The maid must have stolen it!

An Assistant Manager in a large company had gone to an in-house meeting, inadvertently leaving an expensive wristwatch on his desk. When he came back a few hours later, he realised that the wristwatch was missing. None of the others in the office could recall seeing anybody near his desk during his absence, but almost everybody opined that the watch must have been stolen by one of the ‘Canteen Boys’ or Housekeeping staff. He reported the matter to the Administration Department, which, in turn, reported the matter to Security. Simultaneously, the GM – Administration sent an email about the matter to all employees, requesting them to immediately acknowledge receipt of his email and also to provide any relevant information.

Security summoned all the ‘Canteen Boys’ and Housekeeping staff on duty and questioned them about the missing wristwatch. All of them denied any involvement in or knowledge about the matter. As usual, they were all frisked and their belongings were checked at the gate when they left for the day, but that day the frisking and checking was more methodical than normal. However, the wristwatch was not found.

In the meanwhile, all employees had acknowledged receipt of the GM – Administration’s email, but nobody had provided any information.

The Head of Security informed the GM – Administration that their only hope would be to check that day’s records of the CCTV cameras in that office. He assured the GM – Administration that he would do this immediately and would submit a report by the next morning.

The next morning, the Head of Security reported that the CCTV footage clearly revealed that the wristwatch had been stolen by one of the company’s senior managers! There was absolutely no scope for doubt.

The senior manager had acknowledged receipt of the GM – Administration’s email the previous evening.

The senior manager was summoned to the GM – Administration’s room and asked if he knew anything about the missing wristwatch. He claimed ignorance, but accepted his guilt when shown the CCTV footage. He was asked to submit his resignation, which he did immediately, and was relieved within an hour.

This incident was related to me by a person who was employed in the same company and had been present in the office that day. He was shocked by the senior manager’s guilt. He was more pained by the fact that the ‘Canteen Boys’ and Housekeeping staff were automatically suspected, questioned, frisked and searched.

I share his pain about the way the support staff was treated, but I am not surprised at all. This happens on a regular basis in many households. Whenever any valuable item (or a small amount of cash) goes missing, the domestic help is almost invariably suspected.

Some employers keep their suspicion to themselves, but take extra care to keep all valuable items out of the domestic help’s easy reach.

Some employers politely ask the domestic help if (s)he has seen the missing item.

Some employers quietly ask the domestic help if (s)he has taken the missing item.

Some employers openly accuse the domestic help of having stolen the missing item, a few even threatening to file a police complaint. In most cases where the domestic help has been openly accused by the employer, the services of the domestic help are terminated or the domestic help quits the job.

In most of the cases, the missing item is found after a few days. When this happens, are suitable amends made to the domestic help who was suspected or accused of stealing it?

Why do we assume that economically weaker people are less honest than others?

According to me, except in very rare situations, there is no connection between a person’s honesty and his/her economic condition. What do you think?

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14 thoughts on “The maid must have stolen it!

  1. This is just a classic case of the economic divide coloring the lenses through which one views the world around himself or herself. It is assumed that the only way that the poorer sections of the society can be happier is if they obtain the so called ‘rich things’ by any means necessary and therefore, they are the first suspects in any theft or missing items. This is such a narrow minded assumption.

    I personally believe that there truly is no connection between a person’s honesty and his economic status at all, it is more of an individual’s integrity, that’s all.

  2. A clear cut case of the so-called ‘haves’ being a shade worse than the ‘have nots’ who are unnecessarily reprimanded and mistreated just because they are vulnerable. This senior manager must be blacklisted and denied a good conduct refererral to prevent its recurrance.

    • I think we should not generalise about the ‘haves’ being better or worse than the ‘have nots’.
      Unfortunately, people generally believe that the ‘have nots’ are naturally prone to dishonesty.

      About ‘blacklisting’, I’m not sure it would be fair to spoil a person’s future prospects because of one incident. Here again, we should be as humane with the ‘have nots’ as we are with the ‘haves’.

  3. This tendency to assume makes my blood boil. And it is the people who carelessly leave their stuff around who are quick to accuse, as if maids and similar staff are born thieves.
    What I find interesting is, these people seldom covet. Even if they covet, they invariably accept it is out of their reach. It is a very rare situation when they actually steal. And…these people are generous usually – they never hesitate to buy a couple of lengths of flowers for their hair or go out and have a good meal when they have the cash, unlike the so-called economically better off people who will bargain with the flower lady and vegetable vendors to get a rupee off till kingdom come.

    Thumbs up to this post. (too early to say cheers no?)

    • I’m sure each of us can write a thesis on “economically better off people who will bargain with the flower lady and vegetable vendors to get a rupee off till kingdom come”!
      Thumbs up to your comment as well!

  4. Poverty & economic conditions do not necessarily make one a thief. You see we have maids working at my place since before I was born & although they are not even in the “middle income” group, they are still financially ok as they live as a joint family. The point I want to make is we have money & jewelry left all over the house & bathrooms & not a single paisa or any jewelry has ever been missing in all these years. Instead we get a firing from them for being so careless. Oft times we have left the house in their hands for days together & they have been the most trusted care takers. So once again I say in almost all cases it’s not poverty that leads one into robbing but greed along with bad upbringing & a weak conscience that leads to such things.

  5. We have had domestic helps (part-time as well as full-time) since past 8 years. And I must say except one girl who was using my face cream and shampoo without informing me, no one else has ever done anything that can make us suspect. Even this girl stopped it right when I got her a cream and a shampoo for her use. I feel it is the way people are treated that makes them what they are. Of course, with maids, one has to keep valuable items out of their sight, not because they might steal, but why give a reason to them as well to us to get into any such situation.

    Also, as you mentioned, a person’s economic condition does not make him honest/dishonest. I am aware of a similar situation in a friend’s organization where an iPhone of a person was stolen and the support staff was frisked. But the iPhone was later found with another colleague of theirs. It’s a different issue that the person being higher in the grid and since he had protective shield of senior management, he was not fired.

    • I agree that a person’s behaviour is shaped significantly, but not only, by how we treat them.

      I believe we must not keep valuables or cash lying around for 2 reasons:
      a. Why give temptation to anybody? I mean anybody, not just the help.
      b. If the valuables or cash are found missing, there would be unnecessary unpleasantness with people suspecting one another. (Of course, maximum suspicion would unjustifiably be on the help.)

  6. Oh yes, it is always the poor who are suspected but the fact is that sometimes the family members (at homes) and employees at office commit the crime. I truly believe in ‘Lead them not into temptation’… and safety is in your own hands!!

  7. It happened in my place of work also . The only difference being the person involved was not asked to resign . I hate such scenarios where the educated and so called elite are automatically thought to be honest . A lovely, honest post btw 🙂

  8. I think we are wired that way. We always get suspicious of the poor because they are the ones in need. It is after a few shocks that we start realizing that sometimes stealing has nothing to do with poverty.

  9. I’ve had the privilege of having very poor people working in my home in Bangladesh and they quickly became friends and then family. I find them to be honourable and completely honest. There has never been any doubt in my mind about trusting them.

  10. Our notions, drilled into us that wealth means honesty, or the reverse, more so, is at fault. And the fact that we’d rather be narrowed by our set of beliefs, than be open to possibilities. Most especially about the integrity of the lot we term as underprivileged, or lesser in some way than us.

    They’re actually way richer. Period.

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