update from the reader whose boss stole her company iPad

Remember the letter-writer in May who thought her boss had stolen her company iPad? She used a tracking app that showed it was at her boss’s house, but her boss denied knowing anything about it. Other things had been going missing, as well.

She posted her first update later that day in the comments:

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.

And here’s her more recent update, from just this week:

Honestly, I’m not sure how to say it’s going. A couple of weeks after this incident, the manager in question was just gone. I wasn’t about to come right out and ask what happened. For all I know, she quit. But I’ve been having a really hard time ever since she left.

In the moment, all I could think about was whether I’d be in trouble for losing the iPad, and especially whether I’d have to pay for it, because I couldn’t. So I was in fight mode and wanted her gone for putting me in that position, and now that she is, I’ve been feeling really guilty. I wish I hadn’t brought up the other missing things from the office–the HR rep came out and asked me, so it’s not like I volunteered the info, but what if it was just a coincidence and she wouldn’t be gone but for that?

I used to really like going into work, and I liked this manager pretty well. Now I just feel sad every time I come into the office. I feel like I want out, but there’s nothing wrong with my job, just the way I feel about it. I kind of wish I’d just reported the device missing, given them the screenshot of the location, and let them figure out whose address that was. I might feel less gross about the whole thing then. :/

Anyway, thanks for posting the original question; there was some great moral support in the comments.

Letter-writer, this is absolutely not your fault. She  put you in the position of needing to report her, and she put herself in this situation too. She stole something from you that you could have been stuck paying the cost of — that’s a big deal. You did the right thing, and the consequences to her were the natural ones. You were a messenger here, not the cause of anything.

{ 73 comments… read them below }

  1. dejavu2

    OP you should *not* feel guilty! I get where you’re coming from, because I can be the same way, but you need to accept that your manager was not your friend or someone worthy of your loyalty. She not only stole from you, but stole from you in a way that endangered your position within the company and could have cost you hundreds of dollars! You very correctly and effectively protected yourself and your employer from someone who was acting recklessly and dishonestly.

    1. The Other Dawn

      Exactly. The manager put OP in this position and she should not feel guilty about doing what she needed to do. I don’t feel sorry for anyone who would do this to someone.

    2. anon-2

      I would feel a little disappointed at the manager getting fired.

      On the other hand – this manager may have stolen from the company and would have happily allowed the blame to fall onto YOU.

      Why do you feel “guilty” about that? She pulled a stunt, got caught, and it coincidentally involved you and property issued to you.

      I was once accused of a theft – making a $100 phone call on the company’s dime – what it was, one of my colleagues (married) had a girlfriend who was vacationing in Bermuda. Someone accused me of doing it.

      a) this accusation is so insulting, it would usually be beneath comment — BUT …. I am forced to reply.

      b) my relatives, who travel there often, happen to be home all that month, and this month, I would have no reason to call Bermuda.

      c) I might add — my relatives have class. They would never stay at a s**thole hotel like that one. They’re better than that. That’s the hilarious thing in all this.

      cc. to my attorney

      I threw my response on the boss’ desk. Also informed him that my family attorney has a copy of this, advising, he’s smarter than any of your attorneys, so if I were smart, I’d drop this matter entirely. Now, YOU’RE not smart, but… if I WERE you and were smart….ensured the director was in the room.

      “Now where do you want to go with this? Will you be pursuing this further? I hope you find the culprit.”

      End of story.

  2. CFinn

    Another point to consider would be how unsettling it would be to work for a a manager who you knew probably had the iPad and lied about it, possibly as other things continued to go missing from the office. Imagine if another employee was being held responsible for something going missing when it was really the boss. The situation is unpleasant and therefore it’s ok to feel bad about it but there is no win-win scenario when you know someone is stealing and lying.

    1. Sadsack

      I am so glad that you wrote in with an update. I have occasionally wondered what ever happened in this case! I hope you will be able to get over your guilt at being involved because you did not get yourself involved, your manager did. Your telling about the other missing items was a response to a direct question, the only acceptable thing to do was to tell the truth. The company obviously did some investigating and who knows what turned up. The fact that your manager was going to let you take the hit on the iPad that she stole makes me wonder what else would have been blamed on you. You should be proud to have stood up for yourself and did what is right for the company. Imagine if your manager was embezzling! Good riddance to her and kudos to you.

    2. anon-2

      The boss had to be really, really stupid. Rippin’ off an iPad, not knowing (or thinking, but gee) that they’re GPS enabled.

      DUH.

  3. Jamie

    You didn’t do anything wrong – and if it wasn’t here and this it would have been somewhere else and another gadget. Her ethics were the issue – not you.

    You do not steal IT stuff – she learned that the hard way. None of the guilt is yours.

    1. Tony in HR

      I’ve learned exactly this in the corporate world. When it comes to anything related with IT stuff, you don’t mess around. They will find you. They may kill you. Or unleash trolls upon you.

      1. FiveNine

        This is the one thing I have seen colleagues be fired for outright — taking a laptop, for example (when they have one assigned already, or heck, even have a personal laptop at home in addition to all sorts of other things). I also suspect that someone in the company already knew big-ticket IT items were missing and that HR didn’t just casually throw that question out there to OP.

  4. Steve

    Often an organization may be taking action that employees do not see, so it seems like nothing is happening with a personnel issue.

    In this case it is also true, you have no idea what their investigation turned up or what has happened in the background.

    Let it go – you did nothing wrong. You reported what you should, they asked and you answered truthfully, and they took action.

    1. Elizabeth West

      Re the investigation–yes, this. The fact that they did actually do one, and even involved the police, tells me they did take it seriously and probably had ample reason to fire her.

      OP, you’re not to blame here. She did this to herself.

  5. MR

    You did nothing wrong, OP. Afterall, had you not said/done anything, the stealing would not only have continued, but likely moved on to bigger and more expensive items. Sure, the manager would eventually have been caught, but as a result of stepping up and doing the right thing, you saved your company an unknown, yet not inconsequential amount of money.

    Kudos to you for doing the right thing. If there were only more people like you, the world (and workplace) would be a much better place.

  6. Rebecca

    You did nothing wrong! Your boss knew she had the iPad, you told her, and even had the option of returning it (since you told her you knew where it was and gave her the head’s up), but she chose to let you take the fall for it. Be glad she’s gone and you weren’t made to pay for something she stole.

  7. Leigh

    Think of it this way–how much worse would you have felt if you’d said nothing, and she was able to blame someone else and let them get fired for the missing things? You absolutely did the right thing, and you don’t owe her your loyalty or guilt.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      THIS!

      OP, you did nothing wrong. NOTHING.

      There’s no reason to feel guilty for being part of the reason someone is suffering the natural consequences of her actions. You are not the cause of those consequences, even though the consequences may not have happened without your action. HER action is the cause of the consequences.

      Remember, there are oodles of hardworking, HONEST people who are looking for work now. Yes, this person has lost her livelihood (due to her own lack of honesty and integrity)…but maybe someone who *is* honest and who could use the work will have something good happen to him/her in part because of your actions.

      WELL DONE, OP. Seriously.

    2. fposte

      Or took something personal from a co-worker that they couldn’t afford to replace.

      What happened to your boss happened because she stole stuff, and it would have happened to her someplace else if it didn’t with you. She’s just a mugger you happened to know.

  8. ProcReg

    Original Poster, you do not know what the investigation brought to light! For all you know, they’ve been tracking various accounts and so forth for abuse.

    I was in a position as a temporary employee about a year ago, to report abuse to the company credit cards. People were reporting thousands of miles per month of personal use, and reporting it as company use. I reported the “frequent flyers”, and I was done.

    It was uncomfortable to talk about, but I knew that the people were stealing a combined $40k from the company – that could’ve hired me! I kind of felt like I was being stolen from, too.

    1. Chinook

      “For all you know, they’ve been tracking various accounts and so forth for abuse.”

      The fact that HR asked if anything else was missing in the office may have meant that they knew something was going on (tracking budgets can show you an expense is higher than expected) and you may have been the one to point them in the right direction. Your information alone wouldn’t have been enough to fire the manager (as you had no proof she had taken it) but may have helped them get rid of an ineffective and costly employee.

  9. Sarah

    Don’t feel guilty! And as for the other missing stuff, HR probably did some research on their whereabouts and/or the manager confessed to those after being caught! But it is possible the ipad alone was enough to send her packing. She made this happen, NOT YOU!

    1. Elizabeth

      The evidence that the boss took the iPad seems awfully strong. If I were the employer, I’d let the boss go for that alone. I don’t think the fact that other things had gone missing would be necessary for me to make that decision. There’s no “second strike” for me when it comes to the theft of expensive equipment. It’s not like you turned her in for swiping Sharpies or post-its.

  10. MiketheRecruiter

    It sucks, but in Business, it happens. I’ve had to fire people I was friendly with before, but if someone was truly your friend/a trusted colleague, they would never put you in this situation to begin with.

  11. AF

    Just wanted to +1 what everyone said. You did nothing wrong! Feeling guilty for a while may be normal, but you were absolutely correct to do everything you did. And you didn’t want to lie about the other stuff missing. In my experience, companies don’t just fire managers without a really good reason. They don’t just do it because one employee complains one time. There was very likely a pattern of behavior. It’s entirely possible that she was already on probation or that they knew that she was doing something like this already, and this was the last straw. Good for you for saying something!

    Alison, is it worth the OP asking HR what happened? I know some of this is confidential, but maybe they can put her mind at ease.

    1. Tony in HR

      It probably is confidential, depending on the company. However I know if I had someone in this situation come and ask me about it, I’d be as candid as possible and reassure them that they did nothing wrong.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Agreed. I think it’s worth asking and explaining that you’ve been feeling horrible — you’ll almost certainly hear something reassuring.

  12. Not So NewReader

    OP, what jumps out at me is how WELL the company listened to you. I think they knew already and were just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Your situation just happened to be that other shoe. I find it interesting that they asked you if anything else was missing.

    Anyway- I am very impressed with how you handled the whole thing. Especially the part where you asked the boss directly about it.
    Time will be kind to you, OP. It will give you perspective/balance.

    It is hard to watch people unravel themselves. You gave her a chance to fix the situation and she chose not to. That chance that you gave her is more than some people would have given. She chose to unravel herself anyway. It’s not easy watching people make poor choices over and over.

    Enjoy your new, nice boss and give yourself some time to get your sense of balance back. You have a good employer and they seem to respect you.

    1. Lily

      “It is hard to watch people unravel themselves. You gave her a chance to fix the situation and she chose not to. That chance that you gave her is more than some people would have given. She chose to unravel herself anyway. It’s not easy watching people make poor choices over and over.”

      So true!

  13. AMG

    I agree with everything else said here. It goes back to ethics. You have an obligation to report theft to the company you work for. Her mistakes are her issue, and your obligation to do the right thing for the company–and yourself!!–are another.

    I hope these comments put your mind at ease and that you come to understand that there is no need for bad feelings over this. I also agree with the others who commented that you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes–it could be the laptop that broke the camel’s back, and those other issues have nothing to do with you.

  14. Del

    As hard as it is to feel it in your heart, you really did do the right thing, OP. And I don’t think that just mentioning the other things that went missing made much of a difference one way or another; they would have looked for evidence of that or dropped it. You can’t do much on hearsay, and employee vs manager, hearsay will do even less. Your company took good care of you.

    1. JM in England

      Yes, it makes a change supporting the employee from the usual closing ranks behind the manager……….

      1. anon-2

        The usual “manager is always right” has exceptions to it.

        One exception is, when the manager commits a crime and it’s a police matter. They can’t tap dance around that.

        There are other exceptions – the biggest being that a large customer might take his business elsewhere if a certain employee is not kept.

        But when there is civil or criminal legal action, the company has to forget about its pecking order, or saving face, or defending managers. The rotten apple’s gotta go.

  15. Liz in the City

    OP, don’t blame yourself. What if there had been other reports of her stealing in the past, but no proof? What if she’s done this to other people at other jobs? What if it was your iPad this time, but next time, money out of your purse?

    She stole, plain and simple, and you reported what you knew. Your manager put herself into a position to be caught. If she didn’t want to have anything happen to her, she shouldn’t have stolen in the first place.

    Now, go get some sweet tea (or a Long Island iced tea), and think about how you can enjoy your job again.

  16. Malissa

    OP I have studied hundreds of fraud cases. It’s never the mean old crotchety people who steal. It’s always the extra nice and helpful ones. It’s the ones so dedicated that it seems like they never take a vacation day.
    Often the nice is a way to compensate for what ever they are doing wrong.
    There are genuinely nice people at work too, it’s really hard to know the shifty ones until they do something to reveal themselves.

    1. MR

      Never taking a vacation is a huge red flag. Those committing fraud will sometimes get exposed because they had to be out of the office for a week or so, yet prior to that, had not been out of the office for years. As a result, the house of cards that they created, comes crumbling to the ground when they are not there to maintain it.

      That being said, not everyone who never takes a vacation is committing fraud. It’s just a red flag and a company that does it’s due diligence will make sure that this isn’t happening within their walls.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Don’t get sick, either! hahaha. I know of a person who got caught simply because they needed massive sick time. In their absence, people realized- “oh something is very wrong here”.

      2. Brightwanderer

        I know of at least one (probably more) big bank in the UK that requires its employees to take a full two week continuous break once a year for precisely that reason.

        (NB: Vacation leave in the UK has a legal minimum of 5 1/2 weeks so they’ll still have plenty left over outside the mandated 2 week block.)

  17. Ruffingit

    Just want to toss this out there – you might want so seek some short-term therapy to deal with the fact that you’re feeling guilty over doing the right thing (reporting a thief). You should not be feeling guilty that you turned in someone who was guilty of at least one theft and lying about it. You may want to get to the root of why you feel guilty for doing what you know is right. Are there people in your life who make you take responsibility for the things they do that cause them trouble? If so, not an uncommon issue, but definitely one you want to work out in therapy so you can be strong and know you are absolutely in the right here. The only one who should be feeling guilt here is the thief!

    1. NutellaNutterson

      I’d bet Lois P. Frankel has a bit to say about “nice girls” feeling guilty over issues that are not of their own making, too! It’s really a trait that’s encouraged in women, and not in men.

      1. AF

        Absolutely! You don’t want to hurt anyone, even if you don’t like them. It’s a really sad phenomenon.

      2. Elizabeth West

        Gavin de Becker points this out in The Gift of Fear; he says a lot of women who survived attacks that he spoke to said they didn’t want to be rude to someone who was force-teaming them, and so ended up letting them in/letting them get too close, etc.

        We’re so often telling our kids (especially the girls) to be nice, that we forget to tell them how to protect themselves.

    2. Not So NewReader

      I agree. OP, take the time to help yourself. This could be as simple as going to HR and chatting for a half hour. OR it could mean tapping EAP.
      In some places they have “debriefing” activities after a big event. Sometimes an “autopsy” type of thing is done.
      Nothing wrong with you asking HR, “Should I have done something differently?”
      For your own peace of mind, this is worth the effort. I am sure you will chose the right path- you are good at choosing the right path.

  18. Tyrion L.

    I’ve been waiting for this update with almost as much excitement as I was for last Sunday’s Breaking Bad premiere. Like the premiere, it was worth the wait. Also like the premiere, it left me wanting more.

  19. Pussyfooter

    OP,

    Your boss acted friendly to your face, stole from you and *set you up to take the fall for it*.

    Stop putting yourself in her shoes; you have a conscience while she’s ignoring hers. Even IF she has a conscience she is deliberately ignoring it. She can both feel sad *and still excuse herself for stabbing you in the back!*

    If HR would only have fined you, but your job would’ve been safe, that strongly implies that she was up to something else that got her fired. Was she fired at all? Or did she see the handwriting on the wall and jump to a position among a new set of patsies? I wish I knew the right thing to say snap you out of the Guilts.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      YES!

      This is not a nice person. She’s not only dishonest, she was going to make YOU bear the consequences of her actions. It’s only right that she is now bearing them herself.

      1. RedStateBlues

        +1
        So few people in life get what they deserve, from what OP has told us, her former boss deserves this.

  20. Tony in HR

    OP- I’ll tell you the same thing that I tell friends that tell me about “minor lapses” like this (their words, not mine).

    If it’s a policy violation of some sort, report it.

    If it’s a one time thing, the offender will likely get a slap in the wrist and you’ve prevented it from getting worse.

    If it’s been a long time thing, your report will bring those things out, and it will get taken care of.

    One of my friends, who works for a large insurance company, quietly married his girlfriend last year for multiple reasons, planning on a bigger public ceremony later. Literally (not figuratively), the only people that knew were him, his now-wife, the officiant and HR. Somehow, a co-worker found out and blabbed it to his sister who also works in the company. The only way she could have known was for her to access confidential company information using manager access. He wasn’t going to report it, but I encouraged him to. Turns out the manager gave all of his subordinates his log in so they could approve their own PTO, and it was being used all over the place for things that none of those employees should have access to. HUGE problem for the company, multiple people lost their jobs, and so on.

    You might feel guilty, but you have no reason to. You were nothing more than the messenger.

    1. Not So NewReader

      HOLY COW! Not to minimize your friend’s concern but it was not something would seem like several people would be fired over. (I hope that does not sound badly.)
      It is amazing how a misstep about a marriage opened a whole huge can of worms that exposed bigger and bigger issues.
      Good on you for encouraging your friend to move forward and good for your friend to have the follow-through on that one.

      1. Jessa

        Of course it’s something many people should be fired over. Common sense shows that a manager’s log in is meant to be kept private for a reason. They should not be handing it out will they nil they and there’s a reason one does NOT approve one’s OWN PTO. It’s a huge conflict of interest.

        First rule of finance – the person who writes the invoice does not pay the invoice. You never, ever give the authority to authorise the payment of money to the person who also decides the AMOUNT of money to be paid. That’s called checks and balances and prevents fraud and theft.

        Not only did this manager give unprecedented access to private information to employees, but they used it. And there were no checks on them to see that they did not. What if that information was private medical information (person x is on medical leave and being paid short term disability.) What if the information was given out to someone who was stalking someone.

        Personal and private information was given out by someone who had no corporately approved access to it.

    2. Anonymous

      I hope one of the people who lost their jobs was the manager who gave out his log in – what on earth was he thinking? I’m flabbergasted.

      Part of a manager’s job is to protect the company and this is a major fail that seems to be the result of nothing more than laziness. He didn’t want to have to approve PTO? Seriously?

  21. Rob Bird

    The question you should be asking yourself is “What don’t I know?” It could be they have had many, many problems with this employee and this was the last straw. It could be the person quit before the company filed charges, or they asked her to resign or charges would be filed. You just don’t know what happened.

    You protected the company from a potential loss. You should be proud.

  22. V

    I echo what everyone said here.

    OP, you should never feel guilty for doing the right thing. You don’t know how much worse things would have gotten had you not reported it. Just because your manager was “nice,” doesn’t mean she was a good person. You never know who people really are, and it seems like you figured her out quickly.

    Your employer is LUCKY to have someone brave enough to come forward with what they knew.

  23. Rana

    OP – your boss sealed her own fate when she stole things. This is not your fault, at all. Please don’t feel guilty!

  24. Laura

    Oh, OP I just have to chime in and concur with everyone else’s sentiments. This was not your fault – not even a little bit.

    Your former manager bears all the responsibility for her actions and poor choices. She is the one who chose to steal your iPad. She is the one who chose to lie about taking it when you called her on it. She is the one who (probably) chose to take money from petty cash and even out of someone’s purse. Not you.

    You did the right thing. But the right thing is not always the easy thing, and that’s when the guilt starts to eat away at you. I do understand how you feel. I once had to fire an employee who was struggling dreadfully with some pretty devastating personal problems. My boss and I had given him plenty of opportunities to help himself and he did not, for whatever reason. We were left with no choice but to let him go. Like you, I felt horribly guilty about the whole thing, but after some time passed I finally accepted that he, and he alone, was responsible for what happened.

    Your former manager did this to herself. And you did the right thing by reporting it. Not only did you protect yourself (because in business, if you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will) but you also potentially saved someone else’s job too. Had you not said anything, she may well have pinned the blame on an innocent person who could have easily been fired.

    The fact that HR specifically asked you if there were any other instances of things missing tells me that they already had a pretty good idea of what was going on, and were just waiting for the right moment to take action.

  25. pidgeonpenelope

    Yeah, don’t feel guilty ,OP. It’s not like you set her up. She did it on her own and then she lied to you when you asked her. She stole from you and from the company and that’s on her.

    I may have posted this here but when I worked at a home furnishings retail store, a manager-in-training, whom I loved working with, stole a gift card with value on it. She then gave an empty gift card to the customer. A day or so later, this manager decided to buy some things using the gift card. When employees use gift cards, they don’t get the employee discount since when an employee buys a gift card, they get their employee discount. So it was odd when my manager-in-training gal wanted to purchase things from the store with a gift card. I rang her up because there was no reason not to. The customer who had the blank gift came in wanting to use the gift card but when his purchase was rung up, it showed a zero balance. Luckily, he had the receipt. He called customer care who then sent the issue to loss prevention. They saw that I had rung up a transaction using the card so I was questioned about it (they had video footage too). I told them the truth. There is no tolerance for theft and that gal was let go. It really sucked too because I thought she was an awesome manager.

  26. FRRibs

    OP, it seems like you are a compassionate invidividual. You did the right thing. Your boss directly harmed you…it was as though she came into your house and stolle $500 out of your cookie jar, then told your employers you were scatterbrained and irresponsible with company assets. You may not see it that way but you were standing up for yourself against a direct assault on your livelyhood and your character…two things you should always be willing to fight for, without reservation.

    Glad you did what you did, and I hope you get over any misguided guilt you feel.

  27. Anonymous

    OP what about your coworkers? How many of them had stuff missing and blamed themselves by “forgetting” something or how many knew something was missing but had no idea which of their coworkers were to blame? Your boss was entirely to fault for their actions, however your coworkers who trusted your boss are not at fault for that trust.

    1. Not So NewReader

      I am wondering where the coworkers are in all this. Did they report any suspicions to HR? Did they even figure out what was going on? Some people robotically go to work every day and never process what they see unfolding right in front of them.

  28. Rayner

    I second the suggestion of some counselling, just to clarify your own feelings on the matter.

    But in all honesty, it’s not your fault. The bottom line is, she stole a valuable company asset (the iPad) and tried to cover it up. You gave her a good opportunity to give it back without loosing face and without taking it up the chain. She didn’t and now, she’s either fired, let go, or quit out of necessity.

    You wouldn’t feel sorry for the thief on the street who broke it out of your car, or for the burglar who broke into your house and took it that way!

    How would you feel if it had not been your iPad but the company printer? Or a stack of company stationery? That’s what she stole – just company property. Not your property.

    There’s also the other missing possessions and money. Maybe she did steal them, maybe it was someone else who has been now scared off. But now yours and other people’s stuff is infinitely safer without a thief in the office.

    You didn’t ask for her to be fired. You had evidence that something had happened, and you discussed it with the correct people. They were the ones who made that decision to let your manager go.

    They might have known things you didn’t. Or felt that one $450 dollar theft was worth firing when coupled with lying.

    In short, OP, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. When your boss made that decision to take your iPad out of your drawer and lie about it, she signed her own dismissal. Get some therapy, talk to a close friend, and understand that nothing you did was unusual, egregious, or with bad intent.

  29. Editor

    OP, I hope you can get over this. No part of it is your fault, and you were dragged into the situation unwillingly because her action left you to take the blame. Her life is about her choices, not yours.

    You gave her an opportunity to hand the equipment back. In addition, didn’t you say she saw the police officer when you made the report? She could easily have brought the equipment back in to the office and left it somewhere where it would be “found.” Her termination was about multiple choices she made — not just to take the computer, but to lie about taking it, to leave you in position to take the blame, to take it home with her, and to keep it at home instead of slipping it back into the office.

    Even if she was not involved with other thefts, she made several bad decisions. This wasn’t one slip on her part that ruined her life. She made multiple bad decisions that she held to in spite of the fact that she had more than one chance to change her mind and possibly save her job. She wanted you to be guilty so she could have something she coveted — then you proved you weren’t guilty. Please don’t give her the power to make your life miserable for doing the ethical thing. You are not guilty, not at all guilty, for a situation beyond your control.

  30. Anonymous

    Look, OP, just take this as an important life lesson.

    Criminals aren’t like what you see on TV. Criminals are exactly like you and me. Many of them are nice, charming, otherwise completely normal people. Sometimes, they’re even good bosses and co-workers. Often, they even have a very good reason (or, at least, a coherent, understandable reason) for committing a crime.

    However, they still opt to commit a crime. You manage in your own life without stealing, right? You’ve chosen generally not to break laws, not to stick others with the consequences of your behavior? She chose otherwise, and she would’ve stuck you with the consequences of her theft. As a society, we consider this undesirable behavior, and we punish people who do that so that they stop. In the future, she might learn this lesson you taught her, and decide to become a better and more successful person. You did right, not only to yourself, but to the rest of your community, by helping to put a stop to this.

  31. Andrea

    OP,
    One thing that no one else has mentioned is that there is a police report out there for the theft that you can probably get info from. Because you initiated the report, you may be able to get an update on it, and find out if your former boss is being prosecuted. It may help ease up some anxiety if you can get closure.

  32. Mena

    I think it may have been wrong to report the other missing items to HR. Yes, HR asked you but the better answer would have been ‘I am not missing anything else but you should really ask Joe, Mary, and Alice if they have noticed anything missing.’ Point HR in the right direction on the other accusations.

    As for the iPAD, you didn’t create this mess at all and you were right to share the screen shot with HR.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t think she needed to play coy on that. She has information; she shared it. HR could do their own follow-up or verification, but there’s no need to pretend she doesn’t know things that she does know.

  33. Interviewer

    My job includes (rarely, thankfully) having to sit on the other side of the table from some people and tell them that today is their last day at work. That is a very hard message to deliver to anyone, but I have had to grapple with telling people that I know are dealing with personal or financial crises that they are no longer getting a paycheck. I worry and lose sleep sometimes over how this change will affect them.

    But sometimes, people deserve to be sitting across the table from me. I’ve warned them, they’ve broken rules, policies, sometimes the law – it’s my job to enforce those for the company, and they knew going in what my expectations were. They’ve been warned, put on notice, you name it. They knew how to fix it, they were given all the resources they needed to do it and keep getting a paycheck, and they still didn’t improve. I don’t have a lot of trouble sleeping at night after those meetings.

    I have fired an office snoop/thief. The entire floor where she worked was subject to random pilfering during everyone’s lunch hours and meetings. Everyone sort of suspected that it might be her, but it was just a hunch since she rarely ever left her desk and therefore had more ample opportunity. Then one day she was caught under someone’s desk – claimed she was getting a pencil that rolled off the desk when dropping off papers – but that’s where the employee kept a purse. And that was the final straw.

    This boss of yours knew the rules and THE LAW, and she still treated your office like her personal piggy bank. Good grief. Without the screenshot, one of your other co-workers could have been wrongly blamed for the theft and let go. Would that be a better outcome? Of course not. You did the right thing!

  34. twinkletoes

    I understand you feel bad that she lost her job over this, but it was her choice to steal. You were right to inform HR of the other missing items when asked.

    Years ago I worked in hospitality. One lady I worked with lived in a rough neighborhood that was on my commute. I would pick her up when I saw her at the bus stop. We would talk. One day at work she mentioned she twisted her ankle and it hurt. I suggested she let the manager know and have it looked at under worker’s comp. Little did I know she would get drug tested, nor that she had used (can’t remember what). Needless to say, she lost her job. Even though I’m not responsible, I still feel bad. She was a nice lady, who was trying to make ends meet.

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