Career Woman

You’ve got this: How to deal with a lunch thief


Dr Froswa’ Booker-Drew answers your questions, putting her years of experience and practice into the goal of solving those knotty problems that beset us, and assuring us: ‘you’ve got this’. If you’d like Froswa’ to look at your particular problem, email it to [email protected].


Lunches and other food are vanishing out of our communal fridge and kitchen on a regular basis. I know it sounds like a small thing, but it is making everybody very angry when they go to get the lunch they’ve brought in from home and it is gone.  Selena


Reading your comment to my 71-year-old mother brought back memories.  My mom suggested using Ex-Lax to stop the culprit.  Please don’t listen to her.  She typically offers great advice but let that one go.  Anyway, that took me back to a dear friend from high school that decided to make brownies for some inappropriate young men.  Those brownies had Ex-Lax in them and provided a very thorough colon cleansing for the young men.  As funny as it sounds (it wasn’t funny to them) and very convincing as an answer for you, this isn’t the approach you’d want to take to catch a thief.

A person who steals lunches is selfish.  They do not take into consideration that others have spent time and money on their food.  Their only concern is making sure they are fulfilled without regard to the feelings of the person or the situation they have placed them in.  It is an inconvenience to the individual and for all practical purposes, is theft. It would be interesting to find out the costs from each person that has had a lunch stolen to find out the total loss that has happened.  If your office has a security company, it might be worth having a conversation with them to assist in catching the culprit especially if the losses have been significant financially.  In many states/countries, recording someone without their permission isn’t legal so check your laws before proceeding with hidden cameras to identify the guilty party. Honestly, leave the spy work up to the security company in your building, if possible.

Some folks have gone too far in catching the culprit and I wouldn’t suggest many of these ideas. Is the answer labeling food with markers and stickers that make it very visible that the food does have a rightful owner?  Is it writing on cans in big letters? What about lockable lunch boxesHere are some realistic products along with others that are a bit over the top but could solve the issue.

I think it is worthwhile to call a group meeting with the entire staff to discuss the issue and as a team, come up with solutions to solve for this. I also think it might be time to involve your HR/Personnel Department in this matter.  If there isn’t a policy in place to address this, one needs to be created and soon with repercussions and enforcement.

I’m so sorry you are going through this.  It’s unfair that you have someone in the office that can’t be trusted. This is really about ethics and it’s hard to be in an environment with someone who is willing to steal from their co-workers.  Between the links I’ve shared, a staff pow-wow on the calendar scheduled soon, and even a conversation with security and/or HR, I think you can find a solution that works for you that doesn’t include Ex-Lax or some crazy stunt to stop this foolishness.  You. Got. This, Selena.

About Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew

Dr. Froswa' Booker-Drew is a Partnership Broker. Relational Leadership Junkie. Connector. Author/Speaker/Trainer. Co-Founder, HERitage Giving Circle. She been quoted and profiled in Forbes, Ozy, Bustle, Huffington Post and other media outlets around the world. In addition, she has been asked to speak on a variety of topics such as social capital and networking, leadership, diversity, and community development to national and international audiences. This included serving as a workshop presenter at the United Nations in 2013 on the Access to Power. One of the most impactful life events for her was being a part of the documentary, Friendly Captivity, a film that followed a cast of 7 women from Dallas to India. Honors for her work include: Semi-finalist for the SMU TEDx in 2012, 2012 Outstanding African American Alumni Award from the University of Texas at Arlington, 2009 Woman of the Year Award by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and Diversity Ambassador for the American Red Cross. Graduating with a PhD from Antioch University in Leadership and Change, she also attended the Jean Baker Miller Institute at Wellesley for training in Relational Cultural Theory and completed facilitator training on Immunity to Change. She has also completed training through UNICEF on Equity Based Evaluations, and is the author of 2 workbooks for women, Ready for a Revolution: 30 Days to Jolt Your Life and Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last as well as a writer for several publications around the globe.

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