The HR Professor

The HR Professor

Teaching You How to Navigate the Workplace

The Dreaded Lunch Thief

You went to dinner at your favorite restaurant and were dreaming all morning about the leftovers that you brought to work. Or, you spent all day Sunday cooking and preparing your lunches for the week. However, when you go to the office refrigerator to enjoy your meal, you realize it is gone. There is a lunch bandit on the loose!

This happens at every company, and at every company, the complaints come to HR to handle with the expectation of us catching the thief somehow. Are we expected to move our offices to the kitchen for stake-outs? Since that option is not likely to happen, here are some ways to avoid becoming a victim of a lunch bandit:

  1. Use unique containers with your name clearly marked on the meal.
  2. Don’t bring “community” type items like condiments, coffee creamer, or similar because people will assume these items are supplied by the company and that they are fair game.
  3. If you live close enough, go home for lunch.
  4. Keep your beverages and lunch at your desk if they don’t need to be refrigerated.
  5. Pay attention to what your co-workers are eating, and you may catch the thief in the act.
  6. Clean out the refrigerator daily to avoid the thinking that older food is up for grabs.

One tactic I have used in the past is simply placing a sign on all refrigerators stating the following: “Taking other people’s lunches is considered theft and grounds for discipline, up to and including termination.” That alone has usually solved the problem. Another approach would be to install a clearly marked camera facing all the refrigerators. That is another good deterrent. Supervisors should also bring up the topic at staff meetings and share the zero tolerance policy with their teams as a reminder.

If you have forgotten your lunch or are short on cash, ask a co-worker to share or to purchase you a snack out of the vending machine. I’m sure they would be happy to help and it would cause a lot less office drama.

Has your lunch ever been stolen at work?

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About Brenda Maday
Portland, OR