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Just Because It's on a Desk Out in the Open Does Not Mean It's Community Property

Many employees have desks and/or work places that are accessible to everyone. Their “stuff” is still their “stuff.”

A few weeks ago I spoke to a young lady who complained to me about co-workers helping themselves to items that do not belong to them.  This employee, we’ll call her Matika, works in an office that is an open space.  She sits in the front.  There are approximately 8 – 10 employees.  Most of the staff is in sales so they come and go frequently. 

Apparently her geographic location in the office invites borrowing or, in some cases, taking things from her desk.  She often comes in and has no have pens, pencils, paperclips etc.  Not only did they help themselves to things on the desk but items in her desk as well.  It got so bad that she sent out an email to the office reminding everyone that the items on and in her desk were not community property.   In addition, she printed labels with her name and adhered them to all the items on her desk.  She is contemplating chaining some items to the desk.    

I know how this feels.  One time I came back from a vacation to find that my beloved scissors, ‘Snippy” were missing.  I sent out an email pleading for the culprit to return Snippy unharmed and no questions would be asked.  I received a ransom note informing me I was to release the stapler or Snippy would sleep with the fish, rusted.  At least someone had a sense of humor.  Snippy did turn up eventually.  I apparently had locked him in a drawer and forgot I put him there.   

Another issue that Matika brought up was people walking up and reading her computer screen.  Some people have the audacity not only to blatantly read your screen but to also ask you questions about it.         

How about if someone opens your mail?  Would that be OK?  Same thing.  Just because a co-worker does not have a private office does not mean they are not entitled to privacy.  The company may be permitted to read anything on an employees’ computer but individuals do not have that right.  Besides, it is annoying. 

I also spoke to a lovely woman named Mary who works in a similar environment.  She told me, “Look, it goes with the territory. If you are at that front desk people are going to use your office supplies.”  She told me that, of course, it is annoying but she knows it isn’t going change.  She said, “If you do borrow something please put it back when you are done.  Come on, we all learned that in kindergarten.”  Mary also told me she used to work for an organization where she had to put away and lock up every item on her desk.  If she didn’t, they were gone forever.

Work can be stressful enough, please, return the pen.

Matika August 06, 2012 at 12:49 AM
As Matika I will clear up a few things. My company is small but we do have a supply cabinet that is literally behind my desk. And the cabinet is actually more convenient to get into than my desk. So most of the things are bought by the company. Although there have been a few things I brought in myself. Also, most of the other employees are independent contractors, so I don't think the company is mandated to buy them their supplies. I don't mind when people borrow something, but they don't put it back. And like Jim said, it bothers me because when I need something like my stapler I don't want to have to go on a search for it. Especially because it makes the company look bad when clients are waiting around for something stapled or a pen.
Billy Bubba Smith August 06, 2012 at 01:11 AM
That's part of the problem, there is always someone willing to justify something that is just rude. We've become a society that has just become extremely rude. Whatever happened to what we learned when we were 5 or 6, don't take anything that is not yours and if you need to borrow something, ask first ( and say please), then return it and say thank you. Simple, right?
Psychodog August 06, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Billy Bubba is right, everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten. Now, if only we would remember what we learned!
Rob August 06, 2012 at 02:47 AM
I count my blessings every morning when I get up...I don't have to travel to an office and deal with office crap. Work exclusively from home for many years now and have never looked back. The best part is that I can fart anytime I want and nobody would know.....
Smitty Chesterfield August 06, 2012 at 03:59 AM
I heard about one guy whose red stapler disappeared, and he didn't get any cake at an office celebration. They finally moved his desk to the basement. I guess management didn't like him.

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