A colleague borrowed a work-related book (value ~£30) a few months back. Recently I went to ask for it back, but they had taken it home without permission.

For the past two weeks they 'keep forgetting' to bring it back in. As I'm leaving the company soon, I suspect they intend to keep the book. They are also leaving in a month or two.

How can I get the book returned, or get reimbursed for the book?

Update 14/08/14: today he said it was in his car, but today he'd got a lift to work (he does car share). He promised that tomorrow he'd have the book. I said that if he forgot it again, or if he wanted to keep it, he could pay me for it. He later emailed saying that if he did forget the book again (tomorrow is my last day) he'd buy the book from Amazon

Final Update 15/08/14: I have the book! Being more persistent and offering alternatives such as him giving me the money for it seemed to make him realise he'd gain a reputation for being a thief.

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    The answer of @Nahkki sounds promising, you could repeatedly ask him in front of other people, that will make it awkward. – Verena Haunschmid Aug 13 '14 at 17:22
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    knock knock - Hey, mate, sorry to bother you at home. I just need to collect my book, and I'll be on my way. – Joel Etherton Aug 13 '14 at 18:10
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    Ask him to give you £30 in cash as a collateral. Give it back when you get the book. If he does not intend to steal the book there is no rational reason to refuse. – usr Aug 13 '14 at 18:50
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    Just another "motive": He might have lost the book, and doesn't want to admit it. – MadTux Aug 13 '14 at 18:58
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    Flagged as favorite. Will RedSirius get his book back? – Francois Aug 14 '14 at 13:22

How can I get the book returned, or get reimbursed for the book?

You simply say something like "Hey, X. Remember that book you borrowed from me? Well, I'm leaving the company soon and I'd like to get it back. Can you bring it in tomorrow?"

And you keep repeating it until you get the book.

If that fails, you could always say "Perhaps you'd prefer to keep that book and I can buy a new one. I paid $X for it. Give me that and keep the book."

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    I have been doing that each day for the past 2 weeks, sadly without result. – Fractional Aug 13 '14 at 15:53
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    @RedSirius - Tell him you accept cash, check, and major credit cards for the cost of the book. If its really important to you, offer to come pick it up after work, and agian tell him you accept cash, check, and major credit cards for the cost of gas to do so :-) – Donald Aug 13 '14 at 16:33
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    Try also "this is a big deal to me, please bring in the book" and "is there anything I can do to help you remember? This matters to me... if you need me to call you early in the morning to remind you, I will..." If you really care, you can offer to drive to his house with him and get the book... – bethlakshmi Aug 13 '14 at 21:25
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    @TheMathemagician, ever hear the phrase, 'two wrongs don't make a right'? It's not OK for colleague to steal OP's book, and it's not OK for OP to steal colleague's stuff. If it's truly that important, OP can talk to company security and HR, and could sue in small claims court. – atk Aug 14 '14 at 2:20
  • And what does he says to this? Is he still sticking to the line that he keeps forgetting the book? – Alnitak Aug 14 '14 at 9:29

Unfortunately if your colleague really intends on stealing your book you will be hard pressed to force them to give it back. But, that being said, there are a couple of things you can do at this point.

First, try being blunt. "I really need my book 'how to wrangle doodads' back by tomorrow morning. I have a project/reference/whatever that requires me to use it. I need you to bring it with you tomorrow"

If that doesn't work then it's time to step up your game a bit. If tomorrow comes and they haven't brought you book offer to stop by their house that evening to pick it up. This is easier if you know where they live of course if not ask them. Say something like "Oh man, I know it can be hard to remember things in the morning, I've totally been there. I need that book tonight - What time can I stop by to pick it up?"

If they refuse this ask if you can call them the next morning to remind them to bring the book.

Rinse and repeat. Be polite and accommodating but also make it a little awkward. Make it clear that you require your book back and give hard, fast deadlines for when you expect it back by. Make it hard for them to duck returning the book gracefully by 'forgetting' it. This may damage your relationship with this individual so weigh that against the importance of getting your book returned.


Well, there is the option of filing an expense report and requesting the company reimburse you.

If the colleague borrowed it for work-related purposes, it thus became a work-related expense. Your boss will likely "investigate" and step in.

More than a little passive-aggressive, admittedly, but if it's results you're after, then this is probably your only option, at this point. At the very least, you should get your money back.

  • This sounds like a suggestion to commit fraud to me... – enderland Aug 13 '14 at 17:27
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    Well, I think if you went to your boss first with the suggestion - rather than filing the report first - it wouldn't be fraud, and may well end up with your boss deciding to reimburse you for the cost of the book. I'm fairly sure that if I did that at my job, it would be approved (as long as I was open about it) - as it indeed was somewhat of a business expense. – Joe Aug 13 '14 at 17:56
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    As a boss, I'd be unimpressed if you loaned someone a book of your own, without checking in with me, and then asked me to pay you back for it. If it's between the two of you, it's between the two of you. If the company was supposed to cover the cost, I should have been asked before the transaction (loaning the book) occurred, so I could approve it. Had I been asked, I'd have told book-stealer to expense his own book and leave you alone. Being asked after the fact, I'd probably just say "please work this out on your own". – bethlakshmi Aug 13 '14 at 21:27
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    @bethlakshmi - The OP asked for options. This is NOT a great option, and as a boss myself (Sr. management, not owner), I would never tolerate employees behaving in this manner - not returning "borrowed" items. With both leaving soon, the options are limited, though. I, personally, would approve the expense and then let the "borrower" know that he should not use me as a reference. – Wesley Long Aug 13 '14 at 21:59
  • @bethlakshmi: As a manager, it would be your job to resolve conflicts between the other employees. Sure you can refuse, but if a conflict like this grows bigger and causes the company problems, it's your fault for refusing to do your job. – gnasher729 Aug 14 '14 at 18:08

Sidenote: It's not stealing, it's embezzlement. The book was given to the other person voluntarily.

You demanded back the book, continuing to do so will bring nothing. If you can start making funny comments to make him uncomfortable.

Hey you forgot my book again, hope you don't forget other important stuff.

Hey you forgot my book again, now you owe me a book and a coffee. (+1 coffee each day)

Also, if you have people on your side, make them ask him too.

Hey did you bring Red's book back yet?

Hey did you forget to bring Red's book back again?

Either he will get the hint and bring back your book or he will not, not much else you can do about it.

Do not take any of his stuff, that would be real theft/larceny! Or talk to a lawyer first ...

Also, escalate it to your boss, it was work related that he took it and he did is an employee of the company (not as your friend), so basically the company is responsible for paying your loss.


If you believe the fellow is generally moral, tell him that you hereby give him the book as a gift. He may refuse and produce the book quickly. And if not, at least the situation is settled and you can replace it.

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