I was called “mean” for reporting a coworker for stealing, not asking questions at an interview, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I was called “mean” for reporting a coworker for stealing

I’m a civilian office worker at a military-run veterinary clinic where I work with other civilians and military personnel. One night I noticed our civilian veterinarian gathering supplies in a bag, with a total supply value of about $6. (I purchase all the supplies with a government credit card so I know what everything costs.) I asked what she was doing, and she said she was visiting a friend after work and needed some stuff to work on the friend’s dog. I have no supervisory authority but told her she couldn’t take supplies; if she took them or not, I have no idea, but I did call our military supervisor and tell him what happened.

His first response (he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, and English isn’t his first language so we have some communication trouble) was, “If she needs supplies, tell her to make a list and we’ll get them for her.” I had to explain to him that we can’t fund her charity work and taking supplies from the clinic shouldn’t be allowed. We ended it with I’ll send him and his boss an email.

Two weeks later and not a word about the incident, the military supervisor and I are talking and he says that was mean of me to tell the doctor she couldn’t take things. I know I’m right that nobody should be taking supplies and that it’s stealing, but why am i the only one in my office who understands that? How was I being “mean” by looking out for the business?

I suspect the military supervisor sees it as a matter of scale — that $6 isn’t a big deal, whereas $100 would be. (Or at least I hope that’s what he’s thinking; otherwise, his reaction is inexplicable.) Whether or not $6 in supplies is a big deal depends on who you ask. There are certainly some office cultures where it’s totally okay to take $6 of post-it notes home with you, as long as you don’t go hog-wild with it. And there are other offices where that’s absolutely Not Done. You need to know the culture where you’re working.

It’s possible that this guy is telling you that he sees $6 in veterinary supplies as de minimis. Hell, for all I know, he’s seen your coworker bring in supplies that she’s paid for herself, or knows that she routinely does extra work for free in the evenings and doesn’t want to nickel and dime her, or he’s not going to give her a hard time over taking supplies to treat a sick animal.  I don’t know — but if you want to get clarification, it’s entirely reasonable to say, “Hey, is that kind of thing actually not a problem? If so, I won’t make a big deal about it in the future.”

2. Employee refuses to share login info for the company Facebook account

We are a newly formed company in the UK. I’m a director, and one of our employees has consistently refused to give me the login details for our company Facebook page. On the last request, she replied asking me why I wanted them and what I intended to do with them. I feel it is extremely important that I have a copy of them, as she is the only person in the company who has these details. Does she have a right to withhold them from me? Does it warrant a written warning?

No, she doesn’t. Assuming that you have authority over her, stop framing it as a request, and instead say, “Jane, I need access to the Facebook page by the end of today. We need a system where that type of information isn’t accessible by only one person. Please set me up with access today.” Then, if she doesn’t, you handle it like you would any other outright refusal to comply with a work assignment, which in this case presumably means that her manager makes it clear that it’s not optional. If she continues to resist when it’s made clear to her that it’s not optional, she probably shouldn’t be working for you.

3. Is it bad not to ask questions at the end of an interview?

Is it necessarily a bad habit to not ask any questions of the interviewer at the end of the in-person interview? I explained that I felt the website/previous interview had provided answers to any questions I might have and it seemed okay. Are they any questions you think should definitely be asked?

Yeah, it’s pretty bad not to ask any questions when given the opportunity. It signals that you aren’t being especially thoughtful about whether this is the right fit for you, and that’s alarming to savvy hiring managers, who want to make sure that you’re doing a good job of your side in this assessment process so that you don’t end up in a job where you’ll be unhappy or not excel.

Do you really not have questions about a job and company where you’re contemplating spending 40+ hours a week for the next several years? I think if you think about it like that, you’ll realize that there’s plenty that you want to know, but here are some questions you might think about asking.

4. What should my office door say?

I have been asked to submit my name as I want it to appear on my office door. I am wondering if I should put just my name, my degrees, or title?

What do other people in your office do? Follow their lead. (But in general, it’s typically just your name, and rarely would it be appropriate to include degrees.)

And if you’re not sure what other people do because you haven’t started yet, it’s completely reasonable to reply to the request by asking. You could simply say, “What do others typically do — just their names, or titles too?”

5. Has long-distance job searching become any easier in the last few years?

I just found your blog by accident while I was researching how to make a move from one city to another. I came across a post about long-distance job-searching dated back in 2010. Now that the economy has somewhat improved, what do you think my chances are of moving from the east coast back home to the midwest (Chicago) in particular? I am willing to pay for interviewing and such but got a little worried after reading your blog. To your knowledge, have conditions improved? What would your advice be four years later?

My advice is still pretty much the same, unfortunately: It’s still much harder to job search long-distance than it is if you’re searching locally, unless you’re in in-demand field with in-demand skills. When they have plenty of local candidates, employers don’t have much incentive to deal with the hassles or risk of long-distance candidates. However, the more senior you are, the easier and more accepted it is to search long distance, so the picture is definitely less gloom and doom if you’re fairly senior in your field.

{ 336 comments… read them below }

  1. Al Lo

    Facebook pages (i.e. company pages) are created by and linked to individual Facebook accounts, rather than created as a separate account (and then you switch between posting as yourself and posting as the company, depending on which page you’re on, but all managed within your profile). Is the employee perhaps thinking that you’re asking her for her own Facebook account information, if the page was originally created from her profile? What you should have is admin access to the page — there can be multiple page administrators, and that gives you the same access she has, both now and if she leaves the company and needs to be removed as a page admin.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s actually possible to just create a company page from scratch without having an individual profile linked to it.

    1. Chuchundra

      Sometimes an organization will create a company FB account and then use that account to admin the FB page. This might technically be against FB TOS, but it lessens the risk of using personal FB accounts to admin the company FB page and having one of the admins lock everyone else out.

      1. Brett

        It’s not just technically against Facebook TOS to do this, Facebook aggressively deletes accounts like this without warning, leaving the page itself orphaned. It is a a bad idea to do that.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      That’s true! It’s not the password that the OP needs, but rather admin access to the account. It’s still weird that the employee is flat-out refusing though, rather than saying, “I administer it through my personal profile, but I can add you as an admin through your account as well.”

      1. soitgoes

        The employee might not know that you can add other admins. Or if they’re using facebook for advertising, it’s possible that the company’s credit card info is already linked to the employee’s private account, in which case the OP wouldn’t get to see the advertising dashboard even if she were added as an admin.

        1. en pointe

          Additionally, do we even know whether the OP has her own Facebook account? If not, OP, you’ll need to get one in order to be made an admin and have access. I don’t see either the OP or her employee’s behaviour as particularly weird here. It sounds like it might just be a misunderstanding that’s arisen from either one or both of them not really understanding how this works.

          1. carlotta

            There is a ‘Facebook for business’ dashboard now, which uses your work email to gain access, but you still need a personal account to link it to.
            Either way, to gain admin access the OP will have to have an account, and ‘like’ the page or add the employee. I can never get the ‘like’ access to work but adding the employee works better, so I set up a list called ‘work buddies’ which I restrict from my personal posts.

        2. Long time lurker!

          Access to the ads dashboard and the company page are two different things. You can be an admin on a FB page without having access to the ad dashboard.

          There are also levels of administration. The company directors should be admins, but staff should be content creators – they should have the ability to post and manage content and to see insights, but they shouldn’t have full admin access for the page, or else they very well could lock others out if things went south.

          I work in social media and I can’t tell you the number of times I start working with a new client and they have a bunch of random admins on their page. Shut that down, y’all!

          1. Anna

            Another social media manager here–there are different levels of administration, with different levels of access/responsibility. So perhaps when the employee asked why OP wanted the login details (he really should have been asking to be added as an admin, and the fact that he doesn’t know that much about social media would also make me feel hesitant about giving him access to the page) and what he wanted them for–maybe she was genuinely asking him that so she could set him up at the appropriate user level? Not sure if OP would understand this.

        3. Jen

          For advertising, in my experience, only the person who paid for the ad can see the account information. I work on an account with about 15 admins and one is from the advertising agency. She is only an admin to do sponsored posts and although I can see the sponsored posts in the feed, I can’t ever get into the analytics of them or the account information used for them because FB knows I am not the admin who set that post up.

          1. Long time lurker!

            You can actually change that! The person who set up the ads account can make others either analysts (can see all info) or general users (can set up and charge ads) on a FB ads account.

    3. Felicia

      That’s what I was going to suggest – still weird, but perhaps since there is no log in information for an FB page, the employee thinks she’s being asked for her log in information (maybe she didn’t understand facebook enough to interpret the result), or she didn’t know how to add other admins to the page so she didn’t understand what was being asked.

    4. Barbara in Swampeast

      I created a Facebook page for an association without linking it to a personal page. That can be done (at least it could be done last year, this year who knows). However, it did not have the graph search bar and a couple other administrative bells and whistles, so I added me/my personal page as an admin. If I log in using the email I used to create the page, I still don’t have the bells and whistles, but I can post. If I log into my account and then go to the page, I have access to all the admin stuff.

    5. Lynn Rainham

      Jumping on board the Facebook thread here: OP #2 – I’m not sure what you’re office is like, but at my office everyone thinks they have the know-how to post on the company page. I have primary access (through a personal account set up as the company) and I limit who else has access. I see our page as a marketing and PR tool, and I treat it as such. In the past it has not been treated that way by other staff, and I have had to revoke access and do external damage control. As the person who is responsible for the page, I like to know what’s been posted so I can stay on top of responses and track what’s working.
      The password is kept on the company server in case “I get hit by a bus”.
      Basically, as someone who is in the same position as your employee I can completely understand her not giving it to you. If you tell your employee “I have no intention of posting, I just need access if something happens to you” you will likely get a much better response. If you don’t get a better response after that, I agree she’s being a pain.

      1. AVP

        Heh. I refused for years to allow the CEO of our company to have admin access to our Facebook page – but he would get angry at totally innocuous things that fans posted and try to delete the whole page instead of just the post! Luckily all of the other company managers agreed with me on this. After three years of good behavior I’ve just reinstalled him as an admin and it’s been a little bumpy (posting non-PR-friendly things that should have been from his personal account from the biz account instead) and I have to watch it closer han I did before, but hey, it’s his business to ruin if he wants to.

      2. Vicki

        ALso on the FB thread

        OP says “On the last request, she replied asking me why I wanted them and what I intended to do with them.”

        And what did you tell her when she asked? You did reply, yes?

        Are you certain that the employee is “refusing”? Perhaps she wants a valid reason for you asking for something that is part of _her job_ (and not your job)? Are you certain that you have and are supplying a valid reason? Or are you exerting your authority as a “director” and people simply Need To Do What You Say?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I think that’s reading something unfair into the letter that isn’t there. It’s reasonable for a manager not to have to make a request multiple times. If the employee has concerns or questions, she should raise them, not play a guessing game.

        2. EvaR

          Yeah. I feel like if OP didn’t explain and the coworker doesn’t think OP wants her personal login information due to a miscommunication, the coworker may be panicking because she thinks she is about to lose her job.

    6. English2Language

      #1 is petty and mean. the fact that the vet’s 1st language isn’t English is obviously an issue for the op, otherwise why bring it up. I suggest looking for another job in a strictly no immigrant environment (afraid this won’t be the government sector), one where a missing $ worth of dust would be investigated.

      1. Lily in NYC

        S/he brought it up to clarify that she wasn’t sure if the boss understood that she was telling him the person was stealing, not that the person just needed more supplies for work. You are making a big assumption with that accusation.

        1. English2Language

          OP also used ‘not the sharpest tool in the shed’ expression about her boss, and a precious ‘i know i am right”. I think OP is in need of a very serious attitude adjustment. And as someone whose 1st language is not English, i found bringing up the language offensive.

          1. Lily in NYC

            Or maybe the boss is truly stupid and has trouble communicating. You don’t know; I don’t know. I choose to give OP the benefit of the doubt instead of personalizing it.

            1. Kat M

              I agree. I don’t think it was a jab against immigrants. I think it was a way of stating that there are multiple factors that might prevent her from getting her message across clearly. Both are relevant factors here.

            2. Jamie

              I agree – the comment about second language was clearly a separate statement than that of the tool in the shed thing.

              The overall tone is harsh, but we should be careful not to infer from that correlations she didn’t draw. It’s not insulting to point out there can be communication issues with someone, which would explain her need to over-clarify to make sure he understood what he was telling her to ignore.

              1. Chinook

                I am another one who says that pointing out that the boss was communicating in a second language was not meant to bash but as another piece of info. I have personally run into problems that were only caused by the fact that English was the other person’s second language (and they were not an immigrant – it happens when you have two official languages) and was solved only when that person’s boss saw what was going on and clarify the difference between a 2nd (second) car and 2 (two) car (something he refused to believe from me because he thought I was tryign to game the system).

      2. Rose

        She very clearly explained that she brought it up because of a communication barrier, which is highly relevant to the question. There’s no reason to assume it’s otherwise an issue for her. Plenty of people think their bosses are incompetent (see: this entire blog).

    7. Upset

      Yes, exactly this. Ask the employee to make you an admin. Pages are connected to personal accounts.

  2. The IT Manager

    The dang interwebs ate my first more thought out response…

    For #1, sounds like this military vet clinic funded by US taxpayer dollars. You are totally 100% in the right, and this cannot be a “culture” thing because again US taxpayer funded items being stolen! No leeway because of that.

    1. Sourire

      That was my thought too. Public sector vs private probably removes any of the normal nuance/shades of grey when it comes to things like this.

    2. Monodon monoceros

      I had that thought too, but on the other hand, having worked in vet clinics before I think this is also pretty normal. For example my cat was sick and needed to be syringe fed. The vet gave me a handful of syringes. Another time another employee needed subQ fluids and the office manager handed them to her. And many other instances. Maybe this vet previously worked in hospitals where this was normal too (and the boss, which could explain his lax reaction). The OP may be technically correct but going against a totally normal practice.

      1. Monodon monoceros

        Just for clarification I was in private practices and understand the issue with public vs private, but just wondering if the vet and manager are thinking more still like private.

    3. Henrietta Gondorf

      This is not entirely correct. There are specific rules regarding the de minimus use of government resources, such as using your work phone to schedule your doctor appointment, printing out a few pages of a personal document, etc.

      $6 worth of stuff is highly unlikely to be an issue.

      1. QualityControlFreak

        I think it really depends on the position. OP states they are responsible for purchasing the supplies, using a government credit card. Is it possible that OP is also responsible for accounting for those supplies? I worked in logistics for a military contractor for a very long time. We were responsible for purchasing, receipt, warehousing, issue and disposal, if applicable, of items on our records. We were accountable for every item purchased. A resistor worth $5? It better be on the shelf in an inventory, or else you had better have an issue chit pending, or a disposal record. “Technician must have come in and helped themself?” Not an acceptable response. We were required to have an inventory accuracy of over 95% for everything – 100% for classified or hazardous items. Expendable stuff that was needed all the time? Was issued off records into a “pre-expended bin.” THAT stuff the techs could help themselves to at any time. But we were still responsible for ordering materials in a timely manner to keep those bins stocked. Unless the vet was taking stuff that had already been expended off records, OP could very well be responsible for it. Just saying, there can be valid reasons for the concern that really have nothing to do with “meanness.”

        1. Natalie

          But all the OP mentions is ethics. You’d think they might mention a giant logistical PITA if it was an issue here.

          1. Jamie

            Yeah, if it were a matter of this affecting how the OP could do her job properly it would have been mentioned (I’d certainly thing) and the supervisor would be in the wrong to not give a concrete answer as to how to account for it – but that wasn’t her issue with her supervisor.

            1. QualityControlFreak

              Well, yes and no. OP states s/he is a civilian, working in a military facility. The military supervisor would therefore not be OP’s actual supervisor; they may supervise overall operations and/or military personnel, but military personnel do not supervise civilian personnel. It gets better – OP says “civilian,” which could mean either Civil Service OR a contractor. If it’s the latter, that would be yet a different supervisor. And honestly, IME, if you’re a contractor, The Rules may be even more strictly enforced than if you’re Civil Service.

              Why would OP tell the military supervisor, if in fact he isn’t OP’s supervisor? If he is managing operations, he does have the need to know, so that if this is a problem, he can take it up with the appropriate supervisor (as OP said the vet in question was civilian). OP’s supervisor may not even be on site. And we don’t know from the letter whether OP sought guidance there or not. I’ve spent a lot of years in a workplace where military, Civil Service and civilian contractor personnel worked side by side, and it can be quite convoluted when it comes to chain of command.

              Anyway, not saying this is how it went down, just saying that in the absence of further information, I don’t think it’s fair to attribute it to “meanness” alone.

              1. Observer

                It may not be meanness, but even in a government position, it may be valid to say that SMALL amounts of supplies are ok to take. Also, she seems to be quite judgmental about this – She wants to know why she is the only one who sees that this is stealing, and why she is not being acknowledged for looking out for the business. And, there is no mention anywhere of any concern for what her exposure might be. If that were the issue, I would be on her side 100% – No one should ever be expected to put themselves at risk for something like this.

                It would make me uncomfortable, and I totally understand why she would want to clarify the situation with whoever is in charge. But, she seems to have gone further, and tried to get it stopped, which is not really her place under the circumstances.

                If the amounts were substantial, it would be different, and I would suggest that she find out what resources are there for protected whistleblowing.

              2. Henrietta Gondorf

                No, military personnel can and do supervise civilians. I’m assuming that the vet clinic has an officer in charge and an NCO in charge and the OP is talking about one of those people.

                1. QualityControlFreak

                  Yes, as I pointed out, the military supervisor may be responsible for managing operations at the clinic, which is why it was reasonable for OP to bring the matter to his attention, particularly if the vet was not in OP’s chain of command, which would be the case if OP is a contractor. Maybe I was being unclear; by “supervisor” in this context I mean manager; the one(s) OP and their coworkers report to, who would do their annual review. Where I worked, military, civilian and contractor personnel worked together closely on the same projects, but each had their own management and personnel systems.

        2. Observer

          It sounds like these were the kinds of items that go into the expendable category. And, the OP explicitly talks about the ethics of the situation, not the logistics and record-keeping issues. In fact, and this may be playing into how the supervisor responded to this, she says that she had to explain to him how they can’t fund her charity work NOT how they are going to have to account for this.

          1. QualityControlFreak

            I tend to agree with you. Those definitely sound like expendables, and OP’s letter has a self-righteous feel. Challenging the vet was overstepping, and reporting her actions was questionable. Mean? Maybe. I’d rather not pass judgement.

            1. Mean

              QCF, how is calling someone self-righteous not passing judgement? And when did stealing become stealing only after a certain $$ amount? And who determines where the line is then? If the super felt it was ok it should have been stated outright to avoid any misunderstanding.

    4. Cat

      $6 in vet supplies that are being used to help someone’s dog is about 8 millionth on my list of objectionable uses of tax dollars. It’s basically the cost of a breakfast sandwich at Panera. Good for the supervisor.

      1. Nerd Girl

        But if we go with that thought process…if every goverment employee stole $6 worth of items (because, it’s no big deal, right?) that adds up. I don’t work for the government, but in my company there are approximately 2500 people. That’s $15,000 if we all stole $6 worth of stuff once a year. That’s $15,000 that could be applied to bonuses, keeping medical costs down, actually buying a panera breakfast sandwich for each employee! Stealing, no matter what and no matter how much, is an issue and we shouldn’t blur the lines between what is right and wrong with this.

        1. Rat Racer

          But by that logic, you would need to argue that Government officials be 100% productive with their time 100% percent of the time. If I work for the government earning $30 an hour and spend 15 minutes staring into space waiting for my coffee to kick in (or checking Askamanager for that matter) I’ve wasted more than $6 in taxpayer money.

          I agree that the government has a higher degree of accountability for wise use of resources, given that they’re funded by taxpayers, but there has to be some small degree of tolerance. And I’m willing to bet – given that it IS Government – that they have outlined their “tolerance of waste” policy in explicit and painful detail somewhere.

        2. Helka

          I think that’s a little hyperbolic.

          $6 of disposable supplies (which the company already expects to be buying more of on a regular basis) is a very different thing than $6 of the operating cash. Someone took a handful of pens home? “Oh, dang, the office supply of extra pens is gonna run short a little early. Hey guys, try not to lose any more pens until we get the next resupply.”

        3. Cat

          Every government employee probably does eventually take six bucks of stuff and the government probably gets far more than six dollars in unreimbursed benefits from the vast majority of its employees. Applying this one way ratchet and determining de minimis stuff to be stealing just makes life difficult for employees while netting the taxpayer unreasonable benefits from employees. Normal give and take of de minimis time and materials should apply in the government like it does elsewhere.

          1. JC

            +1 This. The OP probably spent more than $6 worth of her paid time complaining about this!

            When I was a federal employee I occasionally took a pen home with me, but also had to travel unpaid outside of my regular work hours, spent extra time traveling so that I could save the government money on cheaper flights, etc. I understand why the government has to be bean count-y and that being a good steward of taxpayer dollars is an important responsibility, but spending lots of time complaining about the inappropriate use of cheap supplies misses the big picture.

            1. SnowWhite

              “JC
              October 29, 2014 at 9:26 am
              +1 This. The OP probably spent more than $6 worth of her paid time complaining about this!”

              +1. I was just about to write this

            2. ThursdaysGeek

              Interesting. My spouse is not allowed to spend extra time travelling to save the government money by getting cheaper flights — at least not if it means an extra day. If he could get cheaper flights by staying over a Saturday, and is willing to pay for the extra day or two hotel and food costs, he’s not allowed to. An extra couple of days after a conference at a tourist destination means he’s having fun at taxpayer expense. So, they’ll spend extra to make sure it doesn’t LOOK like they’re wasting taxpayer money.

          2. Observer

            Actually, it just makes life difficult for people, but it generally does NOT “net unreasonable benefit” from employees – because the NET effect is NOT a benefit, but a loss. The amount of resources wasted on this kind of thing far, far outweighs the cost of these de minimis usages – and that doesn’t even begin to look at the loss in productivity of the people who are being hounded to document every pen they take.

        4. LQ

          The problem is if you spend all your time looking for the $6 problems and you miss the fact that you are paying someone $30,000 a year to look for that, decreasing employee morale and causing a loss in productivity of $50,000 a year you have lost MORE MONEY trying to save the $15,000 than you would have if you had let the $15,000 go and treated people like responsible human beings, getting higher productivity and not paying someone to stare over everyone’s shoulder all the time.

          You’re right we shouldn’t blur the lines, but at what point if all you care about is money, do you recognize that throwing bad money after bad money is bad? Money is all that matters so…just from a money point of view it might not be worth it.

        5. Judy

          A lot of places don’t really care about that, as far as I can tell. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had 6 people sitting around me on the same conference call at their desks, wasting $6/hour/person (actual cost to dial the 800# to join the conference call). Several times a week, all year long. They would have gotten a conference room. It was happening all over.

      2. E.R

        I would also add that since we are thinking of it from a taxpayer perspective, $6 to help a sick dog, (vs $6 being thrown into the garbage) is an acceptable use of that money. It’s not pure “waste”.

        1. puddin

          Not waste but shrinkage. It still is budgeted for and should always be a focus of reduction whether public or private sector.

      3. AndersonDarling

        I agree. It would be the same to say that the supervisor could never order lunch for their team because it is tax dollars and employees should not be fed on tax dollars. And an employee should not get a new desk light because the old one technically works even though it blinks every 20 seconds.
        It may be a government clinic, but it is still run like a business. Small incentives for employees should be reasonable.

        1. Monodon monoceros

          For your first example, I used to work for a state agency. A few times a year we would have projects where we would all work really hard doing physical, dirty, manual labor, and often had visiting collaborators with us. We usually would order pizza to eat while we continued to work. The State wouldn’t allow us to buy food with state money (tax dollars!!! oh noes), so we had to go around collecting money from everyone :(

          1. HappyLurker

            Oh, I did this too, but then was paid mileage to go and pick up the food as well as paid for the hour it took me to go and get it! They would also pay me to go get coffee for everyone (plus mileage – it was pretty far away from anything – always 10+ miles one way) as long as I didn’t pay for the coffee.

        2. AndersonDarling

          I was reading more comments and apparently managers can’t buy lunch for their teams or give any incentives. Esh.. working for the government sounds depressing.

          1. Cat

            I was talking to someone about this recently and we agreed that the amount of money the government would spend providing coffee to employees would be dwarfed by the productivity savings created by employees not always leaving to get coffee. But people get all “MY TAXDOLLARS” about it and sensible policies become impossible.

            1. Natalie

              Because the employees aren’t supposed to have coffee, dontcha know. They must be joyless automatons unless they get jobs in the private sector.

              These are the same people who freak out about people buying a steak with SNAP. Heaven forfend.

      4. Julie

        We have US Congressmen who take surprise trips to Africa to make sure health clinics don’t use an American-funded cabinet to hold foreign-funded gauze that could maybe be used in an abortion that is definitely not American funded. If they are willing to waste money on international trips to try and trip up USAID, I feel like there’s someone out there who would have a freakout over this. I might not personally object but you never know when $6 becomes someone’s pet issue and a news story. Government can be very strange.

        1. Julia

          Everything revolves around FOIA and what can be tracked. Personally, I would rather people not take supplies home from work when they work for the gov’t. Nor do I want to pay for people’s coffee. However none of this is new and few worry about it because it’s just so standard.

          1. C Average

            This seems unnecessarily draconian to me, honestly.

            In the world we exist in, where work is mostly still performed by actual thinking, feeling human beings, I think we’ve collectively accepted that we do certain things to make the workplace comfortable and pleasant. We provide supplies and conveniences, including on-the-premises beverages and office products. It keeps the worker bees happy and productive and prevents them from having to leave the premises. It’s not about buying stuff for them. It’s about enabling them to do their work without inconvenience. It’s also about allowing them an atmosphere where they don’t feel nickeled, dimed, and micromanaged.

            I don’t see how government workers are different from other workers in that they should be given the basic conveniences of a modern workplace. Those of us who work in publicly traded corporations don’t forego coffee in order to return more money to our shareholders. Those of us who work for privately held companies don’t worry about someone accidentally taking a company pen home because it might cut into the owner’s profits.

            There are public companies, private companies, and government entities where every move of every employee IS scrutinized with the bottom line in mind, and most of us agree that we’d rather not work in that climate. It’s unpleasant and anxiety-producing. When an employer creates a system that appears to never favor the employee in even the smallest thing, the employee won’t feel inclined to be generous in even the smallest way. Then you get a company full of people who arrive at nine o’ clock sharp, leave at five o’ clock sharp, make decisions without thinking about what benefits the employer (because they have no affinity for the employer), and take the first better job that comes along–offering the least possible notice when they do.

            Government employees are humans, often doing challenging work for lower pay than they’d get elsewhere. Let ’em have their coffee, and forgive them if they accidentally walk off with a company pen.

    5. MousyNon

      That’s really not true. There’s a certain level of flexibility even with government work. Using the company phone to make a doctors appointment (like someone suggested below) is arguably wage and resource theft, but it’s minimal enough to be ignored, and a reasonable accommodation for people that spend the majority of their lives in the office. $6.00 worth of supplies is absolutely in the same category, and yes even when it’s “taxpayer funded.” I’m sure I won’t notice the .000000000000000000000000000000001% of one cent the $6.00 cost me.

    6. Raptor

      I think some of the conflict comes in this…. We’re dealing with animals here. Tax funded or not, most people aren’t going to begrudge an animal a few bucks, because it’s not their fault and you shouldn’t leave animals to suffer.

      Where it humans however….

      Seriously, I’ve heard of places where humans are employed which depend on tax dollars and they can’t even offer up free coffee for their workers, because its paid for by taxes and that constitutes waste. My understanding with civilians working for the military and the like is that they have to keep track of were every dime went. Every piece of paper, every posted note. Everything. You have a budget for this much paper per year and if you use less, you might be given less the next year. And if you need more, you will have to jump through hoops.

      I won’t get into the ethics of that sort of business management…. because this story deals with the ethics of animals, not humans. And while, yeah, because this might have to do with tax dollars, from that standpoint, it wasn’t okay…. But from the standpoint of, it’s an animal, it was ethical to do and most people are going to turn a blind eye to it. And, as a suggestion, maybe find out how things are appropriated. If they order up 10,000 cotton balls a year and have to use them all or they lose that many next time… then, a little charity work goes a long ways in making the odds and ends vanish. The things you know you need a lot of, but not sure exactly how many you will need through the year and you’d rather not see that supply slowly dwindle because you happened to use 10 less this year than last year.

      We will begrudge a federal worker a piece of paper, but we won’t begrudge a cat a cotton ball.

      1. MousyNon

        I agree. And I will go into the ethics of that kind of business management because I think it’s insane. We discourage discretionary use for good reasons, but encourage departments to artificially inflate their costs so as not to lose budgets year to year. It ludicrous.

        1. Bwmn

          This is pervasive in the nonprofit sector as well and so frustrating. Not so much a taxpayer thing – but rather an entirely artificial ‘race to the bottom’ to ensure that each organization has the smallest overhead possible (i.e. money spent on administration and not program activities). In theory it’s great to ensure that charitable donations and grants (sometimes from governments) are going for the organization’s mission, but ultimately it’s just resorted in ‘creative accounting’.

    7. Natalie

      “US taxpayer funded items being stolen! No leeway because of that.”

      I’m always uncomfortable with this logic. The government buys plenty of things from private industry – are they also held to some kind of special standard because the government is a client? They fund research, so should the research scientists be raked over the coals for taking post-its home or using a beaker as a pen cup? If stealing is always unethical, then I don’t see any reason it should be more unethical in a government office.

      Definitely informed by my job – one trust we manage for is a government landlord. They’re a publicly traded REIT, but literally all of their revenue comes from the government as rent. I’ve taken at least one angry call from some random citizen who thought we kept the heat in our building too high and we were “wasting taxpayer money”. So maybe I’m just cranky about it.

      1. Xay

        When I worked for a state agency, the governor’s office decided that hot water in restrooms of government buildings was a waste of taxpayer dollars. Hot. Water.

        1. Natalie

          Hey, who even needs bathrooms! Just go out and squat in the street, like the good old days.

          Yeesh. That seems like it wouldn’t even meet the typical building code. Hot and cold running water has been a requirement for quite some time.

      2. Kelly O

        I would think one of the worst parts would be hearing that “you’re a government organization, therefore I have the right to criticize everything you do because I’m a taxpayer and I support you” thing over and over and over again.

        1. Joey

          No the worst thing is knowing that there are plenty of people who believe that government workers are all greedy, dishonest, inefficient, and lazy idiots. And that they will look for any reason to say “gotcha”.

    8. puddin

      Agreed. If an NGO environment allows for discretionary appropriation, that is fine. However, a tax funded clinic – or any tax funded environment – should do everything in their power to use funds efficiently. How many times will this vet take $6, how many others do the same? Boom there is my property tax for the month in stolen supplies.

      1. Natalie

        “Efficiency” doesn’t mean no waste or shrinkage ever, though. It may well be the most efficient use of everyone’s work time (and thus money) to just drop this, considering the small value of the items.

        1. Julia

          Indeed there is the accounting understanding of ‘materiality’ – is $6 worth investigating? That’s a judgment call.

      2. Koko

        There are far more taxpayers than government employees so if you’re going to make the “it’s $6 times every government employee” argument then you should also recognize the “it’s that amount divided by 200 million taxpayers” argument.

      3. JB

        As people stated elsewhere, I bet you anything that vet has provided uncompensated work or supplies in the past. When working for a state agency, I sometimes used post-its to write personal reminder notes. But we had rules about allowed de minimus use–we were allowed to sometimes print personal documents, for example. And I also often brought in my own post-its for work use, and I brought in almost all of my own pens. I provided my own calendar. And I “took” vacation days that I actually worked from home so that the agency wouldn’t have to pay me for too many unused days. Nobody I worked with worked only the required 40 hour work week, or at least nobody who wasn’t at the top of the agency. Taxpayers got more from us than we took, that’s for sure.

        In general, I agree that theft is theft and shouldn’t be tolerated, but we don’t have enough information here to get indignant about it. And for that matter, it appears from what the OP wrote that he or she doesn’t have enough info, either.

        1. puddin

          I did mean to appear indignant, just firm. I think we all know government waste is an issue and we certainly can tackle those that fritter away larger dollar amounts. But that does not absolve those who waste/shrink supplies and money in more of an incremental fashion.

          I don’t advocate jumping over dollars to save pennies either. There is a principle at stake though. At what point does this become a problem? Who draws that line? Where is the oversight?

          It would be lovely to have it all ‘come out in the wash’ but I feel that no one inspects the wash well enough that we can be certain that it does truly all ‘come out’.

  3. soitgoes

    Al Lo is right about #2: the employee can’t give the OP the company facebook info without also giving the OP access to her personal facebook account. It’s a major flaw in facebook’s setup (and it gets even more annoying if you intend to use facebook’s advertising platform). If the OP doesn’t have a facebook account, he/she needs to set up a perfunctory one and then ask to be made an admin.

    For #1, I wonder if the supervisor saw the stealing as a version of using the office printer or sticking a few spare pens in your purse. If the OP is really bothered by it, he could say something like, “Does she take things often? I’m only asking because I’m the one who keeps track of inventory and restocks our supplies.” I admit I’m a bit surprised that everyone’s okay with this vet performing procedures for free outside of the office

    1. MousyNon

      Why wouldn’t it be okay for her to use her skills for free outside of the workplace? She’s free to contract out her skills–I can’t imagine she’s bound by a noncompete, not in a government office, and even noncompetes tend to include some flexibility with respect to pro bono work.

      1. Diet Coke Addict

        What’s more, there’s nothing to say what’s actually happening–I doubt the vet is performing open-heart surgery on the dog in the owner’s living room on the Persian rug. I was envisioning “Rex has a sore paw, can you have a look?” and the vet grabbing some swabs and bandages, or something along those lines.

    2. Natalie

      Most medical professionals I’ve known do minor things outside the office all of the time. My grandfather was a dentist and used to check my teeth out in the living room. At least three of my friends with doctor parents have been stitched up in their homes.

      1. Judy

        My sister has removed stitches for me. They were due to be removed on Tuesday before Thanksgiving last year and my doctor (who went to school with her) said I could come in to get the stitches out or have some sisterly bonding over the holiday.

    3. LQ

      Are you saying that I shouldn’t ever fix anyone’s computer outside the office because I’m SO ON BOARD with that! Am I allowed to fix my own? Have a computer even? I mean some of the skills I use when I write I learned at work which of those can I not use at home?

      1. Kelly O

        Please don’t tell Mr. O this – I will never get another computer fixed again if he catches wind of this policy.

        1. Jamie

          He’ll still fix yours, there is something upsetting to the force about a broken computer in one’s own home. It’s unsettling.

          I have been known to answer, “what do you do” with a much smaller part of my job and leave out IT entirely for this very reason. When your answer is “internal auditor” no one wants you to come to their house and criticize everything for free. Tell your husband he’s free to steal that one if he wants.

          1. LQ

            I’m starting to just say I work with SharePoint. This seems to be pretty effective.

            Also? I’d love for someone to come to my house and tell me all the things that are wrong….I may be a little weird.

    4. Monodon monoceros

      Vets perform procedures for free outside of the office all the time. I believe it is also in their ethical code to provide services in an emergency, and also where it is of public health benefit. Most of the vets that I’ve worked with/known also do feel a personal moral and ethical duty to help animals in need, inside or outside an office.

    5. Elysian

      Yeah, I think this is pretty common practice for people who work in certain professions. I can’t imagine it’s awesome for malpractice reasons (hope your friends don’t sue!) but I consulted with a neurologist friend for a second opinion once when we were having dinner at her home. I’m a lawyer and have occasionally reviewed stuff for friends. When you have access to a skill that most people don’t have and can’t easily get access to, I think you’ll inevitably get asked to share it with friends (and friends of friends, and family members, and their friends…). I don’t think its unreasonable to do minor stuff within your bailiwick if you’re willing to accept the (probably minor) consequences if you’re wrong/do it wrong/whatever.

  4. Mister Pickle

    #1 is somewhat slippery. $6 is not a lot, but if I just reached into someone’s purse or wallet and took $6, chances are there’d be hell to pay. On the other hand, a) some jobs offer ‘perks’ like free office supplies, b) in this case, it was veterinary supplies, being taken by a vet, to be used on an a sick animal? Personally, I’d view this as one of those Big Picture situations and just let it go. I mean, it’s not like the vet was going to pawn the supplies for cash for their personal enrichment. I *would* have problems with that.

    But not everyone is me. There are people in the world who live by “the rules”, and while they are sometimes made fun of by those of us who ignore rules if we perceive it to be for the greater good, I have often wondered if they provide a necessary ‘balance’ to things.

    1. LBK

      I don’t think it’s necessarily equivalent to taking $6 out of a stranger’s wallet, though, because you have no reasonable access to that money in any context. At (most) offices, you’re allowed to just walk into the copy room and grab a stack of Post-Its or a pen.

  5. Sandy

    Actually, #1 does seem a bit mean to me. Less so the person than the repeated action.

    For one thing, it’s a vet’s office and we’re talking about vet supplies, not post-it notes. We’re talking about 6 bucks here, not any more, so it’s highly unlikely they are selling them on the side rather than taking what is needed to treat a sick or injured animal.

    If I were the supervisor, and I knew and trusted the vet in question, I’d talk to them afterwards (hence the ‘give us a list part’) and be a little put off by the fact that the other employee, who has no supervisory role, keeps coming back to me on this after I’ve already weighed in.

    1. Chuchundra

      Right. If this is a persistent issue and the OP is having to replace taken supplies then I could see objecting or reporting it, but a few dollars worth of supplies for a house call? That just sounds like nitpickery to me.

    2. Tenley

      $6 at first glance looks low — but honestly, I’m having a hard time imagining sticking $6-$10 worth of office supplies (an entire ream of legal pads? A box of ballpoint pens? Really?) in my bag as though that’s not weird (which also suggests it’s not the only time).

      1. Sandy

        6 bucks in medical supplies from a vet’s office, not pens and post-it notes. In my mind, that makes a big difference.

          1. OhNo

            Exactly what Cat said. Six dollars of office supplies could be a grocery bag worth of paper and pens. Six dollars worth of vet supplies, however, could be one pill and half a roll of bandage. The price may be the same, but the amount just doesn’t compare.

            That said, it’s weird that the OP is still pushing this, rather than just asking the supervisor about it. Why not just go to the supervisor and say, “Hey, it really bothers me that So-and-so took vet supplies that were paid for by government money, but it doesn’t seem to bother you. Is that something I should speak up about in the future?”

          2. Sandy

            Six bucks to treat the injury or illness of a living creature, not six bucks of Post-its so someone can skip their next run to Staples?

    3. soitgoes

      I think there might be a bit of a difference between swiping a few office supplies from the back room and taking something from the “store” stock that could theoretically be sold to a customer (or used to perform the action that a customer is paying for). When I worked at Borders, I could have taken a pen from the back office, but I couldn’t have taken a book right off the shelves. I couldn’t even have taken a fancy-ish pen that was for sale at the counter next to the bookmarks and magazines.

      1. bkanon

        When I worked for Borders, I went home with pens nearly every day! I tended to stick them in my ponytail when I was done writing and forget they were there at the end of the day. My coworkers got a big laugh the day one of them stood behind me and pulled TEN pens out of my ponytail. It had been a rough shift.

        But yeah, a pen from the info desk or a few sheets of paper, no problem. A fancy, for-sale pen or a blank book? Problem.

        1. LBK

          Ha – I would often get home from working at Best Buy and discover I had made off with 3 pens, a Sharpie, 2 highlighters, a mechanical pencil…no wonder we could never find any writing utensils in the store.

          1. bkanon

            I remember one time at the morning meeting, when I asked everyone to please bring back any pens that might have escaped with them because we were very low. Got a couple hundred pens back, including two plastic bags worth from the store GM. He took the ‘shoplifter’ teasing well!

          2. Meg Murry

            Yes, I tend to shove pens and Sharpies in my pockets, and then take them home at night. They all pile up on my dresser, and about once every week or two I gather them all up and take them back to the office. The number of pens on/in my desk is in constant ebb and flow because of this.

            1. Jamie

              I do this with flashdrives. Toss them in my purse because I need to work on something at home and every month or so bring back a handful of them to wipe and put back in the drawer.

              1. Chinook

                Some military bases have amnesty boxes at the gate where you can securely drop off any extra bullets, shells or other restricted items that you may have forgotten in your pockets from the range. I can only think of the conversations that had to have taken place fo rsomeone to think that this was a necessary item:

                Police Officer: Sir, what is that bulge in your pockets
                Private rummages through pockets and brings out a dummy grenade: I was in training today and I must have forgotten that I put some extras in my pocket.

        2. Jamie

          I am glad I’m not the only one guilty of inadvertent theft of pens/pencils via updos!

          I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gone home and realized I still had a pen stuck in my hair from a makeshift sloppy bun. I can’t say I feel the need to turn myself over to the authorities because if you balance how much of my uncompensated time my company has been the recipient of…

          I’m okay with the pens.

          1. Cat

            Yeah, I was thinking this morning after reading this letter about all the things I end up doing that costs me some money and benefits the company–not just time; there’s also stuff like taking the Metro instead of a cab and then not getting reimbursed for Metro fare because it’s just a few dollars off a card. I don’t know many employees for whom that kind of thing doesn’t dwarf a pen here or there. Especially since the extra time is often linked to the odd office supply (in the “oh shit, I worked late and don’t have time to go to Staples but need to label this box” way).

      2. LBK

        I don’t think anyone here has mentioned taking things out of store stock, it’s all the business’s own supplies. Stealing products off the shelves is definitely unacceptable, regardless of the amount or price.

        1. soitgoes

          Huh? I think there’s room to argue that vet supplies that are used to provide paid services are not typical office supplies. Customers essentially buy the items for use when they pay the vet to use them.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule

            Having just dropped a significant amount of money on my cat, I can reliably report that it depends on the vet. The emergency clinic? 100% markup on everything and it was all line itemed out on the bill. My regular vet? Extra night at the clinic: no extra charge; cone of shame: no extra charge; follow up office visit: no extra charge. It just depends on how the clinics operate.

        2. Apollo Warbucks

          When I worked for home depot, anyone caught taking things out of stock for personal use would have got the sack for theft, we were allowed to take things for store use if we needed them to do our job but we had to get it signed off to make sure it was accounted for.

  6. Fucshia

    #1 makes me wonder where most people draw the line. I believe the majority would think it is okay to print or copy a page at work (stealing ink and paper), but few would think it is okay to walk off with the whole printer. Is a staple okay? A paperclip, a pen, a folder, a notebook, a shipping box, a stapler, a mouse, a keyboard?

    1. Jeanne

      I think the line is drawn lots of places. Some people take more supplies, some less. Some workplaces care, some don’t. Does it matter if the company treats you well? Does it matter if you do work from home? I bet you could get 200 different answers for where to draw the line.

    2. Student

      Where I draw the line:
      I drop the matter if it is no longer cost-effective for me to address it.

      Saying something to the co-worker about the doggy-bag of vet supplies is pretty cheap, so I think OP #1 was within reason here. It’s probably a 5-minute conversation or less. Pursuing it with a higher-up when the co-worker responded poorly – probably still okay. We’re probably hitting the limit at this point, though, and I wouldn’t have gone to the effort of addressing one instance multiple times with the boss.

      I don’t know what veterinarians usually cost in salary, but if you’re spending too much time (yours and others) on this issue, you’re spending more in labor to address the problem than the $6 items cost. There are situations where spending more in labor could be considered an investment in future business savings – intervening once to stop a co-worker from taking $6 home every night, for example, is potentially worth a couple thousand dollars. But this strikes me as a problem that will only occur infrequently, and will cost you more to solve than to ignore.

      I wouldn’t call the cops on anyone for stealing less than ~$50, on the theory that it probably costs at least that much tax money for the cops to drive out, take statements, and fill in the report paperwork. It doesn’t make it morally right to steal $49 at that point; it’s just not cost effective to address through calling the cops. I can still confront the thief, make a fuss, complain, etc. for a nontrivial amount of time and be logically consistent.

    3. Cat

      Here are my rules for stealing office supplies from work:

      1) No complete units – you can take a pen or a staple but you can’t take a box of pens or a box of staples or, for that matter, a stapler; if you want a full unit, buy it yourself. Work office supplies are for situations where you need one of something.

      2) Nothing that has an immediate rather than an incremental effect. (I.e., we will have to restock this marginally earlier than if I didn’t take it is fine; we have to restock this now so we can complete work is not.)

      3) Nothing that’s a significant amount of money – that takes some discretion; $6 in the context of medical supplies is not; $6 in the context of cheap ass ball point pens probably is.

      4) If it’s not a single use item, you borrow rather than steal – so sure, take the stapler home, but bring it back when you’re done stapling.

      So on your list, paperclips, pens, and single folders are okay. Notebooks are iffy depending on the cost; I’m not going to get on your ass over a legal pad, but a nicely bound one is different. Shipping boxes are a no, but I’ve never seen an office that didn’t have a zillion spent cardboard boxes for the taking. Staplers, mice, and keyboards are borrow-only.

      1. Jamie

        As anyone who has ever been an office manager knows the whole unit thing is especially important in August/September. One employee taking a box of pens is one thing – a ton of parents outfitting their kids for back to school from the supply closet is something else entirely.

        1. Stephen

          I remember going to school every September with a backpack full of binders, pens, pencils and paper with the corporate logo of my dad’s employer on them… and a weird pair of scissors from my mom’s hospital that had a curve in the blade so you couldn’t cut straight lines with them.

    4. HR Manager

      I know I have a few binder clips from the office at home, and probably a few pens too. But I do draw the line at one company where the woman bragged that she never had to buy sugar or paper towels because she took them from the office. :( Seriously?

      1. Natalie

        It seems like the time required to open a bunch of tiny packets of sugar would rival the $3 for a 5-pound bag…

      2. Cassie

        I was at a restaurant the other day and noticed a lady who was gathering packets of sugar (from her friends who were drinking coffee) – she said that she doesn’t buy sugar so she uses the packets for when she needs it. I thought it was a bit bizarre.

    5. soitgoes

      I think most of us only use things that we know won’t be missed. A one-page document (okay, a Target coupon) here, a spare purse pen there. I felt guilty when I printed out my new lease at work, but it would have pushed things over into the next day if I waited to print it and deliver it after business hours.

    6. Nobody

      I work at a company that is pretty strict about these things, with one exception: safety equipment. They freely hand out safety glasses, gloves, and earplugs, and encourage employees to take them home because they want us to be just as safe at home as we are on the job. There is, of course, a limit to this — we can’t take something really expensive like a fall protection harness or toxic gas monitor, or a whole case of safety glasses — but the company likes to say that safety is the #1 priority and is willing to bear the cost of extra safety equipment because it is in line with the company values. Perhaps the veterinary clinic has a similar policy, and allows such de minimis use of veterinary supplies to support its mission of caring for animals.

  7. quick reply

    I am one of those people who can never think of anything to ask after an interview.

    I’ve interviewed with and worked at companies that are desperate to get someone to
    do the work. The picture spun during the interview and the reality later were so far
    apart, I don’t think anything I could have asked would have revealed the dysfunctional
    nature of the place(s).

    1. Lauren

      “I don’t think anything I could have asked would have revealed the dysfunctional
      nature of the place(s).” I think this depends on whether you ask genuine questions where the answers will truly influence your decision.

      People often surprise me with their honesty when the tables are turned (interviewers answering questions) especially if you ask different people the same question to see how their answers compare (if interviewing separately).

      But again, if you are asking pat questions for which the answer won’t influence your decision because you really need that particular job, then I would agree: they don’t really illuminate anything.

      1. quick reply

        True. In my case, I was asking about how others in the position I would be in advanced and what, if any, steps were in place to aid that. I was trying to get a good feel for the work environment, and things were fine the first few months. But later, things just fell apart despite my best efforts.

        But, I don’t think it’s easy to ask those questions if you haven’t experienced something that would cause you to think of that as something to ask. If that makes sense. And it seems difficult to frame it in a natural way.
        “What type of relationship do employees have with their supervisors?” is different from, “Do supervisors call you on the weekends to ask work questions?” or “Does the supervisor go into your desk and eat your lunch?” ;)

    2. Jen S. 2.0

      I don’t always have any more questions about the work, but I always ask SOMETHING. I view asking questions less as an opportunity to find out about benefits, and more as an opportunity to keep making a connection with the interviewer. Most of the time — and as often is noted here — 50 people can do the job just fine. That means that the one they hire is the one they feel fits in the best. If I make the interviewer feel like we connected during the interview and had a good conversation, that’s in my favor. So, if I have NOTHING else to ask, I say something like, “I’d like to know more about what it’s like to work here. What has your experience here been like?” Most people like to talk about themselves. You can ask almost anyone that, and everyone will have a different answer. And if all they say is “Fine,” well, as least you tried.

    3. AndersonDarling

      I has 4 interviews for my current job. By the last interview I had no questions left. I could have repeated some just to make an impression on my final interviewer, but I just said that I had asked all my questions previously and received all the information I needed.

      1. Meg Murry

        When all my questions about the job have been asked, I turn some of the questions I’ve been asked back to the interviewers. Something like “What originally drew you to this company and did you find it to hold true?” or “What are your favorite and least favorite things about working for this company?” That’s the kind of question you can ask of all your interviewers, and it shows something about the company culture,

    4. Stephen

      You can always ask what the culture around stealing office supplies is. Never okay, or is it fine to take say, $6 worth at a time? Personal printing? Phone calls? What about long distance? It’s always better to know what the expectations are going in so you don’t run into a misunderstanding later.

  8. Ann Furthermore

    #3: In the interview for my first position with my current employer, I had a list of questions to ask. But during the interviews (with HR and then the hiring manager), they were all answered during our conversations. Some were questions asked by me, since the discussion went in that direction, and some were answered while we talked back and forth. At the end, when they asked if I had any questions, I answered honestly and said, “I did have a whole list of questions, but you’ve answered them all!” I did have them written down though, and they could see that I wasn’t just looking at a blank sheet of paper.

    1. Noah

      I had something similar happen during a recent series of interviews at a company. I think I met with 10 people total between multiple Skype, telephone, and in person interviews. It was great to have a variety of employees to answer questions. By the end of it all though I really had no final questions besides “can I have the job?”. Most of my questions were answered through conversation and those I asked about I did pretty early on. Even things that came up along the way were answered way before the final interview that seemed like a formality to meet the boss’ boss.

    2. kas

      Yeah that’s the worst. I always come up with general questions that most likely may be answered before the interviewer asks if I have any questions and then I try to think of extra, role specific questions. However, through conversation during the interview I always end up asking everything I had written down. I always feel so unprepared afterwards.

    3. Sherm

      Been there. I applied for a job where I had a lengthy phone interview, then a first in-person interview, then a second interview meeting with four people separately. I had no more questions about specifics going into that second interview, so when the four interviewers (all) asked me if I had questions, I asked “If you were in my shoes, what is one thing that is good to know?” The question seemed to be well-received, and they gave thoughtful answers. And if by chance the interviewers compared notes about my questions afterward, I don’t think I came across as weird for asking the same question repeatedly, because it should be understood that different people can have different answers to the question, with all answers being valuable.

      1. SH

        The same thing happened to me on a temp-to-perm job. I had been there for 9 months and it was a basic reception job in a satellite office. All I could say was “The office manager has been so hands on that I don’t have any questions.”

  9. Jeanne

    #4, I worked at a scientific place. People with PhDs would have Dr in front of their name next to the door. The higher level people also had a title there. Dr. John Smith then underneath it Director, Quality Assurance. If you are a peon or a low level manager, it might seem a little much to put your title. Definitely look around at the other people at your level.

    1. Noah

      A lot of people is hospitals and healthcare in general seem to do this too. Obvious;y Dr. Jane Smith, but also John Doe, MSN or Julie Ward, DNP is common.

    2. Chuchundra

      I work in scientific research. I couldn’t throw a rock around here and not have it bounce off a couple of people with Phd’s.

      Nobody here uses their title anywhere except in publications. Not on their office door, Not in conversation.

    3. Annie

      Unless it is entirely against convention please use the name you’d like to be called on your door. I’m temping (admin) at a plant and its much easier to know what to call people because the doors & hard hats have the names they are called on them- there are a few people who have their given name, not the name they are called (Robert called RJ, Mark called Junior, and a Jonathan called Jack) on their hat and I felt out of place when I said their name repeatedly before they realized I was talking to them.

  10. Noah

    #1 – I was a Paramedic and have worked around the healthcare industry for much of my career. It seems common for people to “borrow” supplies. It happened all the time, whether it was using a bag of IV fluids on a fellow employee when they were feeling like crap or giving several syringes to the drug addict who you knew wouldn’t stop but you at least wanted them using clean needles. I have conflicted feeling on it, but in unless it gets out of hand I would also be inclined to look the other way over small supply diversions. Now narcotics are another issue entirely.

    1. AndersonDarling

      When my fiance was injured, my director gave me a bunch of bandages and tape. But she knew what she could give me. It could have been “expired” and not usable for patients (but really is OK to use), or it could have supplies that we don’t use on a regular basis anymore.
      The vet who took the supplies would know if a syringe was not going to be used in practice anymore. She may have been taking “trash” supplies that really had no value.

  11. Treena Kravm

    #5- You have the advantage of wanting to move back home, so you can play that up in your CL.

    1. carolyn

      Treena,
      I have seen that advice many times,and I will definitely use it to my advantage. There was a time in my past when I didn’t have a problem getting a position and until recently never really gave it a thought as to the hardship of moving across country or even across the state line. I feel like now I need to go back to the drawing board and create a plan B, C, and D.

    2. Lisa

      Other Options:

      – Leave off any address information as part of your name / heading on your resume, your jobs will still say east coast, but they have to read it first rather than skim and toss
      – Add 2 address (current (family members or PO box)/ permanent (chicago one)
      – Add an objective line stating desire to move home to chicago, but only that nothing else
      – Opt for using chicago address when using database applications so that you are not weeded out.

  12. HateItHere

    #5 How is the best way to secure a job as a long distance applicant? I’m struggling with getting out of the state I graduated in but seem to keep getting knocked back because I’m seen as risky because I’m interstate but I never wanted to work here, I was just bound unfortunately by residency rates and couldn’t afford to go to school where I actually want to work. What can I do to maximise my chances/max it clear I really do want out and am not going to be running back here?

  13. Apollo Warbucks

    #1 Perhaps the supervisor spoke to the vet and their manager and was given an explanation or told not to worry about it.

    I think maybe your comment about being unable to fund the vets charity work was what was considered mean, it’s only a few bucks and it for a good cause, and if it’s a small amount of goods being taken infrequently for a genuine purpose (as opposed to a large amount of goods being taken to be sold for profit) it doesn’t seem that bad to me, but at least now you know something more about the culture of your work place.

    That soda I don’t think the supplies should just disappear because it could be open to abuse, Is there anyway to do a stock take to see how many supplies have been taken? If it’s a wide spread problem or the loss is significant maybe the management will think differently about it or could you formalise it so when someone takes supplies for charity you’re told so you know what needs to be reordered.

  14. JCC

    #1: That manager may not be smart, but it sounds like he is amazing at his job. He has grasped something very important — that talented people quit when they are dragged across the coals over things like $6 in vet supplies, because it shows the employees that the supplies are seen as more important than the people who make them useful. The cost of hiring and retaining a trained and qualified candidate is far more than $6 in supplies; great management in action!

    1. Guy Incognito

      I couldn’t agree with you more I recently had my appraisal and as part of it I voiced my concerns about my salary being a lot lower than it should be, not 5 minuets after the meeting my boss was reviewing my expense claim (for context it’s very rare for me to claim expenses) and decided to bust my balls over a $30 claim for a few drinks at happy hour when I picked up the first round, and then we took it in turns to buy rounds that weren’t reclaimed.

      I was so angry at getting nickeled and dimed like that, especially given the timing. The good will chewed up by my bosses actions where not worth the cash saving to the firm.

      Where possible employers should cut employees a bit of slack and provide some minor unofficial perks it pays for its self many times over in the long run.

    2. Monodon monoceros

      This is such a good point. At my last job, they ordered veterinary supplies for the organisation at wholesale prices (we worked with animals). When I first started there, they would let us order stuff for our personal pets (supplements, prescriptions if we had the original from our vet, etc.), and we would just pay the org back. Some things were a huge savings, like my dog’s glucosamine, and then some really expensive antibiotics that my cat was put on long term.

      Then the finance dept got crappy about it. I had ordered stuff maybe twice in one year and then suddenly they said it was not right that we were doing it, and we couldn’t do it anymore. It was such BS- I originally viewed it as one of the perks of working there, since it was non-profit and I was already making probably 25% less salary than what I could have made somewhere else. It was just another thing to add to my list of crappy management decisions. That list was long- none of them individually made me leave, but instead of just adding up, the sum total started to weigh more.

      1. NJ anon

        I work in finance at a nonprofit. An employee asked if we could order something for her and she would pay us back. We had to say no. We don’t pay taxes and get better pricing because of our status. I didn’t think it was right for her to get those advantages plus I thought our auditors might raise an eyebrow. Plus if we did it for her, we would have to do it for everyone.

        1. Monodon monoceros

          Eh, I guess that’s just another reason why private nonprofits are not for me.

          In my example, my last work wasn’t getting special pricing on the veterinary supplies due to their nonprofit status, it was just because it was a business account. But maybe I can see the point about the auditor.

          But the point of “if you do it for her, you’d have to do it for everyone”- eh, why not? A lot of nonprofit employees could go somewhere else and make more money. Why not give them some perks that may cost you a little bit of time, but not necessarily funds? It’s a morale thing for me.

          1. NJ anon

            “A lot of nonprofit employees could go somewhere else and make more money. Why not give them some perks that may cost you a little bit of time, but not necessarily funds?”

            Most of the wonderful folks I work with believe in our mission and know it is a low paying industry (including me). Frankly, no one is forcing them to work there. And it wouldn’t cost me a “little bit of time.” Once everyone else got wind of this, they would be lining up at the door. As most nonprofits, we are understaffed in the finance department and, all else being equal, would not have time to do this.

            1. Monodon monoceros

              I can see your point, perhaps more so in a large organisation. And most of us, myself included, were there because we were passionate about the work- but the passion only goes so far when the org continually tries to beat down your morale. Basically I just got tired of the “you should put up with all of this because you love the work you do!” attitude, so that argument kind of makes me crazy. I understood the low pay, but then when there were little things the org could do to increase morale, I always wondered why they never chose to do them. I understand that you don’t see the purchasing items as a little thing though, and that’s fair enough.

      2. Jamie

        This is what I was scrolling down looking to see. I have never worked in an office where they didn’t allow people to take something on occasion and pay petty cash. If my home printer took the same kind of toner as those at work I would have no problem letting the OM know and paying for it. They get volume discounts and it’s way cheaper than I’d get it as Jane Consumer in the store.

        It’s like the occasional use of the shipping department to send something – every where I’ve worked is okay with it as long as you pay for it and it’s not abused to where it’s interfering with work for the people in shipping. It’s a convenience that costs nothing to the company.

        I’m usually the office Jiminy Cricket about ethical issues and I wouldn’t have batted an eye about $6 in supplies by a doctor who is probably working for a lot less than she could be making in private practice just trying to do a good thing.

      3. Chinook

        My mother points out that she can’t give a lot of benefits to her employees, but one of them is a discount for them and their families for anything on the shop floor and wholesale prices for anything that hasn’t been logged into the inventory. She swears that some of her employees work for the discounted single-serve coffee pods alone.

      4. Observer

        I don’t know what went on in our organization, but NJ Anon is completely right – this kind of thing is a magnet for auditors. And, the organization is in a no win situation – of they don’t document exactly what happened, then you wind up looking like some expensive items went missing. And, if you do, then you are technically committing tax fraud. NOT a situation any sane organization wants to find themselves in.

        1. Natalie

          Perhaps it’s different in non-profits, but we have a GL account for purchases we will make for a tenant, and a corresponding account for the charge for reimbursement. We do it for exactly the reason a non-profit might – we get volume pricing the tenant might not.

          Now, it does come up from an audit perspective because those accounts always have to balance, but that’s not an enormous hurdle.

    3. BRR

      Or he could be terrible at his job and just not care that anybody is stealing supplies. We don’t really know enough to judge if the manager is amazing or terrible.

      1. JCC

        I agree, it could have been a coincidence, but really all the information we need to determine the least expensive action is already available: was the vet an employee with expensive high-demand skills, or cheap low-demand skills?

        Even if the veterinarian treated all their friends animals using $6 sets of equipment from their job, they would have to go through quite a few friends before the cost in supplies was greater than the cost of locating and hiring a new civilian veterinarian, especially if it involved adjusting the salary upward to conform to new market rates.

        As sad as it sounds, the reason why nobody cares if (for example) a dishwasher quits after getting chewed out for bringing home a $2 dish towel is because hiring and training a new dishwasher will likely cost less than the $2 to replace the towel — the job requires little training, and hiring need not be any more complicated than writing “Help Wanted” on a piece of paper, putting it in the front window, and hiring the first warm body whom you reckon won’t rob you blind.

        This isn’t simply a service sector issue, though. It is also true when the high-demand portion of a skill-set can be automated (as many corporate and government jobs have been), since this drastically lowers the replacement requirements and costs.

        Supposedly this was the secret behind the success of the British during the Boxer Rebellion in China. Let’s say a highly trained martial artist killed 100 men before being mowed down by a bunch of teenagers with muskets. It might take a few months for the British to make another set of muskets and find another bunch of teenagers (the muskets being the most expensive part), but it would take years for the Chinese to train another martial arts master.

    4. Joey

      Great employees don’t just take supplies for outside uses without getting it cleared. And remember if he took it this times it’s likely that he has taken or plans on taking supplies again.

      What you’re suggesting is that it should be assumed that great employees should have the leeway to skim inventory. Sorry but I’ve never seen a great employee intentionally take business resources for personal use without being sure it’s okay.

      1. Cat

        Really? I find this hard to believe. I’ve seen plenty of great employees occasionally grab a pen or print a personal page. In fact, most great employees I’ve seen do this because they know how to balance convenience with business needs.

      2. JoJo

        I’m with you Joey, and I’d also wonder how much inventory the employee has taken in the past.

        If it’s only six bucks he can buy his own supplies.

        I can’t believe that so many people are defending the thief.

        1. Cat

          The issue isn’t the money – if it’s enough money that the employee couldn’t buy his own supplies, that would be an issue. The issue is that most reasonable employers, including this one apparently, think it’s fine for their employees to not have to make a special trip to the store when they can grab a de minimis amount of supplies that will take care of it at work. (Especially if, for instance, you may be in a hurry to get to the sick dog.) And, as noted on this thread, this is often a back-and-forth; most employers also get some uncompensated benefits from their employees too.

          Categorizing it as “theft” is too reductive if only because the supervisor knows about it and doesn’t care.

    5. Waiting Patiently

      I know the op did let equate the supervisor’s intelligence with the fact that he doesn’t speak English but the whole letter comes across as petty and a lil mean-spirited.

  15. UKJo

    I feel a bit for op1. While it might be fine in many cultures to utilise some supplies for off the clock work, and that may include that workplace or not, the supervisor should clarify the position, not just call them mean. From the op’s perspective if they had ignored the pilfering and it had NOT been acceptable, their own job would have been at risk! Mind you, if all bosses were perfect we wouldn’t need this blog ;)

    1. Katie the Fed

      I agree. I’ve had “hall monitor” types working for me, and the solution is not to make them feel bad, but to tell them what types of things are a big deal, and what aren’t. It’s a training/communication issue.

    2. MousyNon

      But the OPs boss TOLD her it was fine–and OP felt it necessary to explain (to her own boss!) what OP perceives the rules SHOULD be, and that’s where I find this problematic. Absolutely report it up the chain as an FYI, so there’s a paper trail, but the “not the sharpest tool,” “taking supplies *shouldn’t* be allowed” is not an FYI report, it’s a judgement call the OP is obviously not in a position to make.

      1. UKJo

        You may be correct of course, but my reading of the op’s letter was that the supervisor misunderstood what was happening initially, and never explicitly said the colleague taking stuff was fine. It may well actually be fine, but it would be good for the op to hear that without any chance of misunderstanding. Here’s hoping that the op gets that clarification.

  16. De (Germany)

    “I had to explain to him that we can’t fund her charity work and taking supplies from the clinic shouldn’t be allowed. ”

    Especially since you also felt the need to comment that he’s “not the sharpest tool in the shed” and that you know you are right that sounds like the explanation might have come across as condescending. If your superior feels disrespected that might have led to the second comment.

    1. MK

      Also, I think that, since it appears everyone else thinks this is not a big deal, the OP is the one who is failing to understand the situation. It’s really much more likely that the OP doesn’t get what is permitted in the office than that the supervisor is too stupid to realise that stuffing office supplies in your bag is stealing. By the way, if the people in charge of the supplies know and accept this, it’s debatable whether it can be called stealing at all (as opposed to say, misuse of supplies).

      1. Bob

        I think it’s a big deal. Stealing $6 of office supplies would get you fired from my office. And in my humble opinion, should get you fired. Free pens and individual sheets of papers is not a perk of this office, and the policy is very clear – no one takes anything from the office. Now I did not realise this was a minority-opinion, which I see it is, but Op1 is not alone at least.

        1. Case of the Mondays

          I think the problem with your position is that most people don’t intend to take free pens. They go to meetings outside the office and grab a pen for that legitimate purpose and then leave the pen in their car or in their purse or on their kitchen counter if they don’t go back to the office after the meeting. I have lots of out of the office meetings and I wind up w/ ten pens per week at my house that I gather up and bring back to work once a month or so. I don’t think you should assume an employee stole a pen if they have one at their house. Also, if you work from home at times, you may take office supplies home with you for that purpose.

          1. Cat

            Same; and, conversely, plenty of pens I picked up for personal use have migrated to my office for the same reason.

            1. Turanga Leela

              Oh, I was thinking of this! I have definitely taken supplies from work, used the work printer for personal use, and so on, but I also subsidize the office in a lot of ways. I bring pens from home (which inevitably someone else will take), I print documents from home when we need them quickly, and I pay for my own meals and incidentals when I travel for work. If someone cracked down on the supplies I take from the office, I would get much stingier about the things that I pay for. As it is, I’m fairly relaxed in both directions.

        2. MK

          Bob, when I said everyone else thinks it’s not a big deal, I was not talking about the commenters, I was talking about the OP’s co-workers, since the OP mentions they are the only one concerned about this. The fact of the matter is, whether a few dollars worth of office supplies is a big deal or not is not something for individual workers to determine or something as objective as “theft is wrong”. You are right to treat it as a big deal, because in your office it is a big deal. It appears that it isn’t a big deal in the OP’s office and they are refusing to see that.

    2. J.B.

      Right, plus this is a vet. Someone who got into and through vet school, which is no cakewalk. Calling that person “not the sharpest tool in the shed” is kind of ridiculous. Not a detail person, not great at expense reports, fine, you’ve got a lot of smart people there. I’m surprised by this superior tone from admin staff. For comparison, at many doctor’s offices the admin staff would be frustrated if doctors didn’t keep up with the paperwork. They wouldn’t generally insult the MD’s intelligence.

      1. Michele

        I was also taken aback by these comments in regards to the vet and the person she reported it too! Just because someone does not speak english well does not mean you can say they are not the sharpest tool in the shed. I understand that you want to do a good job but I suggest you re-think the tone you are taking with your superiors and other office staff including the vet. It doesn’t matter if you work in the private sector or the government there will always be office politics and you need to learn to play them!

      2. SusieQ

        The “not the sharpest tool in the shed” comment was about the military supervisor of the clinic, not the vet who took the supplies – I can’t tell from the letter if the military supervisor is also a veterinarian or not.

      3. Joey

        Having a Dvm doesn’t make you smart at everything, just at vet stuff. I’ve seen plenty of very well educated people who can’t seem to figure out what most people consider really basic things.

  17. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    #1

    OP, I think you’re missing the context

    1) there was a sick dog who needed treatment
    2) the person you were complaining about is doctor of veterinary medicine who treats sick dogs (and not the easiest employee to replace + an expensive one)
    3) it was a total of $6, for a sick dog
    4) you stopped her from being able to leave and treat the sick dog
    5) you continued to complain and escalate and try to get somebody to care about the $6 more than the sick dog
    6) all in an environment that is 100% geared to people caring about treating sick dogs (and other animals)

    I see the argument about government money but right or wrong, you are pressing a case against a healer of dogs in an environment that is going to value the well being of animals higher than $6.

    That’s where the “mean” comment is coming in, I think. It’s not about the doctor, it’s about the dog.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      p.s. I’m not saying I think the OP actually *was* mean. It’s kinda Les Misérables Javert/Valjean. I get Javert. But, people are going to come down on Valjean’s side most of the time, re nobility of motive trumping exactitude of rule following.

      1. Sigrid

        (Speaking as someone in involved in what can be considered the Les Mis fandom, let me assure you that there are a depressingly large number of people who believe that Javert is the hero of the piece, and Valjean is an irredeemable criminal.)

    2. Katie the Fed

      I would agree….if this were somewhere other than military. Low-ranking employees really generally don’t have a lot of discretion in interpreting rules and regulations. The timing may have been bad, but I don’t think OP#1 erred in questioning it at all.

      1. Ezri

        Same – I think OP was right to bring it up the first time, but once her manager said not to worry about it she should have dropped it. I also agree with your previous comment that the manager could have taken the opportunity to clarify ‘big deal’ vs. ‘not big deal’ – calling the OP mean was unconstructive.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Right, which is why I doubled back to clarify that I wasn’t saying the OP was being mean, but giving the context for how I thought the real life parties got to “mean”.

        I’ll wager that most if not all of the other people she works with are animal lovers. Thinking of that perspective might help the OP get along better.

        I agree completely with your post elsewhere about how her boss failed to help. The OP is obviously black and white and cares about upholding rules. Calling her mean doesn’t help her navigate working with people who don’t share her approach.

    3. JMegan

      “Mean” is sometimes also used to mean “cheap” (as applied to a person, not an object). If the OP’s boss learned English in the UK, it’s possible that he meant it that way rather than “horrible.” But the end result is the same – regardless of which version of “mean” was intended, it’s pretty clear that the boss disagrees with the OP on this one.

      1. SnowWhite

        I’m from the UK, I have never heard of the use of the word mean as a synonym for cheap. I guess you could link cheap and mean through a six degrees of separation thing – cheap can be used to describe something as stingy, which is listed as a synonym for cheap but I had to go down the thesaurus quite a way to get to stingy…

        1. Jamie

          I’ve heard it a lot on the Ricky Gervais/Steve Merchant podcasts from the old radio show – with Karl Pilkington. Took me a while to figure out they used it to mean cheap or stingy.

          1. SnowWhite

            So kind of like when Joey Essex says something is a salty potato, or soggy potato or something potato…

            but closer to the context… and slightly less you can feel your brain shutting down the more you watch/listen…?

          1. SnowWhite

            Yes, it is fairly common for stingy in the UK to – but not for mean. Apart from in a tv show/podcast as per Jamie’s post

            1. Natalie

              Oh, I misunderstood your comment. FWIW, I don’t think the synonyms go the other way – that is, “mean” might refer to cruelness or cheapness, but I don’t think “cheap” ever refers to cruelness.

        2. SusieQ

          Hmm, I’m also from the UK and that’s the first meaning I took from the letter when I read it. I hear it used in that context all the time.

        3. Not from the UK

          Either way it’s probably best to avoid words with dual meanings because the nuance can get lost in translation. I’d recommend something unambiguous like “niggard” for this situation. Shakespeare is universal for a reason.

          1. April

            Were you speaking tongue in cheek? Because while the etymology is vastly different, the sound of niggard is far, far too similar to something very offensive for it to be unambiguous in everyday conversation… See incident to which Natalie refers.

  18. Henrietta Gondorf

    I would also point out that DoD organizations are intensely hierarchical. #1 sounds new and in a support role and is calling out the vet, who is probably the most senior person in the office (although mixed military and civilian offices get a bit complicated with seniority) over $6 worth of supplies. This is unlikely to go well.

    1. MousyNon

      Yup. Also, the implied insubordination (“not the sharpest tool in the shed”). They can smell that stuff on you in military orgs.

  19. Helena

    The only time I haven’t asked questions in an interview was when I was interviewing for a job I was already doing in a department I knew well (contractor, permanent position opened up). At the time I thought that my usual questions would have just sounded strange- can’t remember how I got through that part of the interview, but I did get the job!

    Generally though, if you don’t know the job and the people inside out- there’s going to be *something* to learn at this point.

  20. KrabbyPatty

    #1 – I don’t know how it is in military, but how do you know the vet didnt, say put a little money in a petty cash drawer? We used to have that in our office. I do think the tone might have been the problem.

    #3 – I guess it’s how things fell in our workplace, but every person who had lots of questions at the end were problematic employees (not taking direction well, not knowing the aspects of the job, non listeners, etc.)

    1. Henrietta Gondorf

      Federal government offices don’t have petty cash like that. Yet another one of their idiosyncrasies.

  21. Cheesecake

    Op #1, it was mean. Reporting someone taking $6 to treat an ill dog is mean, making a big deal about it when your boss said it is ok – even more mean.
    If she took a full box of $6 worth things or did it quite frequently – this is another topic, but i see this is not the case.
    And i am ok with my $6 taxmoney to be taken to treat an ill animal.

    1. Cheesecake

      ok, i didn’t really get what happened after the boss said “ask her to make a list”, then OP explanation this is not work-related and sent an email further…i guess i misinterpreted OP escalating things…

  22. Katie the Fed

    I think people are missing an important aspect of Question 1 – it’s a military office. That’s not generally an environment where lower-ranking people (including civilians) are encouraged to use their own discretion in making determinations. It’s very much about following rules and procedures. So, OP #1 followed the rules – as she’s supposed to. Alison is absolutely right – just ask the supervisor if this is the kind of thing that you should overlook in the future.

    1. Cheesecake

      I live in a country where every male above 18 must do military service. The usually do a couple of weeks of service every year. My husband used to come back with all sort of stuff: pills e.g. ibuprofen, some supplies (he loved the cookies – don’t ask) etc and that stuff was ok to take, noone really cared as long as you didn’t want to steal a tank. So i get the comment about military and yes, it would be better if doctor has asked upfront. But 6 bucks is still 6 bucks even in the military.

      1. Diet Coke Addict

        +1

        I don’t know a military family who doesn’t have more than $6 worth of stuff appropriated from work in their home. Leftover rations come home with people. Handfuls of bandages and first-aid supplies. Piles of rubber bands, pens, zip ties, cardboard boxes, old blankets, you name it. Is it the best practice? No, but it’s exceedingly common.

        1. Natalie

          An acquaintance of mine has an unreasonable amount of first aid kids, including stuff for sucking chest wounds and whatnot, all leftover from one of their friend’s tours.

          1. Henrietta Gondorf

            Keep in mind, a lot of this stuff is considered consumed in use and they’re not looking to get it back.

            I have more tourniquets than any reasonable person should from my deployment.

            1. Natalie

              That’s sort of what I figured, although I believe he has some drugs (antivenin, antibiotics) that were supposed to be returned. (My acquaintance is a bit oddly obsessed with the possibility of mass civil strife.)

        2. the gold digger

          Hmm. Not so sure about that. My dad brought home the used computer paper with the holes on the side and we had the occasional military ballpoint pen – and for the record, those are awful pens. That’s about it.

          Not that I think it would have changed my dad’s behavior, but he also was not in an environment where there was anything good to take. There is not much household use for F15 parts.

          1. Jamie

            Not military – but I got upset as a kid because all my pencils were stamped with my dad’s company and slogan (the opposite of bad feet…) and when I was little I wanted normal pencils like all my friends even though no one noticed but me.

            Also had the coolest mechanical pencils he brought home. And my mom was a nurse – we always had a ton of individual alcohol wipes, those mouth moistening sticks, gauze pads…that kind of thing just from her emptying her pockets when she got home. And always a box of rubber gloves.

            Apparently I descend from thieves. I can admit this how as it’s too late to sue their estates posthumously to recoup all the lost pencils and alcohol pads.

            1. Natalie

              I once had some furniture delivered from a pretty nice store that provides you with those really good felt pads to put on the feet. I commented on how nice they were and one of the furniture guys drops dozens of little pads on my coffee table from his pockets. He said his wife would be happy to not find them in the wash later.

            2. Turanga Leela

              One of my parents worked in mental health and used to get a ton of free pens labeled with the names of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. My classmates always wanted my Prozac pens.

      2. LBK

        I think the point is that if the OP has been told “Do not take supplies from the office” it’s not up to her discretion to give someone else a free pass if she sees them doing it.

    2. Henrietta Gondorf

      I agree in theory, but military offices also have extremely strong cultures about how these kinds of things are handled: you raise them up the chain and then you let them go. The LW’s persistence is likely being taken as part of the problem.

      I went back an re-read the letter and to me it reflects a total lack of comprehension on the part of the LW about the culture of the DoD. Junior people arguing about a senior ranking person’s behavior, the “we can’t find her charity work” and the certainty that this is stealing and wrong and no one sees that but the LW: all signs that the LW is struggling with the culture.

      I think that there’s a straight-faced argument that this is an authorized use, but even if it’s not, $6 worth of stuff would warrant (at most) a verbal warning. It does not call for the level
      of attention the LW is describing, especially since she doesn’t even know if the the vet even took the stuff!

      1. Cheesecake

        Totally agree. There is a huge difference between addressing issue and asking what is a general rule vs giving instructions as “we can’t fund her charity work” to your boss. If there is anything in the military, it is a strong chain of command; you can’t talk to your superior like this.

        1. OhNo

          That didn’t even occur to me until I read this thread. That’s a very good point – I would suggest that even if you’re not in the military, you probably shouldn’t be talking to your supervisor like this.

          It comes across as a lecture, and really… no one likes to be lectured on right and wrong by someone who is thoroughly convinced they have the moral high ground. This goes double when the “moral high ground” isn’t anything of the kind, which seems to be the supervisor’s opinion here.

        2. Katie the Fed

          Yeah, I think AFTER the boss said it was fine she should have let it drop. But questioning it in the first place (more politely) isn’t the worst thing.

          1. fposte

            I wonder also if there aren’t guidelines and training that people are told they’re supposed to follow in situations like this and that she’s struggling with deviating from that. It’s tough for those of us who like to go by the book to realize that we’re supposed to be operating by an unprinted book that contradicts the official book.

            1. Henrietta Gondorf

              I’m an attorney for the DoD and I actually give the ethics training to new hires on our base. There’s a lengthy section about “official use” and “authorized use” of government resources (both terms of art), but we still tell people to be reasonable. Half a pad of post-it’s? Not going to lose any sleep over it. Cleaning out the supply closet? Going to be a problem.

        3. Jamie

          As a former military wife this struck me, too. The tone – once she was told it was okay clarification on what she should and shouldn’t police is fine – but if the tone here is indicative of the tone used with her boss that would be an issue in my office which is a whole lot more lax than the military.

          This reminds me of a situation years ago where a very junior support person was outraged that I got to “come and go as I please.” My boss took them in hand and explained that it wasn’t their place to police the hours of management, why time is tracked to the minute for hourly vs salaried personnel, and (not that it was any of their business) but that I had been working late into the night often getting home after midnight on something I couldn’t do with users in the system so she was only seeing when I wandered in and not when I staggared to my car end of night.

        4. aebhel

          This. I know of no boss in the military or out of it who would appreciate being spoken to like that by a subordinate. The OP was absolutely right to raise the issue and absolutely wrong to keep harping on it after a decision had been made.

    3. Graciosa

      The part that struck me about the comments to this question was how many people think stealing “a little” from the government is okay – as long as it’s not *too much*. As long as it’s an amount consistent with the office culture. As long as it’s for a good cause. As long as the items taken aren’t that expensive. As long as it’s in line with what everyone else is stealing.

      Whatever happened to the concept that you don’t take it if it doesn’t belong to you? We understand when people go ballistic about someone stealing something from their lunch at work, which is probably worth less than the amount here.

      The difference seems to be that we can sympathize with the individual person who is the victim of the theft, but somehow can’t understand that We the People are just as entitled to have our property respected.

      Government money comes from all of us. I would prefer not have my contributions taken for private purposes – even noble ones – rather than used to pay for the program to which those funds were assigned.

      1. MousyNon

        Because the people you’re talking about (including me) don’t consider it “stealing.” A) The vet is a taxpayer too. B) The supplies are already ordered, so the cost has already been incurred and met, and every organization (government or otherwise) will–except in severe cases–have a reasonable supply surplus to account for potential losses, C) The vet isn’t reselling the items, or abusing the privilege (as the amount of supplies and the purpose suggest), and D) motives matter–they matter in a courtroom, they matter in public opinion, and they matter even with respect to perceived taxpayer “waste.”

        I’ve got to say, I hate loathe and despise Congress most of the time, but it’s reading threads like these that make me glad taxpayers don’t get to micromanage what their taxes are spent on.

        1. Graciosa

          The fact that you “don’t consider it stealing” was kind of my point. It’s really not a logical argument.

          A) Status as a taxpayer does not entitle an individual to walk off with government property intended for public use.

          B) The fact that shrinkage (partly as a result of stealing) is anticipated and we have to buy extra to make sure we have enough left after a certain amount is stolen does not make the theft acceptable. It also means our costs are going up to fund this non-government work with was not authorized by an appropriation.

          C and D) Yes, I do understand that the motives are noble – but actually the behavior described meets the criminal standard of typical conversion (a person entrusted with property for one purpose who uses it for another purpose without the consent of the owner), including sufficient intent. Individuals who want to contribute to worth causes are free to do so, and I have no problem with that – right up until the moment they decide to contribute something that doesn’t belong to them.

          Regarding your last point, I wasn’t actually objecting to the government choosing (for example) to fund a free community vet clinic. I object to the individual vet deciding that when the government appropriated money to fund a military veterinary service (with whatever parameters the government decision makers chose to place on the use of that money) the individual vet had the right to come in and decide to override that decision and use the money for something else.

          If you object to individual taxpayers micromanaging government spending, logically speaking you should think the vet has something to answer for here. My expectation is simply that individuals entrusted with the use of government funds use them for their assigned purpose (without deciding to take them for a different one).

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I think it’s because, for whatever reason, as a society our workplaces are generally tolerant of making employees’ lives easier by letting them use small amounts of work supplies for personal use. That’s true of private workplaces, and it’s true of government ones too. You can argue that it’s right or wrong, but it’s a pretty strongly established norm in the culture.

            1. Graciosa

              I actually don’t have a problem when the authorized decision maker chooses to allow this (“letting them”) – meaning that the employee asks to use the fax or whatever and the manager says sure, go ahead. I also think the military has had success with officers making good use of military supplies with the civilian population in war (or “peacekeeping”) zones. This is consistent with the overall mission, and the point of having officers to make intelligent decisions.

              My objection is really with an individual deciding – without asking – that it is okay to take something. If that person really believed it was acceptable, why not ask? I think that there is often a back-of-the-mind thought that well, if I ask the manager if I can restock my home office supplies from the company cabinet, the manager will say no – which means there’s a problem, and the individual is trying to talk themselves into believing it’s okay to do something they know is wrong.

              Although in fairness to those who think I go way overboard on this stuff, I have been known to carry my own (personally purchased, different color) pad of paper with me in my briefcase – and my personal computer on work trips – as I only use work supplies for work. Yes, I am pretty rigid about this.

              I do have a supply of paper at home from a previous job (I was only using it for work, but I telecommuted) that I offered to return when I left. My manager told me to keep it (shipping costs certainly outweighed the value to the company) but it’s important to me that I asked and accepted the answer.

              As a manager rather than an employee, I would say yes to an employee using office supplies while traveling, sending a fax from the office, and making a few copies (which does not mean War and Peace, or hundreds of fliers for your hobby group – go to Kinko’s). Yes to using a work computer for normal personal use while traveling within the limits of our policy (still no porn – sorry) although I do remind them of our company monitoring and IP ownership policies so they won’t be surprised. Jot down a personal phone number on a post-it at work? Not a problem. Doing your “shopping” for pads of post-it notes, a box of pens, etc. from the supply cabinet to take home with you? No – although I will refer the employee to our discounted purchase program that gets you better pricing for your personal office supply purchases.

              I don’t think my managerial standards are out of line with the office culture at any place I’ve worked – but I do expect to be asked, and have the employee respect the answer.

              1. the gold digger

                I had a boss who had his secretary package, address, stamp, and mail all of his daughter’s college applications from the office. I was not impressed.

                Another boss would have his secretary take his car in for oil changes and schedule his haircuts. Given the purpose of an assistant can be to make the boss’s life easier, that is not a problem – except she was not exclusively his secretary – she was also supposed to work for the rest of the group. But she could never do any of my copying, assembling, and binding because she was too busy with his stuff.

          2. MousyNon

            Ultimately, I agree with Alison that there are cultural norms to keep in mind, and when you’re talking about the US (with a labor force with some of the highest productivity and lowest work-life balance rankings in the world) I think “shrinkage” in the form of “employees that are likely already overworked and underpaid due to strapped budgets taking a few dollars worth of supplies to donate their time and skill pro bono” is generally accepted as not in the same vicinity as theft. Black and white perspectives, in my view, are not something to aspire to–nuance and discretion are important.

        2. Katie the Fed

          agreed. But, in some offices people could get fired for things like this. It really depends on the culture/norms of the particular office.

      2. LQ

        How much money are you willing to spend to find the money that is being taken to care for a sick dog?

        This employee certainly spent more than $6 on their time and their supervisors time and the vet’s time on this. So if all you care about is your tax payer money, you should be pissed at the OP for wasting all that money.

        Part of the problem is you don’t see time as money, you don’t see morale, or high quality employees as money. You only see a pen as money.

      3. jag

        No – the thing is that in an environment where people work hard, and maybe sometimes go the extra mile, “taking” from the employer (or taxpayer) a tiny bit is not a big deal, even in aggregate over many many employees.

        If people can’t fudge thing in their own favor on occasion, then it’s totally legit for them to clock out the instant they’re allowed to, to not give a s&it about anything that’s “not their job”, etc.

        Think about it this way – if you were the owner of a big company and full time staff “stole” $30 of stuff over the course of a year (paper, pens, whatever) and otherwise seemed to care about and do a good job – even going above and beyond their explicit job descriptions sometimes, would you want to clamp down on that “theft”? Or would it be prudent to let it go? I think the latter is way more important.

        The public sector is the same. I want good performance.

        1. Jamie

          Yep. Dock me 5 minutes PTO for coming in 5 minutes late and we’ll see how generous I am with my time when needed to stay late. Unless an employer is being robbed blind by the workers nickle and diming will never be in their best interested because they are definitely on the winning side of that deal.

          1. the gold digger

            Make me spend 16 hours in a plane the Friday after Thanksgiving and then spend the rest of the weekend working and don’t tell me to take a day or two off when I return to the US again? You bet I am going to walk out every single day at 4:30 on the dot.

          2. AnonAnalyst

            1000 times this. I really wish the management where I work now better understood this concept.

        2. Joey

          What you’re forgetting is that these types of “thefts of taxpayer dollars” are freuqently sensationalized in the media. How do you think most people would view it if the storyline was “government vet steals medical supplies and the government doesn’t care.”

          To me it’s more about the public perception it can create that’s the problem, not the actual $6 of stuff.

          1. Jamie

            If the story was accurate and included the fact that it was $6 – I think the vast majority of the public would be annoyed with the media for not exposing the billions of wasted dollars on massive inefficiently run programs, kickbacks, pork snuck through on bills, ghost payroll for cronies, etc.

            In Chicago if we read a story about $6 worth of appropriation we’d check to make sure we weren’t reading the Onion.

            No one hates government misuse of my tax dollars more than I do – it personally offends me – so once they get all the big issues under control and the billions are spent properly and efficiently on things the government should be providing and nothing else – then the journalists will have time to track down the $6 issues.

            1. Joey

              It’s not so much that it’s more that government entities don’t want negative stories to be the things that people use to base their opinion of government on. Because I’m sure you know that good stories about government are boring and few and far between.

      4. Elsajeni

        I’d argue that there’s more nuance to office supplies than “they don’t belong to you, so don’t take them.” Like, I didn’t buy the Post-It notes on my desk, so they don’t strictly speaking belong to me… but they were purchased for my use, and I am allowed to use them at my own discretion (which is to say, no one has ever checked up on how I use them or told me not to use them for any specific purpose). Like, by a strict definition of using work property for personal purposes, I’m stealing anytime I leave myself a Post-It reminder that I have leftovers in the breakroom fridge — something that I don’t think even the most rigid anti-office-supply-theft policy would actually object to. So the question is less “do they belong to me,” and more “what exactly are the limits of ‘these are for you, use them as needed, at your discretion'”.

      5. aebhel

        Okay, so. I work for the government. I make ~$20/hour, which is paid for by taxpayers. If I’m 15 minutes late getting back from lunch, or 15 minutes late because I had to drop my daughter off at daycare and was running late, that works out to about 5 dollars of TAXPAYER FUNDED MONEY, which my boss does not typically account for in my paycheck. This happens quite rarely–maybe three or four times a year–but it still works out to more than $6.

        The difference between taking $6 in office supplies and taking someone’s lunch is that the latter has a immediate and direct impact on someone. They don’t have lunch. Those $6 might belong to the taxpayers, but it’s diffuse, and you are not personally ruining anyone’s day by taking it.

    4. MousyNon

      Lower-ranking people are discouraged from using their own discretion with respect to their own behavior, not the behavior of their superior offices, at least in my experience. I’ve worked closely with military, and I’ve got to tell you nobody lower ranking would ever, ever, ever open their mouth to complain about a full bird stealing a box of pens or a ream of paper. They’d get reassigned to the most hellish hole on earth if they did.

        1. Michele

          This happened to my aunt’s no ex-husband when they lived in Germany. I forget where he worked on base but he complained about something that he should not have and lets just say his new assignment sucked!

  23. KerryOwl

    The word “mean” isn’t just defined as “not nice;” it also can mean “stingy.” If English is the supervisor’s second language, it’s possible that this definition was taught to him and he used it thusly, not realizing it’s a more archaic definition in this day and age.

    I agree with most of the comments here that $6 can be disregarded, but that it is a good idea to know how your supervisors feel about this sort of thing going forward.

      1. jag

        It’s not archaic, at least according to the US dictionary I’m looking at (unabridged, by Random House). It might be less common, but not archaic.

        And I’ve seen “mean” in a UK magazine used in that way in the last five years. The person who said it was Dutch, speaking, I believe, in English (that is, not translated to English by the magazine).

    1. Meredith

      Oh, great point! In college, I tutored English to students that did not speak it natively, and they would sometimes pepper in words with very uncommon usages. The other challenge was that many of them learned British English in school, and I’m American. So, we would tangle sometimes on pronunciations (laboratory, vitamin).

          1. Erin

            My husband is English and a scientist. He claims that when aluminum was discovered by a British scientist, it was called and spelled “aluminium”. When the discovery was communicated to the US via morse code, the second I was somehow missed.

  24. TotesMaGoats

    #1-While I agree that in military orgs you have to follow the rules and junior people doesn’t get to interpret rules and regs, it doesn’t sound like this was a rule. The way it’s stated, and OP please correct me if I’m wrong, is that the OP felt the vet shouldn’t have taken the supplies not that she broke an established rule. My bigger concern is your tone and that’s probably what got your boss to respond the way he did. There is some very apparent disdain in your tone. I would check that. I would also check that $6 isn’t really that big of a deal. Given how the government wastes so much of our tax money, I’m happy to see a little bit of it going to help a sick animal.

  25. Traveler

    #3 At one of my interviews they had so many different people interview me that by the time one of the HR people came in to answer “any of my questions” I had none left. It was awkward, because the time had been set aside for that and there just wasn’t anything to talk about. I asked a few questions about structure, and he wasn’t even able to answer them because he didn’t know. He then continued to ask repeatedly if I had more questions, after I’d already said no, no others – they were all answered. Then acted put out that I didn’t have any. Based on previous answers, I’d pretty much already decided the job wasn’t for me and so more nuanced questions weren’t popping up, and he’d already shown that he couldn’t answer half the things I asked anyway. So then I just had to sit silently in a room for 30 minutes. I really have no idea what I could have done differently, other than perhaps re-ask some of my previous questions.

    1. April

      Why didn’t you? Then you could have compared his answers to what you had heard from the others. Such comparisons can be highly instructive.

      1. Traveler

        The HR person had basically no clue what the position entailed, and every time I asked a question related to the position it resulted in an awkward “I don’t know, you should ask X person” (A person I’d already asked). When I asked questions about structure and culture (trying to throw them a softball so it would be less awkward), the HR person looked at me like I had three heads and gave curt answers.

    2. Lynn Whitehat

      I honestly think there’s a point where you know what you need to know, or at least as much as they’ll tell you, and more questions aren’t really rewarding for you. But there are a lot of interviewers who believe not having any questions for them means you don’t really care what job you get as long as the paychecks clear. Never mind that they’re the 8th person you talked to, and this is your third round of interviews. So I make sure to have some “generic” questions I can ask when I’ve already gotten answers to all my real questions.

  26. Magda

    If OP #1 is responsible for purchasing, I can understand raising a flag. While the $6 by itself isn’t a big deal, those little amounts can add up if people do it on the regular. Having been in a supply purchasing role, one of the great aggravations is that it’s always your fault when things run out.

    Having said that, since the supervisor has made his position clear, I don’t think this particular incident is the hill to die on. I would send a CYA e-mail (“Per our discussion, I won’t bother Suzie about the vet supplies again…”) and let it go. If it becomes a pattern, it might be worth discussing in general terms.

    1. Nina

      I thought about that, too. The OP could be seeing this situation differently since they’re the one responsible for the office supplies.

    2. The IT Manager

      I agre with your first paragraph. I am troubled by the number of people who keep saying this is no big deal. The LW just happened to spot this. It doesn’t sound like the Vet was being sneaky, but her being spotted was a chance thing. We have no reason to believe this is an isolated incident, and that this vet doesn’t treat friends animals on a regular basis.

      1. Cat

        You have no reason to believe they are either. A sample size of one doesn’t allow you to draw conclusions either way.

      2. ExceptionToTheRule

        I think it’s no big deal because the OP’s supervisor thinks it’s no big deal. The OP raised the issue with her supervisor and the supervisor told her to let it go.

        1. AB Normal

          The other reason I think it’s no big deal is because the OP didn’t say “this person keeps taking supplies home” or something. I can imagine the story told by the other employee:

          “I got a call from a friend distressed that her dog wasn’t feeling well. I asked some questions, and realized that I might be able to do something for the dog taking $6 in supplies from the office. I wouldn’t normally do that, but the other option would be to drive 10 extra miles to go to a pet shop get these supplies, so I decided to take it and let my supervisor know later.”

          The OP doesn’t have supervisory authority over the veterinarian, so I’m not even sure I agree with talking with the boss about it once — but insisting on the same conversation afterwards would make me really annoyed if I were the boss.

  27. C Average

    I’ve been in the position of having no specific questions at the end of certain internal interviews where I knew the role pretty well already. I’ve sometimes said something like, “Well, of course I’ll have a million questions before noon on my first day, but nothing specific comes to mind right this second.”

    I was on a panel once where a candidate asked, “What are some traits and skills that people who do this job really well tend to have and that might not have been included as specific requirements?” We all liked that question and it led to a good discussion. Also, if someone on the panel has or has had the same role you’re applying for, you can ask what they like most and least about the job.

  28. L

    #1 sounds like something that would depend on the culture. I’ve worked in a place where they totally didn’t care when the interns would take some pens, highlighters and post it nights to fill their pencil case for school and I’ve worked in a place where you’d probably have gotten fired for putting a tissue in your bag to use on the train ride home.

  29. MousyNon

    OP#1, my problem isn’t that you reported it (as the person responsible for ordering, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to say “FYI” to a supervisor so that you have a paper trail and can’t be blamed for supply losses), but the fact that you attempted to enforce rules you have no authority to enforce with an employee that likely outranks you, argued with your supervisor (who you admit think is pretty stupid), and insisted (once told by that supervisor that the infraction was perfectly fine) what the rules “should” be that I find problematic. It’d be one thing if we were talking about bottles of missing ketamine a colleague is likely abusing or reselling (or both)–then absolutely rattle doors and move this up the chain until it gets addressed–but we’re talking $6.00 worth of supplies for use by a vet in her free time to treat a sick animal. Like someone else said–choose another hill to die on.

  30. Camellia

    For #2, honestly my first thought was that all content of a company FB page would/should be rigidly controlled and who knows what havoc a director might cause if given access. Is there an IT/Security team that could address this? If your only concern is that more than one person needs access there may be others in the company for whom it would be more appropriate to have this information/access. You can also make sure this info is documented without necessarily taking ownership of it. If you still feel like you need this access, perhaps you can outline what you intend to do with it.

  31. Swarley

    #5

    I can’t speak to everyone’s situation, but in my experience, it helped a great deal that I was moving to my new city regardless of whether or not I had a job lined up. I flew in for an interview and we talked about my plans/reasons for moving. I can’t say for sure, but I imagined that mitigated at least some of the risk that I’d get cold feet and move back to my old city. If this is the case for you, OP, it couldn’t hurt to mention in an interview or phone screen.

    Good luck!

  32. LizNYC

    #2 Sorry if your admin didn’t know to do this to begin with (since it’s a major flaw in both FB and LinkedIn’s systems), but you create a dummy account, then add people who should manage the page as an Admin user. Then you don’t know an employee’s personal password and you can have company management over your page (and anyone else’s who you might manage).

    That way, you can also restrict access once a person leaves / is let go so the page doesn’t leave with them.

    1. LizNYC

      #2 As a general rule of thumb, if you can avoid associating a social media account (or any account) with a specific person, do so.

      As someone who sets up these kinds of accounts for a living (hey, it’s a living), it’s best to have a general email address at your business (like info@businessname.com) or something similar, where all of these logins can be sent to — and the people doing the setting up can access. At my works, we have a gmail address that catches these logins and everyone who needs it has the password.

  33. C Average

    Re: #1

    I think in general it’s difficult for people when they go into a line of work for largely altruistic reasons and/or with a strong sense of mission and then are expected to check those impulses whenever a specific rule demands that they do so.

    People go into government and military jobs for a lot of reasons, but I think it’s safe to say that many of them feel a sense of calling and/or a sense of duty.

    I know this was certainly the case for my father, who served three tours in the Navy during Vietnam and then went on to work for the Forest Service for 30 years. He’s deeply patriotic and deeply committed to natural resource conservation. He served thousands of unpaid hours when a project needed to be completed, a fire needed to be fought, a trail needed to be completed before the snow hit, etc. When bureaucracy interfered with his mission, he complied with the rules, but complained bitterly about it at home. He felt that his purpose was to preserve and protect the forest, not spend his days bogged down in bureaucratic details. His colleagues were generally of like mind.

    The person in scenario #1 didn’t go to vet school for the money. No one does that. People go to vet school because they love animals. And I’ll bet she didn’t become a military vet for the money, either. I’ll bet it was a combination of love of animals, sense of mission, possibly some patriotism, and (yes) the need for a job.

    I’m willing to bet her workplace benefits in a lot of small ways from her love of animals, as my dad’s workplace benefited in a lot of small ways from his love of trees and rivers. Her impulse–to help sick and hurt animals–is probably encouraged in the context of her paid work.

    And now that sense of mission is costing her employer six bucks. Who cares? Someone who’s so dedicated to helping animals that she does it in her off time probably does plenty of uncompensated extras that benefit her employer, too. People with a strong sense of mission often do.

    (Of course, if it’s a regular thing, yeah, it’s a problem. But nothing here suggests it is.)

    1. Cat

      This is an excellent point. The workplace probably benefits far more from having someone who’s devoted to what they do and passionate about pursuing it than they do about saving $6 and making their employee feel like they’re not supported in their mission in the process.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Ah!

      This was what I was trying to get out and couldn’t get the words for!

      The person in scenario #1 didn’t go to vet school for the money. No one does that. People go to vet school because they love animals. And I’ll bet she didn’t become a military vet for the money, either. I’ll bet it was a combination of love of animals, sense of mission, possibly some patriotism, and (yes) the need for a job.

      I’m willing to bet her workplace benefits in a lot of small ways from her love of animals, as my dad’s workplace benefited in a lot of small ways from his love of trees and rivers. Her impulse–to help sick and hurt animals–is probably encouraged in the context of her paid work.

      Bless you, it was making me batty how to word it.

      In a very different context since my business is for profit and not altruistic at all, I encourage many “walk homes” of products for certain people because it is to my advantage to have them want the teapots and be with the teapots. Some very expensive teapots that people would have to buy on their own per whatever policy, I encourage certain people to take because it benefits the mission overall (if not a tangible cause/effect).

      I knew there was a link to the situation at hand but couldn’t find the words for it.

      tl;dr: a vet clinic benefits from a vet who practices vet things in her off hours. a benefit is incurred for that $6.

  34. AndersonDarling

    #1 Something missing from the letter is if the vet is a good employee. It sounds like this is the first time the vet took something. There weren’t any comments that the vet is a lousy doctor, steals people’s lunches, or slacks off all day. So I am guessing the vet is a strong professional who understands what she is doing by taking $6 of supplies.
    Also, it is possible that the supervisor brings home office supplies every once in a while. So the LW is inadvertently accusing her supervisor of stealing.

  35. Ed

    For #1, I learned a long time and have had it reinforced over the years that most companies prefer to have no knowledge of petty theft. Replacing an employee is a much big hassle than losing a few bucks, even hundreds of dollars. Many managers will actually resent the person who reported it because you will be seen as the reason they will doing extra work. I’m not saying it’s right but that tends to be the way it works.

    In regards to the small dollar amount, something else I learned over the years (that has been reinforced MANY times) is you almost never catch somebody doing something the first time. The vet has almost certainly done this before and it could have been for a much larger amount.

  36. fluffy

    #1. We haven’t heard back from the OP. The vet’s friend could be an authorized user of the facility. The dog could be a regular patient, just unable to come to a clinic at the time. Reading up on vets commissioned in the military, they are on call 24/7 and need to go where the services are needed. Authorized users are both service dogs (and the like) and the pets of servicemen/women. It’s probably not very different for the army’s civilian vets. Neither the vet nor the supervisor have any obligation to inform the office worker of the status of the dog. I took a little offense at the OP’s tone, so I excuse them for not bothering to explain.

    And, cripes! $6 for a dog, even if unauthorized!

    1. Michele

      I know my vet has on occasion gone to a patients home if they are unable to come to the clinic. I would imagine especially in the military that this is common occurance. There are a lot of dogs that have jobs within the military and I would suspect she spends a lot of time travelling to see them in the barracks or in private homes for shots or for a non-serious injury.

      1. Pontoon Pirate

        My father did lab work for a general practice that mostly served older patients. He spent many an early morning or late evening doing home visits for bloodwork because the patients weren’t mobile/didn’t have transportation. I guarantee you he didn’t get paid for this time–which is illegal, but that’s a story for another day–but he did it because he felt invested in the patients’ welfare.

        And then the office started nickel-and-diming him in other ways, and he took early retirement instead of working for a place that expected so much and gave so little. And to this day, his former patients STILL ask if he’s coming back to work. (He is not–he’s now enjoying retirement and the time it gives him to repaint the kitchen eleventy billion times. Every time I visit I swear it’s a different color).

  37. fluffy

    And furthermore, I help myself every day to the stuff on the shelves in my government’s building. I do it all the time, and openly. My employer knows it, and encourages me and the other employees to keep it up.

    Of course, when I bring my library book back one day late, I have to pay the same 30 cents our customers do.

    1. Katie the Fed

      Wait, what?!

      Your workplace may be very lax, but that’s definitely not the case everywhere. You guys could end up in a heap of trouble in an IG investigation. I’ve seen people think it’s totally fine to be lax on timecards absolutely busted for timecard fraud. Just because you haven’t been caught doesn’t mean it won’t catch up to you.

      That’s my point on #1 – OP might have come from an environment where accountability of supplies is a big deal. You really never know the particular environment you’re in. I think she handled it badly, but asking the question wasn’t wrong.

      1. Muriel Heslop

        I think Fluffy works in a public library…

        In education, not only do we not skim supplies from the taxpayers, we often have to supply our own. (One year I had to provide all of my own copy paper, so I solicited a bunch of private-sector tech/law friends to underwrite my costs.)

        1. Jamie

          Posts like this remind me of how different things are in academia.

          I cannot imagine what my reaction would be if told to supply my own copy paper, but the response would not include purchasing it. You all are way more dedicated than I.

          1. Cat

            I think that’s less an academia issue and more a “schools are underfunded and a lot of teachers really care” issue.

  38. No name

    I certainly agree the supplies should be mentioned. The complications arise from not knowing if this is part of a larger pattern (which the manager should have at least considered and looked in to, or the manager could be complicit in a larger scheme if one is actually present). It’s also entirely possible, since it is a military clinic, that the friend of the vet was a legitimate client of the clinic that was entitled to covered services, or needed follow up care, but it didn’t occur to the vet to say client when friend also applied (and likely contributed to the willingness for after hours care).

    The attitude may be an issue, but so was the manager’s. Rather than dismiss the concern, which was legitimate in the context (government job, no discretion allowed, responsible for supply procurement), would it really be that hard to say “Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’m not too concerned about this one instance given the circumstances, but I will take it under advisement for future reference.”

    Some places are just different. I actually had a moment of panic yesterday. I had used some regular moisturizing lotion to make a product in the course of my regular duties at work. I had finished the last of one bottle and spent a minute banging and tapping it every which way to get all the lotion out before opening another container. Why was I concerned? Before tossing the empty container I stuck my finger in the narrow bottle neck to wipe off what coated the neck to moisturizer my hands, which were dry after washing up after making said product. Theft? Hardly. With an opening the size of a quarter there was no way to scrape any additional product out to use. But people here have been fired for stealing less than $1 of stuff, and I can promise you I don’t have even a stray paper clip at home. (Of course their complete lack of internal customer service and poor management is terribly demoralizing, but hey, they don’t lose any pens)

  39. Iro

    #5

    LOL. I just landed a job in the midwest moving from the east coast this past week!

    Top Tips:
    – Follow AAM blog on interstate job searching.
    – Put “Planning to relocate to “city, state zip” in “+1 month from now” on your resume in place of your current address.
    – In your cover letter state that you are planning to relocate and definitely spell out it’s to move “back to my home town”. this identifies that you have a vested interest in the area and won’t just up and relocate again in 6 months. Something like, since I’m planning to return to my home city of Chicago in January, the timing of this oppurtunity is ideal.
    – DO NOT jump the gun and offer to pay for anything related to long distance interviews. Most likely they will pay for the interview if you are a strong candidate. Even at entry post-undergraduate level.
    – if you are employeed currently DO NOT quit your job and move before you have a firm offer.
    – Be honest. When I was asked “When exactly will you move?” my response was “I hope to move in {X month}, but that is contingent on landing the right position in the area. As much as I can’t wait to be near famiy again, I have to be sure and find the right company first.”
    – If asked “if offered when can you start?” I found it best to answer with a range. “I could be available between 3 and 8 weeks depending on the level of assistance offered.” This naturally sequayed into whether or not they offered relocation assistance.

    Good luck!

    1. Christian Troy

      I disagree with you on a lot of these points.

      First of all, most employers are not going to pay for you to travel for an interview unless its a specific in demand industry or a more senior level role. I don’t think that’s a particularly great expectation to have and it seems pretty common that people will incur the expense if they’re in the final stages. While the economy has improved, there are still lots of great local candidates that aren’t going to be looking for 300 bucks to cover plane tickets and the four people I knew that had companies pay for their travel expenses were at the end of the hiring process and both had master’s degrees.

      Secondly, saying you’re moving to a city only works if you’re actually going to be moving to the city. There are plenty of hiring managers that will turn around and say, “Awesome! Call me in a month from now when you’re here!” which is not going to get you any closer to a job job offer.

      In the OP’s case, if you want to move to Chicago and you’re unemployed, I’d probably just come up with a plan to move at this point. If you’re employed and applying to jobs long distance, I’d probably take a long weekend to go there and do some networking or potentially set up some informational meetings and explain my reasoning for wanting to relocate in my CL when doing applications.

      1. the gold digger

        it seems pretty common that people will incur the expense if they’re in the final stages

        Not in my experience or in that of my friends from grad school. If the employer wants to interview you away from your home, the employer pays your travel expenses.

        1. Christian Troy

          But what did you and your friends go to grad school for?

          I’m not sure of the OP’s field, but the only people that I know where interviews were paid for were in software development and had masters degrees from highly recognizable programs or people interviewing for really really specific positions like defense/public policy work. I don’t think it’s a great expectation to have if you aren’t in a field that demands a very specific skill set or isn’t a senior level position.

        2. Cheesecake

          It not that the company will not pay, its that they will not invite to the interview in the first place. As said already, for below exec level or specific high demand jobs or for difficult location where it is hard to attract talent to – employers will invest. But they won’t bother to pay travelling for an entrance level positions if they have 100 local candidates a day.

  40. aebhel

    OP1, I suspect that your attitude has a lot more to do with the response you got than anything else. From the way you tell it, you mouthed off to two people who outrank you over $6 worth of office supplies. I’d maybe try a more diplomatic approach next time. Or just let it go, since clearly that’s what your supervisor expects you to do.

  41. Purr purr purr

    I feel a little differently about #1. It may have only been $6 but those little $6 thefts can really add up over the course of the year. I’d also be uncomfortable with it causing an issue in the future. For example, what’s the monetary limit for an acceptable theft? $6, $18, $50? If someone later on gets caught stealing supplies and is punished for it then what happens when they say, ‘Well so-and-so stole supplies earlier and you didn’t punish them so why am I being punished now?’ which has the potential to open doors related to discrimination and unfair treatment, etc. Personally I don’t think OP did anything wrong by reporting it and I disagree with her boss who thought it was ‘mean’ to mention it. If she had said nothing and it turned out they were strict on thefts then she may have been punished for saying nothing! I feel like OP was in a lose-lose situation here.

    1. MK

      But there is no indication that this is a frequent occurence at all, or that it was “theft”, as it appears to have been done with the concent of the supervisors.

      I don’t think anyone said the OP was wrong to mention it. Just that their manner (dictating to their boss what the policy should be) and their insistance was probably inappropriate.

      1. Purr purr purr

        I don’t think it was with consent though. The supervisor said the doctor could put a list together of things she needed and they would provide them to her, implying it would be at a later date and not that she should just take those things. And you’re right, there’s no indication that it’s frequent but I still don’t think it matters. A person who’s comfortable taking supplies and thinks they can do that probably wouldn’t do it just one time so it should be stopped immediately.

  42. D.

    I wrote the vet question. Thank you all for the input, i hope to read through them all one day. To clarify:
    1. Our policy is everybody pays for everything. No one gets anything for free just because they work there.
    2. I don’t work in America but English is the language of the clinic.
    3. My supervisor is a nice guy, but he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He didn’t even ask what was being taken before he asked for a list of what she needed.
    4. The dog wasn’t sick, the owner wanted something done that could be done at any groomer. The owner just found a way around paying our clinic for it by being a buddy of a vet.
    5. Everything the vet was taking was an inventoried item that costs money.
    6. We are very cost conscious right now. Every penny is being watched and all workers were made of that.

    I look forward to your input. I usually see things as black or white so it’s helpful to get some colorful views.

    D.

    1. AB Normal

      Oh, reading your additional explanation I get your point, OP.
      Yeah, I’d be concerned too if it wasn’t for a sick dog (how many other dogs would this veterinarian want to groom using office supplies?).

      But yes, based on what everything you said, it just looks like you’re stuck with a not-so-great supervisor who is fine with this type of behavior. In that case, I’d just let it go, and if the situation repeats, figure out who else in the organization I could report this to, since your supervisor isn’t interested in following the rules…

    2. D.

      I was reading more comments and I am bossy. I’ll give you the shirt off my back in an instance but if it clashes with your pants I’m going to suggest we go shopping.

      My position is also odd because i have no supervisory authority (i can’t hire, fire) but i am suppose to give direction and be a resource for the whole clinic on our polices and procedures. My supervisor has been there a short amount of time and often asks for my help because of his struggle with English and he’s made some bad calls on his own, so i do talk to him bluntly – when he told me to ask for a list I knew (yep, knew) he was going down the wrong path…and i don’t want to see him fail. (I kind of feel sometimes my job is to push him off the ledge onto the bridge before he jumps off into the . river thinking he has a parachute when in fact he has a baloney sandwich strapped to him back.) Nice man, management just isn’t his thing.

      My intent when i called him was to make him aware that the attitude of “i can take things from work” was present at the clinic ae eto nip this in the bud – not get anyone fired. The vet does have a big heart and we all adore her at the clinic, she’s also new and naive about things in the clinic not directly related to client care, so addressing this over a $6 issue would hopefully prevent or stop any more expensive things leaving. (yes, i would be ok substituting “being stolen” for “leaving.” It was stealing, it wasn’t lock her up in Leavenworth stealing, but it for sure warranted a mention from a supervisor to go over the policy and talk. What if the vet was feeling underappreciated and was taking
      items to compensate – we’d never know.

      And i think the readers who mentioned that he meant mean as in stingy could be right. It’s not like him to insult people and i was REALLY surprised he called me mean, thinking back to our conversation stingy makes more sense in context. He thinks I’m cheap and with government money i am very cautious. (fyi i don’t think the taxpayers fund the clinic. We’re supported by the reveunes we generate.

      Thank you everyone for your input!

      1. Cheesecake

        Loled at some of your comments, esp. about “baloney sandwich” :D

        I think problem comes from the nature of the job and your personality clashing with your boss’s. I used to have similar job as you describe. I was advising, guiding but i was never telling or making firm decisions. That didn’t really bother me and i wasn’t chasing people, only reminding; it was their responsibility at the end anyway. I think you probably need a job with authority so you could hire/fire because of $6.

        And in regards to boss; i understand the frustration. It gets worse because he is not an asshole, so you can’t hate him on personal level. But as was said before, a battle worth $6 is not the one to choose. Let it go and lobby a better case.

        1. D.

          Thank you for your comment Cheesecake! You’re right, I should part ways with the organization; I can’t rescue him all the time.

          I hope they start making baloney with ripcords. :)

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