Sunday, October 28, 2007


An office manager noticed that executives in her firm pilfered office supplies every fall, when their kids were starting back to school. No harm, no foul, she figured, so she felt entitled to take an occasional package of Sharpies, bottle of ibuprofen or pair of scissors for her own home use.

My readers disagreed, shouting down the idea that the office manager was in the clear simply because the executives also stole.

Stealing office supplies has become so commonplace at some companies that they've changed the way they order them. Mike Padore of Irvine, Calif., used to work for a company that, shortly before Christmas each year, would experience a run on flashlight batteries. It became such a tradition, he writes, that they began tripling the battery order two weeks before Christmas.

Joe Read of Anaheim, Calif., believes that office supplies should be for office use only.
Taking them home, he writes, "regardless of the person's station or executive level," is "an obvious transgression."

"There is no right way to do a wrong thing," agrees Neal White of Atlanta, Ga., who also believes that the office manager should tell the boss that the pilfering is going on.

Check out other opinions at SOUND OFF: SUPPLIES AND DEMAND, or post your own by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2007 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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