First of all let me say that I firmly believe you should not steal (even office supplies) and that breaking the sacred trust placed upon you by your employer is inexcusable. Also, the United States is the best country in the world and the 1% are job creators and powerhouses of economic progress and therefore should not pay taxes.
Stealing is wrong. Unless you are really, really good at it. Then it’s called venture capitalism.
But let’s assume for a moment that in the real world people do not deal in absolutes and that stealing may, in some cases, be justifiable. Now surely we can all agree that stealing food to survive, although not technically right, is definitely understandable. What about stealing from your employer?
And I don’t mean playing fast and loose with the cash, I am talking about petty theft such as mooching the A4 paper or “accidentally” printing your dog’s birthday photos on that cool laser printer on the 6th floor or it could be any type of office supplies. Now, this is a controversial subject so I would request that you hear me out before lighting the torches and raising the pitchforks.
Stealing is not an exact science. By definition it is the removal of a valuable thing without paying the appropriate price. Under this definition, there’s a lot of room for interpretation. For example, if your boss is paying you less than they are supposed to according to the value of your work, isn’t that stealing part of the value of your work?
What about when you agree to humiliating terms of work because, although they are a turn off, they sure beat starving to death? Could that not be considered compliance under threat of death, much like if you were being mugged on the street?
You see there is no easy answer. Many times the law is not a direct representation of justice and it is the rare person who has not been screwed over at one point or the other by tailored legal loopholes or just pure workplace terrorism. Is it okay to try to even the scales by yourself, should you end up staring down the wrong end of a crappy deal? Not a question to be answered lightly, lest one endorses vigilante justice, even if it’s just on the petty office theft level.
The point is that theft, like many other concepts, is arbitrary and sometimes falls into a morally gray area. Generally speaking, the repercussions of getting caught stealing office supplies such as staplers and pens is just not worth it. Stationery is not worth the humiliation, even if moral qualms are satisfied. You are of course going to Hell, but at least you’re signing with a Mont Blanc when you get there.
At the end it boils down to clear, honest and just arrangements. A good deal will go a long way towards preventing office larceny. As long as you treat your employees with respect, pay them for their work fairly and on time, and avoid screwing them out of what they are due both legally and as human beings, you’ll be all right as well as your office equipment.
And even if Dave the Intern just cannot resist pocketing that wicked red stapler, at least you can sleep easy after sending him packing, knowing that from your side you kept your part of the bargain.