We have this situation at work, that has been puzzling me. It's basically a petty theft habit from one of our members - not something hugely important honestly, but I've been wondering if there is some way to approach this situation that will have a positive and productive impact. So I'll write it out here, partly to organise my own thoughts on the situation, partly hoping for some good advice and insight :)
To paint the picture, we had suspected this member of taking little things like toilet paper and not paying for drinks from the fridge for a little while. They also are one of our most frequent user, spending about 5 days a week in the woodshop working on their business. They do a lot in integrating new members, keeping the space clean and other small and useful tasks. This member also has a tendency of feeling victimized when confronted with certain facts, and twisting reality to selfishly suit their personal needs. Like bringing up certain issues as community issues, while it's their personal gripe with someone.
After our first post-Covid fundraiser garden party this week (that went great and was lots of fun!) - my boss had a suspicion and decided to check the newly installed security cameras. It's late at night, around 3am and everyone but 3 people are left drinking in the yard. And we see this member go inside to pee, and then take a beer from the fridge without paying. Then fumble around with the bag of potatoes to take a couple. And put their hand in the change jar at the entrance while going back out the door.
This potato-thievery is really not a big deal, but now that we have video proof we also can't really ignore it and let it slide. The footage is low resolution, and can probably still be denied with claims like "i had put money in the change jar before, i was taking back some change!" or other similar claims. The member was clearly drunk and acting out of habit.
It's funny because we were recently remembering a guy that got kicked out of a friend group he's been part of for about 5 years, doing weekly jam sessions. For being caught stealing like 20$ at a party from someone's coat. Imagine losing a whole friend group and community for 20$? Everyone liked that guy before, now he's banned forever. Clearly, the people doing this are not thinking of it in these terms. It's probably more akin to some kind of entitlement - thinking whatever they take is somehow "due" to them. Or that they really "need" it.
So the next step will be confronting the member. Accusing them will not go well, and I believe it's not below them to deny all accusations and go on a retaliation campaign and paint themselves as a falsely accused victim. It doesn't help that they have a confrontational past with my boss, partly due to their different communication styles, party due to my boss being a straight cis male and them being a lesbian. My involvement in the discussion might smooth the gender-bias aspect of it a bit, but that's not enough to make it go a positive direction. My ideal outcome would simply be for them to acknowledge fault and vow to not do it again. And we can rebuild trust from there. This is clearly a more deeply seated issue that is above out paygrade as simple administrators of a workspace. It's also something we can't tolerate since a lot of how the space works is built on trust - and building a solid culture is one of our key goals right now. Repercussions and sanctions seem too harsh for potato theft, and exposing their actions to the wider community is not something I want to do it it can be avoided.
I'd like to come at it from a place of empathy - but it's impossible not to feel attacked when you are literally being accused. We need to be firm and clear that what happened is real and unacceptable. While also giving them enough space to feel heard and encouraged to change instead of cornered and victimized.
I'm not very worried, since even if it goes badly the wider repercussions are not dramatic. But it feels like good practice for difficult conversations and dealing with people issues.