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Researcher: Workplace theft in Finland more common than people think

Unexplained disappearances of office supplies is a widely-known occurrence at Finnish workplaces, but the researcher found several examples of outright embezzlement.

Näpistäjä laittaa valkoista laatikkoa reppuun.
File photo. Image: Kalle Niskala / Yle

Office supplies like pens, notebooks and copier paper aren't the only items regularly pilfered by employees at Finnish workplaces, according to Annukka Jokipii, a professor at the University of Vaasa's business studies, accounting and finance department.

In her research on the topic, Jokipii collected anonymous responses from about 100 workers, many of whom recounted tales of petty theft and even larceny.

Respondents told the professor the value of items stolen ranged from well below 100 euros to more than 50,000 euros.

The methods deceitful employees used varied quite a bit, she said.

Some employees reported cases of people selling company property as their own, while others said workers had travelled, eaten and partied at the company's expense.

At least one respondent recounted regularly coming to work, clocking in and then disappearing for the day until they clock back out at the end of the shift.

Sometimes workplace theft is carried out by people suffering from gambling or other addictions. However, Jokipii pointed out, it is impossible to clearly define a typical workplace thief.

Equal opportunity for pilfering employees

International research has found that male workers are more often caught for theft than their female counterparts. However, Jokipii said her research found that women were just as likely as men to take loot from work.

"Maybe women are craftier when they steal from employers," the professor joked.

Annukka Jokipii
Annukka Jokipii, a professor at the University of Vaasa's business studies, accounting and finance department. Image: Mårten Lampén / Yle

Jokipii said workplace theft is carried out by employees at all levels. Her study found perpetrators could be in management, shop floor workers or any level in between. The biggest differences between various groups of workers, she said, is the amount and value of what they steal.

In other words people in upper management jobs have a better opportunity to carry out higher-value heists.

Roughly half of the anonymous respondents said that stealing from employers was carried out in groups of three or more employees.

A full two-thirds of the respondents said workplace theft had become habitual, with dozens of repeated thefts over time.

Only a small number of workplace crimes end up being reported to law enforcement officials, Jokipii said, adding that she wonders how it's possible that nothing happens to sticky-fingered employees, despite the fact that thefts are reported.

"In some of the cases guilty people are fired or they switch jobs. But in nearly half of the incidents, there is no consequence to the theft," she said.

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