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Employee calls cops on workplace food thief after jelly snacks go missing

From the overpowering smell of egg sandwiches, to colleagues leaving dirty dishes in the sink, food can be a contentious issue in the workplace, and for one Pennsylvanian man it all became too much.

An employee at Wakefern Food Corporation in the United States called the police earlier this month to report his jelly snacks had been stolen from the work refrigerator, CBS Philly reported yesterday.

Not the first time the man had been the victim of this misfortune, he became incensed when once again “an unknown person stole his Jell-O brand strawberry Jell-O snack from the break room refrigerator”.

According to CBS Philly, as of yesterday the incident remained under investigation as the Upper Macungie police had been unable to catch the snack thief.

Director of corporate consultancy and etiquette training organisation Lizzie Wagner Group, Lizzie Wagner, told SmartCompany the real issue is the lack of boundaries in the workplace.

“The basic issue is that because of social media, we’re way too open with our thoughts and feelings. The tea room conversations are the most inappropriate, I don’t want to know what you did last night, nor who you had s-x with,” she says.

“There are no clear defined boundaries between colleagues and if you’re really buddy-buddy with X, Y and Z and they take your jellies, it’s probably because they felt it was okay.”

Wagner says people need to be more diligent when practicing etiquette.

“Why do colleagues in Europe great each other with a handshake in the mornings, while we say ‘hey, how’re you going mate’,” she says.

“When it comes to people taking food out of the fridge, it could quite possibly be the person you’ve had those private, intimate conversations with because they feel like there are no boundaries.”

Wagner says other options for why food might disappear from the work fridges include because it’s been sitting in there for too long or because someone simply got hungry and forgot lunch.

“Sometimes food is left in the fridge for so long that it is growing bacteria and then someone throws it out. This happens in my office all the time and when I see it, I take it and throw it away,” she says.

Ways to conquer the workplace food thief include putting up a poster in the kitchen reminding employees where the communal food is located and not to take food from the fridge, or if the situation gets really bad, some workplaces go so far as to set up security cameras in the kitchen.

Wagner says ultimately workplace culture needs to shift so it becomes more professional and less friendly.

“You need to define the boundaries and then things will start to get better. There are work colleagues, friends and then those you’d have private conversations with,” she says.

“It’s also about consideration of others… People have to be more in tune with what they’re sharing out there and clearly define what is professional.”

SmartCompany’s own workplace advice guru Aunty B has also had to answer a number of foodie questions in her time ranging from overflowing fridges to cutting back on the food supplied for free to the employees.

One reader, John D, was also faced with the conundrum of having one employee who was a health nut throw out all the glad wrap in the office, refuse to eat meals with the team and then lecture everyone else in the office.

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Yolanda Redrup

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Yolanda is a SmartCompany reporter who has a knack for covering business misconduct and retail issues. Previously, she was the editor of RMIT's student magazine Catalyst. Follow her on twitter: @YolandaRedrup
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