The case is the following. Over 6 months ago, a coworker required a USB stick for work related stuff but we hadn't one ready for use. By coincidence, I had a private one with me which had no data on it, and I intended to keep it. So I lent it to him and said it doesn't matter if he needs it for 1, 2 or 3 days. On multiple occasions, I asked for the stick and he pretended to have forgotten about it and it is at his home. As he has a Ph.D. and I was interested in his thesis which he wanted to give me, I told him (when he was pretending one more time he forgot about the stick), that there is no hurry, he can just put the PDF's onto the stick and give it me back then. (Which, of course, just was a pretense to recover my stick.) He evaded this for a few days just sending me his thesis by mail. After that, I forgot about it. But yesterday I was searching for some work related documents and didn't realize I was opening his private drawer of a cupboard. And there was my stick. I left my stick in there as picking it up would expose that someone was in his private stuff.

But the main point is:

How to react here? He obviously lied to me and kept my property into his possession. I know that when he is at work lays down some stuff (which is distracting for his work), into his drawer so he faces every working day my property well knowing that I asked multiple times for it (After clarifying via comments that this is important info: note the USB stick has a keysign attached to it, with a label that holds my name handwritten on it). I don't know why he could do this, as a 8 GB stick isn't that much of a value. And when I was thinking he really just forgot about it, I was assuming good faith and therefore had no problem by just letting it go. But now when I know he obviously lied to me, with the aim to keep my property in his possession, I feel like I should do something. But what? (escalating it to superiors is nothing I'm aiming for, while this is a pretty bad attitude on his part, it's still a good climate in the whole team.)

note: I wasn't able to talk to him since this happened. So probably when I ask him the next time he will just remember that he brought it back to work again a few weeks ago, and just hadn't the opportunity to hand it over again. But for this post let's just assume I asked him after this and he just said he has it at home and will bring it me in the next few days. (What as I now know would be in that case a lie)

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    Have you considered that he could have forgotten where he left it or that he brought it back to work? I'd suggest asking him again one more time and see how he responds as I get the impression that you haven't asked him about it in quite a while.
    – Lilienthal
    Jun 3 '16 at 7:40
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    I think you should stop the pretenses and just say outright but politely "I want my USB stick back now, please. When can you empty off the contents and get it back to me?" Then hold him to that deadline.
    – Brandin
    Jun 3 '16 at 8:11
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    @Zaibis Well he can't prove you took your own property back can he ? And there really isn't any reasanoble and explainable motive is there ... He's seeing it every day, you are asking him more than once a day and yet he refuses to return it. Either he's super cheep and would rather steal the 10$ flash drive or he has his own agenda at place. In either way its perfectly justifiable for me to recover my drive back, especially when I'm supper attached to my belongings and if i were you I'd loose alot of sleep over this :( Jun 3 '16 at 8:59
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    @ИвоНедев I have spent a long time looking for something only to discover it is right in front of me in plain sight. Even though it is in the drawer, it doesn't mean the person sees it and knows it is there. Assuming that this person is playing games with the OP is not warranted, in my view.
    – user45590
    Jun 3 '16 at 9:36
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    It's also an 8GB drive, costing ~$3. Definitely not something worth making a fuss over: just don't loan him your new drive
    – Jon Story
    Jun 3 '16 at 13:11

Assume good faith. It is far better to operate on the assumption that people are telling you the truth, unless you are absolutely certain that they are misleading you. In this case, I see no reason to conlcude that he is lying.

  • Lying multiple times just to steal a cheap item, and then leaving it sitting in a drawer and not actually using it, doesn't make a lot of sense.
  • It is entirely plausible that he forgot where it was, or that it genuinely was at home when he said that, but he brought it to work later (and forgot to give it to you).

I would admit I saw the drive and ask for it back.

I was looking in this drawer--sorry, I was looking for my papers and didn't realize it had your personal stuff in it--and I think I saw my USB stick that I lent you awhile back. Is this mine? Because it would be great to have it back now.

Since the drawer is his private area, I wouldn't just take it. But I wouldn't worry about admitting you looked in there--it was an honest mistake and not a big deal.

This will almost certainly resolve the situation. In the unlikely event that it does not, I would simply buy a new USB stick (and of course, not lend anything to this person again). It's a cheap item that is not worth creating a big conflict over.

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    Another variation: he may have forgotten what the USB stick looks like and has forgotten that the one in his drawer is actually yours.
    – user8036
    Jun 3 '16 at 10:05
  • @JanDoggen: There is a Keysign on it with my Name written on. But again. I'm not looking for jury judging him guilty. I'm looking for an answer about what would be the best to do IN CASE it is this way. Not actually meaning thats what I asusme will come out. but its a posibillity, which I don't want to face unprepared. Where this answer is giving an suggestion about and I aggree it posibilly realyl might be the best in that case to just let it go and don't lend stuff to this eprson again.
    – Zaibis
    Jun 3 '16 at 10:17
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    @Zaibis That 'Keysign' info should be in your post. Please add it.
    – user8036
    Jun 3 '16 at 11:26
  • I'd definitely agree with assuming good faith - it may be that the co-worker thought they took the key home and just hasn't looked in the drawer, so has been trying to find it in their house.
    – Jon Story
    Jun 3 '16 at 13:09
  • +1 for assuming good faith. I sometimes "lose" things that are in plain sight and that I see every day. The brain gets used to seeing an arrangement of objects over time, and eventually doesn't notice the individual objects.
    – mhwombat
    Jun 3 '16 at 23:12

As you have indicated, an 8GB USB memory stick is not worth spilling tears over. Just chalk it up to experience. For the 5 bucks you would spend for a replacement, and I am being overly expensive here , I know, you have learned not to trust this person with anything of value.

If you two keep working in the same environment, and he is not an always-prepared type person, I am pretty sure, he will come to you for borrowing other things as well. Say one day he came to you and asked $250 because he didn't realize he parked his car on a time limited zone and it was towed and, surprise-surprise, he doesn't have that kind of money on him to recover his car from the pound. At that point, mentally referring back to this USB stick incident, you will look at him and say, "Oh, I am sorry, I am fresh out of cash, I had to pay some bills this morning" even if you are capable of lending him this money. Because you know, there is no chance that you can recoup your money at any reasonable amount of time, if you lent it to him.

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    "Can I borrow 250$ my car got towed away" -"Sure but my bank details are on a text file on that flash drive i gave you 5 years ago, if I get that back, I might be able to help you" Jun 3 '16 at 14:09
  • @Иво Недев LOL...
    – MelBurslan
    Jun 3 '16 at 14:12
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    I agree, move on, now you know. Just as the saying is not to lend money to friends/family and expect it back, same might be true of lending movies/books/USB sticks to colleagues. I think the quote from Nietzsche is relevant here: "I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you." You learned a valuable lesson about this coworker, they are either a liar or have terrible memory problems. At any rate, they don't value other people's property. Jun 3 '16 at 21:54

But he has lied to you. On multiple occasions he said it was at home.

  • If he knew it was at the office that is an out right lie.

  • So he thought it was at home. When he did not find it at home he should have told you he lost it and bought a replacement.

You lent him an item and have asked for it back several times. He should return it or replace it.

Be direct

It has been 6 months now and I want my drive back.

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