Paul Butler | Theft at Work

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

It was our son, Henry’s birthday last week and now that he lives exactly 2,792 miles away in New York City we thought it would be nice to mail him a box of items we knew he would love.  Problem was — someone else in his apartment block got to our care box first; ripped it open and stole all of the contents with the exception of a packet of Hob Nobs.  You’re probably thinking right now, “What are Hob Nobs?” which is exactly what I think the box-basher must have thought, and so he decided to leave them — they’re actually delicious biscuits (cookies) from Henry’s country of birth, England. 

It’s days like this that bring into question the hope for humanity.  What would cause someone to steal a neighbor’s delivery?  Isn’t there a commandment written somewhere on the human heart about not stealing? 

Call me a Pollyanna but I was shocked to read that according to, 75% of employees have stolen from their employer at least once. Their 2021 report claims that employee theft cost U.S. employers just over $60 billion and that, on average, 5% of revenue is lost due to employee theft.  

On the other side of the economic coin, employers are not at all angelic. According to Golan Law’s report in April this year, employers “steal” an annual average of $15 billion under what ‘s called “wage theft.” There are a lot of different ways for wage theft to happen. In some cases, workers are not given a final check after they quit or have their position terminated, even though they are due. In other cases, workers are just paid their standard rate instead of being paid time-and-a-half for working overtime. In other cases, employers may take tips that were supposed to go directly to the employees.  

Flipping the coin of deceit back over to the employee — cites that 75% of U.S.-based businesses have problems with time theft. How does someone steal time? Well, the obvious ones would be coming in late and leaving early.  What about dragging your feet on an assignment?  Working half-heartedly? Wasting other people’s time too by gossiping or simply shooting the breeze with no aim in sight? These are all ways of watching one hand of the clock go around while the other hand puts unearned money in your pocket.  

Sadly, it seems stealing at work can take many forms. Someone can choose to steal materials, money, time, productivity and joy from their employer, co-workers, customers and suppliers.  

Some other sad statistics I found was that according to the CUTimes 2019 report, 85% of embezzlement cases were perpetrated by an employee at the managerial level or above. Sixty-four percent of occupational fraudsters had a university degree or higher, according to the 2020 ACFE findings, and within the same study it seems that males are worst offenders (72%) compared to females (28%). In conclusion, watch out for those highly educated managerial males, I’d say.  

The ACFE report also claims that 30% of business bankruptcies are due to employee theft. It was disheartening to then read of the failings of our legal system under the National Retail Security Survey of 2019 reporting that, on average, only 39% of theft is recovered under settlements. 

I’m not a great philosopher but I’m scratching my head wondering why do we steal from each other? I look around and don’t see anyone starving to death within the workplaces of this wonderful country of 50 stars.  

What has gone wrong inside each of us to want to steal something that isn’t ours? We have a minimum wage. We have opportunities to excel and advance. We’re living and working in the world’s largest economy. There’s enough for everyone who’s willing to work for it. With the people of the United States being the most generous country in the world according to the World Giving Index survey of 2021, we don’t need to steal from each other. Someone, somewhere will give, and help.   

I’m so sorry, Henry. I’m so sorry to all who suffer at the hands of a thief, be it on the stairwell of an apartment in Manhattan or within the walls of the workplace.  

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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