables for our laptops and your work cellphone should be on you at all times. As for your office, I suggest implementing a policy where everyone is required to lock their desks. That way you can ensure nothing ends up growing legs and walking away.

  43. J*

    All I can say is omg I am subscribing for further updates! OP, I think the fact that HR asked if there had been any other incidents seems promising (at the very least like HR is interested/taking it seriously).

    1. PuppyKat*

      Yes, it makes you wonder if HR has already heard something about the other missing items (alleged) through the grapevine.

      This has been fascinating for me to follow today! I’ve never had anything remotely like this happen to me at work.

  44. Mary*

    hi OP – please keep us updated. You did the right thing reporting it. It seems as if this manager has ‘sticky fingers’. I worked in a small family run office and money kept disappearing out of people’s wallets and petty cash. The person who was taking them only took from the owners or people with high salaries; but how she got caught was weird. She was going into the owner’s purse. Another employee was in the room with her back to the employee; but the employee saw the woman’s reflection in the screen as she was reaching into the owner’s purse and as she was doing that she keep looking at the back of the employee to see if she would happen to turn around unaware she was being seen on the screen.

    Once she was caught, it wasn’t the end; the owner started getting large credit card bills for items she didn’t buy. The employee also stole her identity.

    My point being, laptop. money today. ID’s tomorrow. You were right to do what you did.

    1. cncx*

      i had a similar colleague although she didn’t stoop to identity theft. she contented herself with stealing from the petty cash and our purses. she also did some of the accounting for the office and got caught when a personal monthly cleaning service she bought for her house had been passed off as a business expense for 9 months.

  45. Charles*

    Is there security cameras over your desk? Most offices only have them over the entry/exit points, the elevator area, so they can capture anybody walking out with something big. But iPads can fit into a handbag.
    This is quite icky, your boss claims that GPS is inaccurate, we know some of them are like Facebook saying that somebody checking into a restaurant in Australia is in Sri Lanka, yes, that has happened to a friend of mine.
    But it is very hard for it to be a coincidence that the GPS is inaccurate and showing up at your boss’s home address.
    Like people have said above, I think you should show the screen shot to HR, and put it as a way of asking HR for help in the investigation, by giving them information, but not accusing the boss. But really, to me this screams “boss is a thief”.
    AAM, I hope we get to see an update of this.

  46. ITPuffNStuff*

    Raise a ticket with your IT department directly, reporting the device was taken from the office. It is the company’s responsibility, not yours, to secure their own premises. You are in no way liable for thefts that occur on their property. Don’t mention any suspicions about who took the tablet — just report that it was on your desk (be sure to stress that it was on company property), and when you returned to your desk, it was gone.

    It is IT’s job to investigate the asset loss, and they will surely discover the same as you where it has gone. Once IT discovers the equipment’s location, they will approach your boss (or more likely, they will engage someone from HR or Security, who will then approach your boss’s boss) about the missing equipment. This puts a completely different tone on the conversation, as the manager who has taken the equipment knows she could be terminated for failing to return it.

    It also removes you from the situation completely, and puts the investigation and action in the hands of the people who are actually responsible for it.

    I hope this is helpful. Good luck!

  47. Anonymous*

    Don’t accept responsibility for company property worth $400 if you cannot afford to replace it, and the company policy expects you to replace it yourself.

    Why would you accept a work tablet under those terms if you know you can’t afford it? What exactly were you doing to do if you dropped it accidentally? I understand you didn’t expect a co-worker to steal company property, but what if someone stole it from your home or car?

  48. JPT*

    I’m late to this thread but WOW. In addition to reporting to HR, I’d recommend talking to an IT person about what the protocol would be. And since she claims she doesn’t have it, why not lock it/wipe it remotely?

    1. JPT*

      Addition: In my experience leaving my iPhone at my desk, in the work bathroom, in my car, and various other places, the FindMyiPhone has always been 100% accurate down to the exact address.

  49. HAnon*

    also late to this thread, but on the topic of theft…can I get on a soapbox for thirty seconds? I see signs everywhere that say “Not responsible for theft; do not leave valuables in car.” And I get it, you don’t want to be foolish, so I don’t leave laptops lying around. But it’s my car, and they are my possessions! I would much rather see signs posted that say things like, “Don’t even think about stealing my stuff, you dumba**!” When are we going to start making people take responsibility for themselves? I think those signs bother me because it sounds like it’s my fault that my stuff got stolen, and not the person who smashed the window!

    1. Emily K*

      Those signs aren’t saying, “It’s your fault, not the thief’s,” so much as they’re saying it’s not the fault of the parking lot operator if someone smashes in your car window anymore than it would be the fault of the DOT if someone smashes in your car window while it was parked on a city street. They’re making sure you understand that they’re providing a parking service, not a security/guarding service, so that you don’t sue them for whatever was stolen while your car was on their lot (which value is probably much larger than the sum you paid to park there and could quickly put them out of business).

  50. Cliff Hanger*

    If it was the Manager’s job to send the report of a lost ipad up the chain, why did she not do so? It seems to me that this is at most the beginnings of a cover up and at least failure to perform her duties.
    At my workplace, the IT dept. comes in once a year to inventory IT equipment. Sounds like that may need to happen if the manager is failing to report lost/stolen equipment.

    If feel like I am waiting on the sequel to a good book or movie. OP keep us updated.

  51. Sadsack*

    So what happened?! I just came across this thread and am dying to know if you know what the end result was after the police officer came to your office! Do you have a new manager now??

  52. Sadsack*

    So what happened?! I just came across this thread and am dying to know if you know what the end result was after the police officer came to your office! Do you have a new manager now??

  53. Renee Nichol*

    I’m also so curious to hear how all this turned out! Would love to hear an update!

  54. Kate*

    I am sure that since each device has this tracing app installed than there must be some process under that explaining what should employee do when device goes missing?

    I am also sure that everyone and always must rely on facts (rather than feelings) – so all OP could actually do is collect all the facts and go to someone ready to listen. Since his boss was not ready, then probably it should be HR (if there is such department).

    Here, facts would include the story about leaving iPad in OP’s drawer and not finding it anymore. Everything else (possible thefts etc) is more of a feeling thing. Since all iPads in the Company has tracking systems, then HR will also be able to track iPad up and deal with it further.

    I wonder, what happened at the end? :)

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