This may seem pretty trivial, but it really bothers me. We have an open office layout and anyone can sit wherever they like. I mostly sit at my single place since I'm the one who arrive very early in the office. We are a team of 10 people.

I am an iOS Developer and I need to keep all my iOS Devices on the desk to test my apps. Most of the times I plug in my Apple EarPods so that I don't get to hear the disturbance.

I have a personal iPhone and take all my accessories with myself. One day (about a month ago), I noticed that my iPhone's USB Cable is missing and I can't find it anywhere in my bag, home or the office. I suspected someone at the office but couldn't get enough proof to prove myself so I discarded it and being a careless fellow myself I thought I must have lost it somewhere without giving it a thought.

Last week, I noticed that my Apple EarPods were missing when I was leaving office. They were fairly new since I had opened them from the box few weeks ago. I saw someone else's EarPods on the table and I could recognise it was their's so I messaged them that they might have taken mine by mistake and left theirs on the table. They got mine next day.

Now, yesterday, I noticed a new iPhone USB cable with them, I had noticed their frayed cable from both ends sometime back and had asked about it. That frayed cable is lying in the office now and I am pretty sure that new cable is mine.

I really need my cable back since it is very critical for my everyday operations. I can get a new one for myself which doesn't cost much but I am really worried about my other stuff too. They stole two things, one I noticed immediately and got it back and other I noticed it today only and can't think of a way to get it back.

How do I go about to deal with this person? Do I report this to my boss? Would it be better to confront them about it? Should I forget about it?

I read this question but don't think my problem is that trivial to ignore. Should I report a coworker who is stealing from me?

  • 12
    Theft is not trivial.
    – user41891
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 19:24
  • 10
    Put your name on things, so you won't have to use the phrase "pretty sure" again. Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 20:47
  • 3
    I'm guessing he thought it was office equipment rather than personal equipment. Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 22:10
  • 4
    Even if it is office equipment it can "belong" to someone, especially if that person cannot work without it efficiently. In wet labs I have worked in, every lab member had their personal coloured tape and would tape their equipment with it. It can easily be taken off if a member leaves, but it is helpful in finding stuff that you have lent out or... well if they really steal they might take off the tape.
    – skymningen
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 9:20
  • 1
    Fortunately I only once worked at a place where thieving was going on. There was an announcement that stuff had been stolen, that everyone should be careful not to let their property lying around, and that anyone caught stealing would be dismissed immediately.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 10:17

5 Answers 5


Either lock your things up, put them in a briefcase or backpack, keep them on your person, or label them very clearly in a way that cannot be removed without destroying or damaging the item to make it obvious.

It sounds like the work environment is where people are leaving things all over the place. It's probably very easy for people to absently take things they THINK are theirs or to "borrow" something and forget to return it. Consider any losses up to this point as the price of a lesson learned. Confronting someone without proof is only going to make you look as if you are the problem.

Again, keep things labeled, locked up, or on your person. That is the only way to deal with this that isn't going to cause trouble for yourself.


Unfortunately since you have no proof, there's not a whole lot you can do. Making any accusations will just make you look bad.

I recommend that you forget the small things that have been stolen and start taking preventative measures. Lock things up while you're away if you can fit them in a drawer. Mark your things so that they clearly belong to you. You could add your name or random markings to your property with a label or a sharpie. This should make taking your things more difficult, but if something does disappear again, you now have more evidence that something belongs to you.


I could be tempted to write my name on my stuff with a pen with paint only seen in ultraviolet light.
Next time I suspect someone 'lending' some of my stuff, I'd go to their desk while they are away and check if my name is on it.
If it is, I'd just take it back. Or maybe wait for the person to return, and then just take the thing that is mine, with the words: 'I think this is mine, so I'll just take it back'.
The thing here is, don't tell or show anyone how you know it is yours.
One or two episodes like this, and the thing will cancel it self out.

  • While I like the idea of the UV light readable paint for proof of ownership, that wouldn't stop the items being taken in the first place. Visible, permanent markings would act to deter the taking in the first place. And by not telling people how you know an item is yours, you are setting yourself up for being accused of theft yourself. And while you can easily prove you are retrieving your own stuff, the act of accusation makes for a less friendly workplace.
    – Peter M
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 17:29
  • Peter M, I somehow agree with you, but the thief would have the heck of a nerve accusing ME for stealing his stuff when he should know it is mine from the beginning. About the less friendly workplace, I think it's sufficiently unfriendly to steal from colleges in the first place. But this depends on the way things work there. As others have already said, maybe it normal to take cables and similar stuff from others, because it's usually the company's property, and for the good of everybody. The 'thief' may not have known, this exact cable was OP's property. Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 20:17
  • 1
    I didn't necessarily mean that the 'thief' would accuse you, but the optics could look bad if uninvolved people saw you unilaterally taking stuff without knowing it was yours. And yes it does depend on the OPs environment.
    – Peter M
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 22:06
  • A UV marker is fairly useless. I could easily walk around an office with a UV marker and write my name on anything and then say its mine.
    – Keltari
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 16:52

Get a lock box and put your stuff in there. Ask your boss where you can put your lock box in case it grows some legs and starts walking.

Get into the habit of stashing your gear in the lock box while you are not using it - if you leave anything on your desk, it's only a matter of time before you leave it unattended on your desk before you realize what you just did.

And lock the lock box when you are leaving your desk for any reason such as going to the bathroom or going out to lunch. A combo lock that also uses a key might be what you need - I prefer using the key because turning the key counter clockwise is a fast move and it beats remembering the combo, and I can stuff that key into the hole and turn the key without thinking consciously about what I am doing.

Forget about calling for your inner Sherlock Holmes when your supplies grow legs. If you somehow manage to figure out who did it but you can't do anything about the culprit, why bother playing detective?


Are you positive it is your coworkers? Before I started at my current job they had a cleaning company that came in night to vaccum our offices, etc. and people had reported a number of items missing like MP3 players and nice headphones.

I wouldn’t jump immediately and blame the cleaning people (I sound like Lucille Bluth) but it is a possibility. Possibly politely ask if anyone else has had personal items disappear and gauge their reactions and responses.

I’m surprised by this, at my company if you got past the security door almost everyone has a set of high end Bose headphone sitting on their desk and you could walk away with thousands of dollars in personal consumer electronics. It’s generally best not to &@$* where you eat, if they are the thief.

Fishing line and a blue dye pack?

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