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So I work a mechanic-esque shop. We've all got these jackets that have the company logo on it. And you can get them with or without your name on it as well.

Today, a coworker (let's call him Bob) put down his nameless jacket, and when he looked for it later, it was gone. Mysteriously, another coworker (let's call him Steve) happened to suddenly be wearing a nameless jacket that was the same style. When asked about it, Steve claimed it was his, and everyone was like "oh well. Jackets have a tendency to turn up sooner or later".

A few hours later while Bob was at lunch, I notice Steve leave what he was doing, grab "his" jacket, walk in the back aisle, and then come back out with no jacket.

So when Bob returned, I retraced Steve's steps to see if I could find the jacket. And sure enough, it was there. So at this point, Steve gets defensive and says "I don't know why you guys think I would steal Bob's jacket. I was putting my jacket in my locker" (for reference, the locker is in the completely opposite direction of where he was walking with the jacket).

So like...basically, we've got a team member lying about borrowing a jacket and then accusing us of having trust issues or something.

And I'm not entirely sure how to move forward here. Like, I could probably tell a manager, but like... it's a jacket. It's just so absurd to me that this whole thing even happened in the first place since most of us are more than willing to lend our jackets to coworkers since we all have a bad habit of leaving extras.

Edit: it should be noted that there is a sorta trend of things going missing in Steve's presence. Nothing definitive enough to where anyone would accuse him of stealing anything. But it does make people suspicious.

Edit2 (follow up): As a followup to this question (for anyone wondering) Other things went missing after this, and the coworker was again the one implicated.

Eventually, my boss asked a few of us to write a statement about things we've seen or heard, and I did so. The coworker has since been removed from our company. Turns out the jacket wasn't an isolated incident. Luckily, everything was handled later.

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    I see... and, is this in some way preventing you from doing your job? – DarkCygnus Dec 19 '18 at 21:43
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    Not at all. It wasn't like me following him around, I just kinda happened to notice him walking around with the jacket and got suspicious. The only issue in my mind is him stealing something from a coworker and lying about it. But it's over such an insignificant thing that I'm just kinda confused on whether or not it's even an issue worth pursuing. – Awesomolocity Dec 19 '18 at 21:45
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    "I retraced Steve's steps to see if I could find the jacket. And sure enough, it was there." - How did you arrived to this conclusion, if the Jacket is nameless? – DarkCygnus Dec 20 '18 at 0:04
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    I would recommend all having named jackets, but if you don't want to, why don't you all go Maverick and get jackets with the name "Not Steve's"? :-) – Mawg Dec 20 '18 at 7:24
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    @Answers_Seeker Or maybe Steve is an airhead. Another explanation is he legitimately thought the unnamed jacket was his, put it on and then got defensive at the accusations of stealing. Then when he realized his jacket was in his locker, he was too embarrassed to own up to the mix-up and tried to secretively put Bob's jacket back where he found it. – DanK Dec 20 '18 at 17:35
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Based on the clarifications and comments you made, it seems that:

  • You are not this person's manager; in fact, you see yourself as equals.

  • It is not part of your job to manage the use of Jackets, nor it is to take care of security.

  • This is something that does not prevent you from doing your job.

Given those facts, I say this is something not worth pursuing.

This will only make you "waste" time on things and tasks that are not part of your responsibilities, most likely harming you in the process. This could also be a misunderstanding, or an incorrect perception you have of the situation, something that will also look bad (playing detective and accusing fellow workers) or have fallout if pursued.

  • Agreed. All I see here is a potential source of workplace drama. – Broots Waymb Dec 20 '18 at 18:30
  • As a followup to this question (for anyone wondering): Other things went missing after this, and the coworker was again the one implicated. Eventually, my boss asked a few of us to write a statement about things we've seen or heard, and I did so. The coworker has since been removed from our company. Turns out the jacket wasn't an isolated incident. Luckily, everything was handled later. – Awesomolocity Feb 6 at 20:01
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For the problem at hand

If everyone has an designated jacket, before we start accusing of coworker taking each other's identical jackets, I recommend everyone write their names inside of their jackets if they aren't labelled on the outside. Then when jackets start walking away, there's an easy way to find the culprit. This simple act of labelling may deter thievery to begin with.

If all jackets are first come first serve, it's less of an issue, because the jackets are company property.

Regarding stealing in general

I think stealing by one co-worker is everyone's problem having worked in a restaurant where multiple people were fired and some arrested for stealing food and money. One day it's a jacket, the next day it's an expensive part and the next week it's a customer's credit card. But it's important to do the due diligence to make sure you're not accusing an innocent person.

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Currently, you do not have enough proof to make a case that Steve willfully did something wrong and lied about it, as opposed having made an honest mistake and then tried to avoid making it look like he intended to steal the jacket.

Just as a counter example:

Steve picks up what he believes is his jacket. When Bob mentions his jacket is gone, Steve realizes his mistake (possibly a while after Bob mentions his jacket was stolen), but doesn't know how to handle admitting to a mistake, e.g. he feels like people will assume he knowingly tried to steal it. So he decides to simply put it back so Bob doesn't lose his jacket and Steve avoids being blamed for knowingly stealing something.

Unbeknownst to Steve, you observe him putting the jacket back, and call him out on it. Now, instead of being able to return the jacket anonymously, Steve is caught in the crossfire, and simply responds in the way that maintains his original goal: avoid being singled out as the thief of Bob's jacket.

He does in fact lie, but only because he worries that admitting to your accusation will make everyone think that he intentionally stole the jacket rather than made an honest mistake.

Never forget that some people don't expect the truth to be believed, and thus aren't forthcoming with the truth when they suspect that others will assume they are lying.

There are many movies where the plot conflict arises from a misunderstanding, and is then perpetuated by an overzealous character who is unintentionally creating more issues (or blocking their solution) by loudly trying to solve the issue. They're trying to do the right thing, but their zeal leads them on a path that aggravates the conflict.

You are very close to being this person right now. And while this comes from an intention of wanting to do good; take a step back and look at whether your actions are solving things or rather dredging up problems that are not active or expected to pop up in the future.

If Steve repeatedly takes things, it becomes a recurring issue and you should address it. But as far as you've told us, this is an isolated instance, and it's still possible that Steve's intentions were harmless. It's not impossible that he simply tried to avoid the social justice spotlight while still rectifying the issue.

Don't persecute him just because you cleverly figured something out.

  • I like this answer and the benefit of the doubt counterexample, but have a bit of a question with "If Steve repeatedly takes things, it becomes a recurring issue and you should address it." In this instance, that's how this was resolved: Steve was implicated in enough individual incidents that their manager asked for all incidents and got a clear enough picture. But that was only possible because enough employees reported individual incidents, which violates the whole "If Steve repeatedly takes things." How might OP's manager establish "repeated" behavior without individual events? – Lord Farquaad Feb 7 at 16:03
  • @LordFarquaad: I have either missed the edit or posted before it was added. That does invalidate my answer. As it's already a recurring thing, it makes sense to follow up with management as it's likely to occur again. My argument was more to not blow the whistle to management for someone's first (and possibly honest) mistake. It's not going to do wonders for your reputation among your colleagues. – Flater Feb 7 at 16:06
  • I understand and agree with you, except that I don't think it completely invalidates your answer, it just may require some clarification on that point. For example, as an isolated incident, yeah, you wouldn't bring it up. But in this case several things started going missing and Steve became a plausible suspect in each, which is when it starts being worth mentioning. I'm a little unsure when it starts being appropriate to say "ok, we think he may have done these N things, so lets look a little more into it." – Lord Farquaad Feb 7 at 16:12
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    @LordFarquaad: I would say that once one person has caught wind of several instances (e.g. he hears about Bob's jacket, knowing that Steve "mistakenly" took someone else's shoes a week ago), they can raise a flag that Steve is a possible suspect due to past behavior. Fool me twice... – Flater Feb 7 at 16:14
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I understand this has now been resolved however I see so many disagreeing answers that I wanted to throw in my 2c in the matter.

If this happens again with any other co-worker, raise it with your manager. Something along the lines of:

I witness something that might be nothing but wanted to make sure you were aware just in case. I have no evidence but this jacket went missing and Steve just happened to have one. Me and 3 other people were there as witnesses.

If it happens again with someone else and they do the same, your manager will then be able to keep a record of all this instances and then make a decision.

Just ensure you are not prejudiced towards the person, ensure you keep your things safe (name on your jacket) and do not gossip. If your worries are substantiated then the outcome that ended up happening will happen. If it turns out you are the only one that raised this, your manager won't hear about it again and nothing else will disappear.

It follows the same concept as "safeguarding" in the UK follows, if any healthcare professional sees anything that concerns them about anyone's safety it is their duty to report it, even if it seems insignificant. It protects everyone.

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I can see why this bothers you, and everyone else. Yes, its just a jacket. But it belongs to someone and most people have a sense of ownership. I wouldn't like for a person to take my jacket without asking first.

If you feel like you want to talk to your manager about it, then do so. But also mention any other instances where it seemed like things are disappearing. Say people should feel safe to leave their belongings and find them again once they come back. If your manager feels the same way, then maybe something can be done about it. Unfortunately, if nothing changes after you mention it, I suggest you leave it at that. Some people just have different values and that's just how it is.

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