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Recently I spotted our office cleaner wearing an unusual pair of Nike shoes. I owned a similar pair that had recently vanished from under my desk. I don’t have any proof he took them (I might have left them on the train), I don’t care about the shoes and I don’t want to get the guy into trouble. But I don’t want him cleaning the office any more in case anything valuable goes missing.
Financial PR, male, 37
LUCY KELLAWAY: THE ANSWER
You have four options, none of them terribly appealing.
1. Confront him and ask him where he got his shoes from. I don’t recommend this: even if he did help himself to your old pair, he will deny it. The conversation will be excruciating for both of you and won’t get you anywhere.
2. Report the incident to your boss (or to his), on the grounds that if you have good reason to suspect him of theft your boss should know. The trouble is that even if you are careful to say that you don’t have any proof, the cleaner will almost certainly be fired without more ado. You will then have that on your conscience, which won’t feel nice.
3. You leave the cleaner alone but take better care of your things. This is superficially reasonable, though I’m still not keen. If you work in the sort of office where people leave things hanging about, that is a perk of the job. A trusting environment is a pleasant one.
4. Do nothing at all. This is the best option, though the problem then becomes what to do with your nasty lurking suspicion. I suggest you simply squash it and let your inner liberal (who doesn’t want to get the guy into trouble) have free rein.
Comfort yourself with the thought that someone who nicks second-hand shoes and wears them under the nose of the person they took them from is not likely to be a big time larcenist who will go for your laptop. Tell yourself that your shoes are now either in the lost property at Baker Street or on the feet of the cleaner, and that the second possibility would be better as it ensures the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
Didn’t it dawn on you that your cleaner might have thought you were throwing the Nikes
away? (The fact that you may have left them on the train shows you
really don’t have a clue.) Leave the poor cleaner alone – the Nikes were probably the bonus of the year for him. From the sound of things, he could have just as easily found them in the bargain
bin at the charity shop.
Travel manager, male, 38
You can’t afford to have someone in the office you don’t trust. As you think he stole your shoes, you have a duty to tell your boss. You never know what he could steal next. How your boss then responds is up to him. It’s not your problem.
Art student, female, 20
The cleaner leapt to the conclusion that you had discarded the Nikes. You’ve leapt to the conclusion that he stole them. Back off. Tell him that things on, around or under your desk are not cast-offs. I doubt anything else will disappear.
CEO, male, ancient
A DOGGIE TREAT?
Years ago a colleague who liked to keep chocolates on his desk decided to take action against the inevitable pilferages. He swapped them for doggie chocolate treats. It was worth it just to discover that a much-disliked manager had been scarfing the treats at night. He even pronounced them delicious. Woof! Woof!
Consultant, female, 37
LOCK UP YOUR THINGS
This one’s easy. Lock up your belongings and remember that your company isn’t responsible for your personal property. Also, I’m sure your colleagues might appreciate it if you didn’t keep a pile of sneakers under your desk. Eew.
Banker, male, 39
Cleaners are always prime suspects for office thefts but in my long
experience it’s nearly all employees, with a tiny remainder down to
traditional burglary. My advice is to presume the Nike-clad cleaner innocent and take personal stuff home, especially minging sportswear.
Manager, male, 45
TALK TO HIM
We dealt with a similar problem by explaining to the cleaner he was in a position of trust and it was his responsibility that none of the things in the areas he cleaned went missing. If yours has half a brain and it was him who took your trainers he will get the message, and should anything else disappear you will have just cause for dismissing him.
Freelance, male, 30s
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