With the right people, a professional business environment is a great place to work. The company grows, paychecks are cashed, and all that hard work pays off.  During the process of amassing a small fortune, there is something often overlooked that may be costing people more than they think…Coworkers.

You may be surprised to discover that your fellow employees are robbing you blind. Let’s dive in and take a look at how this could be happening to you.   


The Caregiver

Do you find yourself pitching in twenty dollars for the office lunch order, picking up extra coffees on the way to work, taking on extra shifts or projects, or offering someone a ride home? While all of these things are great gestures of kindness, having some limits is a wise choice.

Take the fellow employee who needs a ride. Their sole source of commuting is no longer available, so you decided to help with transportation to and from work. It provides relief to them, gives you a sense of pride knowing you are helping and is also good for company productivity to have all employees at work. It’s a win-win situation for all… or is it?

Fast forward three weeks and your temporary duties have now turned into an Uber service. While it usually isn’t the objective of a person to take advantage of kindness, it’s easier to take the ride then push hard and fix whatever problem needs to be fixed. Establishing limits early on in the arrangement will create motivation for them to fix their situation quickly.  

The same is true for office food and snacks. While most people will pay their own way in a given situation, always being the person to provide the extra will create a level of dependency that is hard to get out from underneath after a while.

It’s not the gesture; it’s the frequency and the expectation of your generosity that will drain your pockets.


Who Took my Red Stapler?

Depending on your current employer, you might have everything you need at your fingertips, or you might be renting out the office pen by the hour. While those may be extreme examples, the majority of us are somewhere in the middle.

For example, a repair shop typically requires mechanics to keep an inventory of very expensive personal tools on hand. The shop will then supply gloves, cleaners, disposable items, and large machinery. Anything that management deemed not necessary is to be purchased by the employee. 

The problem here is in the overlap. If a mechanic has to buy their gloves and someone is constantly “borrowing” them, it’s money out of their pocket. The same thing is true with any other consumables like Post-it notes, paper, or your coveted red Swingline stapler that keeps going missing. You purchased these items to make your life easier, not enable lazy people. In the end, people’s lack of preparation just winds up coming out of your pocket.


The Office Celebrations

Doesn’t it always seem like it’s someone’s birthday, graduation, new job, or promotion party? Office get-togethers can be a great way to unite a workforce. But, sometimes you are asked to provide presents or money for someone’s going away party, only to realize they work three floors down and you have never had one meaningful interaction with them besides that morning you both had on the same fabulous designer jacket.

If your company has a large staff, these kinds of situations can really put a hurt on your wallet. Since your interactions were limited, you might want to keep your contributions to sentiments. Save the good stuff for the people who make an impact on you.


Penny-Pinching While Being a People-Person

A lot of how your coworkers can cost you money is centered around how much of your time and money you give away. But there are other ways people you work with can take money out of your wallet. They can underbid your contracts, waste your time, steal customers when you are working on commission, sabotage your promotion, or flat out take things from you. These issues are beyond the norm and management should assist with these situations.

Focusing on your financial interactions with coworkers is a good strategy to keep your hard-earned money where it belongs.  Limiting your generosity to make it special, keeping a watchful eye on personal consumables and knowing when to offer gifts will be a big relief to your bank account.

Just because you are not showering everyone with money and free coffee, doesn’t mean that you don’t care. Instead of unceremoniously chucking a gift card into the collection basket while scribbling “Good luck with the new job” on the card, try ditching the present and writing a personal message. It will leave them with a lasting impression of you. Because, these days, being thoughtful with your words is more valuable than a simple $5 Subway sandwich card.



Article updated from original January 23, 2019