I'm Stealing From My Employer

Last Updated Apr 26, 2010 8:00 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady, The IT people in my company are seriously underpaid. If we ever complain about, management says they could always outsource our jobs to India, so we better stop whining. So, a year or so ago a co-worker and I had a great idea: we got permission to buy the old computers that were going to be discarded and then we fix them up and sell them on Ebay. A few months ago, I took it a step further. When I'm asked to fix someone's computer, I'll declare it unfixable instead. The person's department orders a new computer and I buy the old, "broken" one from the company for $50-$100, fix the minor problem and sell it for huge profit. I'm afraid I'm going to get busted. What's going to happen to me if my boss finds out? You mean, what's going to happen besides having your behind kicked out of the company, a big black mark on your record that means you're ineligible for rehire, a bad reference, no unemployment and possible prosecution? Oh, the people you were friends with in your department won't speak to you again, especially the ones that are doing the legitimate computer refurbishing.

Thanks for asking! Next question, please!

You might want to know what you can do to get yourself out of this situation. First, stop blaming your employer for underpaying you. If you were worth more money you could find another job that paid more.

Second, stop stealing. Yes, by exaggerating the problems with the computers, what you are doing is stealing from your company. As I said previously, they could choose to press charges on this and you could end up in jail. The smaller the amount of money we're talking about here, the less likely this is, but don't count on it not happening.

Third, it's time to confess and offer restitution. Your boss does not want to deal with the hassle of figuring out that you're doing this, documenting the problem, getting approval from his managers and HR to fire you, and finally firing you. Honestly, bosses hate this type of thing. By going to your boss and confessing, admitting you were wrong, and offering to pay what you owe, you may be able to resign, secure a positive reference and put this behind you. There's a small possibility that your boss would even be willing to keep you on board.

Fourth, accept that even if you do these things, the company has every right to fire and prosecute you. But, by admitting your thievery, you lower these chances. If they figure it out on their own, I can almost guarantee an extremely unpleasant outcome for you. Because of this, you probably want to get your resume together and start looking for a new job. But, understand that even if you get a new job, you may not escape this.

The business world seems really big, but it's not. You will run into people who know you and people who know people you know everywhere you go. With a story of being fired for stealing attached to your name, your new employer could terminate you for this, even though their company wasn't directly affected.

The sooner you stop and confess, the smaller the impact on your career, and the less likely it is to ruin you.

Photo by Graham G-man Simpson, Flickr cc 2.0

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