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Today something weird happened to me at work - I was accused of stealing a ring by my company's security personnel. Of course, I didn't do it; I even helped my colleague to try to find the ring. My question is at the end, but first I want to tell the whole history so you can have the full context before posting your answers/opinions.


Today, after lunch, I went to the bathroom. When I entered there, one of my colleagues was washing his hands. When I was ready, after drying my hands when I was about to leave the bathroom, I saw another person entering there. Everything normal, I went back to my cube to continue working, when some minutes later my colleague (the one I found in the bathroom) came next to me and ask me if I have seen a gold ring in the bathroom, next to the sink. I tend not to notice stuff like that, and I don't have good memory for that kind of things (I can't even remember what I ate for lunch), however I thought that I could have remembered who entered to the bathroom after me, so I told him to join me in searching this guy through the second floor, but sadly we couldn't find him.

I told him to ask the security personnel, as they have cameras everywhere, so they will be able to check on who entered the bathroom during the same time lapse - at least, that way we can have one more person to ask if they saw anything in there.

The funny thing was that, closely to finish my shift, one of the security personnel guards came next to me and told me to follow him to a meeting room close to my cube. I followed him, we entered the room, and he told me to sit down, that we need to talk. The conversation was something like this: (I'm not an English native speaker, so excuse me if something does not sound right)

Guard: Let's do this quick and simple - give me the ring before everything turns out worst.

Me: Sorry, I'm not following. You are looking for XXXX (my colleague's name) ring, right?

Guard: We have a video that shows you entering the bathroom right after him. We now you have the ring. Give it to me.

Me: I entered the bathroom when XXXX was in there, and I know he lost his ring. I even helped him searching the ring. This is the first time someone says to me something like this. Are you accusing me of having stolen the ring?

Guard: We checked the video, and when you came back to your cube, we saw you doing a weird movement with your hands, and putting something in your pant's back pocket.

Me: Ok, what pocket? The right one? That's where I keep my badge, look (and I showed him my badge ID Card, which is required to enter to every place in my company building)

(Just in case, the guard had one of those microphones/earphones bodyguard-style in his ear, so I guess the rest of the security personnel was listening to our conversation at that moment)

Guard: Wait a second, seems like we had a mistake. My colleagues are checking the video again and effectively there's a second person entering the bathroom right after you. Seems like this was a misunderstanding - ok, and they are reviewing the video and seems like the thing you put in your back pocket was indeed your badge ID Card.

Me: So, what do we do from here? I mean, you were accusing me of stealing just a moment ago.

Guard: Yes, I'm very sorry - we have to take action quick, before the end of shift, because everyone goes home and it's hard to identify suspects if not in the same day. Do you remember how the other person was dressed?

Me: Not really, I don't pay attention to those details - but you have the cameras, right? I mean, you can check that yourself, don't you?

Guard: Yes, you are right. We are very sorry.

After apologizing again, we came out of the meeting room and I got back to finish my work.


At first, it was funny - I thought "LOL, they thought I was stealing... how funny is that!". But then, I spoke with a couple of colleagues (included my team leader), and they were really concerned, because accusing someone from stealing to another colleague (or just stealing, for that matter) is a very hard offense. I didn't take it that way by then, and I think the guard's apology was sincere. But then, at home and after telling my wife about this story, she told me that the best way to go was to leave a formal statement of what happened in HR or with my Manager, so it's clear for everyone what the accusation was all about.

I think my wife is really wise, so I probably will follow her advice and leave a formal communication tomorrow with my Manager, but I wonder what do you think?

Is this an incident that I should report to HR? If not, as stealing is a criminal offense, is a good idea to report this to my local Police Department?

In addition, Is it good to involve other parties at the very moment you get an accusation like this?. For example, should I have called my Team Leader at the very moment the guard accused me of stealing, so he could have been there during the interrogation?

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    Hi jim and welcome to The Workplace! I appreciate the effort that you've put into the post but unfortunately, questions asking "what should I do" end up closed as off topic because they tend to attract unhelpful answers. You have the beginnings of a great question here, and we would love to get you better answers and upvotes. Would you please edit your question to clarify what you are trying to achieve? Good luck and I hope to see you around! :D – Matt Giltaji Aug 12 '14 at 4:17
  • @MattGiltaji - I changed the question a bit, but still not sure if this helps it to be less opinionated. Please let me know if you have any suggestion (or feel free to edit the question... I'm pretty sure you got the feeling of what I'm asking). Thank you! – jimm-cl Aug 12 '14 at 4:25
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    The guard sincerely apologized and explained why they felt the need to do it this way. At that moment, that was satisfactory to you. Now other people start advizing you on the basis of their own emotional reactions on the incident. Does that change how you feel? Is that apology suddenly not real and enough anymore? Unless you consider there's something structurally wrong with the way the guards handled it (and you know a better way that you can recommend), I would leave it. – user8036 Aug 12 '14 at 6:28
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    @jim. Welcome to The Workplace. I have edited the title to make it more generic for people to relate to. – watercooler Aug 12 '14 at 6:36
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    There's no way a competent security organization is going to make an accusation like that before they've reviewed ALL of the footage, meaning they ALREADY knew there was someone else going in as you left. Something doesn't smell right here. This ALMOST looks like someone tried to set you up for an unjustified firing. They expected you to blow your top when they accused you of theft. To your credit, you kept your cool, and you backed them down, by hitting them with facts. File your own formal report with HR and with your manager. In writing. Get receipts. – John R. Strohm Jul 28 '16 at 16:23
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Should I present this formal communication/statement as a For Your Information to my Manager, or should I formally complain (verbally or through a letter) to HR regarding this situation?

When in doubt,follow what eve says :). Report the matter to HR like she suggested notifying your manager.

Is it good to involve other parties at the very moment you get an accusation like this?

You need not involve others, but notifying your manager that the incident had occurred would be appropriate.Hope it helps.

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    I concur. Even though it seems like everything is under control with security pursuing the second person, it could all get unpleasant again if that search comes to nothing. Best that your manager and/or HR are aware of the situation. Although personally I'd start off with a private chat with your manager. – Carson63000 Aug 12 '14 at 6:52
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    A security worker should not interrogate anyone, ever, without a witness present. This kind of thing is extraordinarily risky for the one being questioned, for the security worker, and for the company. What if the original questioner falsely accused the security worker of striking him, or asking for a bribe? What if the security worker did strike him? A witness will prevent suspicion of such things. – O. Jones Aug 12 '14 at 19:59
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Presumably your HR department already knows about this incident because the security team has filed a critical incident report with them. (If HR doesn't know, that's cause for serious concern about your company's security policies, but that's not what you asked.)

If I were you I would file a critical incident report. That is, write a memo very similar to what you wrote in this question, but put in real names, real locations, and real dates and times to the extent you remember them. Try to confine your memo to facts. It's OK to admit that you don't remember details.

Mark it "confidential and sensitive." Then hand a signed and dated paper copy of that memo to HR and to your team lead, and keep a paper copy for yourself at home.

The purpose of the critical incident report is to record what happened, in case anybody else asks. As you write it try to refrain from judging what happened.

If a similar incident occurs in the future (heaven forbid!), I think you would be very wise to ask the security person to ask an HR person or your team leader to be a witness to your questioning.

In the meantime, tell your colleague to keep his ring on his finger or leave it at home if he's lucky enough to get it back!

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    You can't assume that HR has been told anything. File the critical incident report. Mark it as described, using cover sheets. The Head of Security can help you with the markings and cover sheets. I'd go one step farther, and ask HR to give you a receipt for the report. If I was in a really bad mood, I'd file the report via Registered Mail, so that I had absolute proof that would stand up in court that they received it on such-and-such date, signed for by so-and-so. – John R. Strohm Jul 28 '16 at 16:18
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I certainly would write something up for HR and your manager factually describing everything that occurred. I'd do it just to make sure nothing could be used against you later.

However,I wouldn't in this case assign malice to security... Mr. X lost his ring and when asked, you're the last person he remembered as being in the bathroom -- so...naturally, you're the first person anybody would reasonably question. I don't think this was an illogical accusation of theft, but more of a you're the first and most logical suspect -- you had at least 2 of the three things needed for a crime: means, motive, and opportunity.

Ok, maybe, starting off the interview immediately accusing you of stealing and having the ring was a bad thing -- or maybe it was a deliberate tactic meant to unnerve you and possibly get you to confess had you been involved ...however, since, you didn't do it -- you kept giving them more and more information, which upon further review was corroborated.

Although, it also sounds like they were slightly unprepared -- not having fully viewed the tapes, hence their 'surprise' at there being another person there.

And, I agree, security had to be proactive and quick about looking for anybody involved before they went home. At least now, everybody's wearing the same clothing. So, maybe, since you were the last person seen and remembered, they went in with the theory you were responsible...and as you talked, they realized everything you said made reasonable sense (not the malicious motives they were assigning) and as soon as they found that there was someone else there, your explanations seemed more and more logical..and their new focus was on this new person.

In the end, I'd also believe that security was sincerely sorry that it erroneously accused you of theft...and, due to your answers are probably being looked at as a witness not as the offender.

  • Never attribute to malice what can be explained by sloppiness. Though, the one can almost be as damaging as the other. – kleineg Feb 11 at 15:52
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You could have called your team leader but I don't that they have the power to do anything for you, and if Security told them to leave, they would have had to leave because this is a security matter and thus out of their jurisdiction. Ditto for your manager.

I'd report the incident to HR, though. I'd be very offended if someone threw their weight around and accused me of stealing. Nobody accuses me of stealing, and walks away from it.

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