Author Topic: Office supplies abuse and the boss  (Read 6209 times)

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watson

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Office supplies abuse and the boss
« on: February 19, 2014, 02:04:49 AM »
Heard this story from at a lunch meeting. I am wondering what office supply polices do your places of work have?

After looking at the company's books, the CEO notices that in the last couple of years, the cost for office supplies have gone up, it does not make
any sense because they have actually laid people off so the cost of office supplies should have gone down. The CEO orders an audit and inventory of all the office supplies and the CEO freaks out because a lot of the supplies that were ordered are not accounted for. It turns out the office manager would order office supplies for the supply room and employees would walk in and take what they wanted. If they were out of something, they would tell the office manager to order it. So basically there was a record of office supplies being ordered but there was no record of who was taking what. The CEO really gets really angry after hearing rumors of people taking paper and toner home.

CEO fires the office manager and hires a new one. A lock is put on the supply door and is only accessible by the office manager. A new policy is in place where employees have to requisition office supplies. The office manager logs all requests and if there is anything out of the ordinary, it is sent up the ladder to the CEO who questions the employee on why they need it. The office manager is very efficient and if the request is reasonable like a box of pens or post it notes, the employee can find it on their desk within a half hour or less. What ends up happening is that office supplies cost drop by a huge percentage.

The CEO leaves for another job and another CEO comes in. When the new CEO hears about what the previous CEO did with the office supplies, the new CEO tells the office manager to get rid of the entire system and leave the office supply door open for all employees. The new CEO says that it is a waste of time for the employees and says it is not necessary. The office manager is told to make sure the supply room is properly stocked and order whatever the employees wanted.

The office manager knows what happened to the previous office manager when employees had full access to the supply closet without anyone to watch over them. An eventually an audit is going to take place and the office manger will be blamed. A month later, office manger leaves the company for another job.

I have worked for companies where office supplies are a free for all or you have to basically fill out an application to get paper clips. I guess it depends on the company because the place where office supplies were a free for all there was no abuse. People took what they needed and that was it.

What I find interesting about this story is how the new boss reacted to the office supply policies. There are some bosses who do stuff like this in order to mark their territory. They get rid of anything the previous boss has done, even if the policies worked. It is a passive aggressive way of telling everyone in the company they are in control. It is pretty stupid of them to do that because only after problems pop up they realize they should have kept the old policies and they look even more dumb in front of their employees.

It seems that the only way to deal with this type of situation is to either look for another job or do CYA and prepare for the worst.
Does anyone have any other suggestions?
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 02:29:44 AM by watson »

lady_disdain

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2014, 06:31:44 AM »
If controlling office supplies is taking up so much of the office manager's time that more important things (which could have more significant bottom line impact) are not getting done, then he was absolutely right in getting rid of the system. Often, people have pet peeves and they spend a disproportional amount of time on them, which is not efficient.

Personally, I would not quit a good job over that. I would leave the supplies closet open but I would not order supplies as blindly as the previous manager. It is that person's job to notice that they are ordering the tenth toner cartridge this month and check why, instead of letting it grow out of control.

SingActDance

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2014, 10:01:13 AM »
I agree it seems silly for employees to jump through hoops just to get supplies. As PP said, an office manager should be able to get an idea of how often they order X, Y, or Z without having to have every push pin accounted for.

During the original CEO's audit, did he account for any large projects that had recently taken place, or for a possible price increase from the suppliers? Most business costs are not static, and will fluctuate from time to time (we went through a lot of paper this month because that cruddy printer kept jamming, etc).
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wolfie

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2014, 10:34:23 AM »
The CEO kept track of office supplies??? He had nothing better to do with his time? I wonder how many good people left because of those draconian policies.

lowspark

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2014, 10:35:57 AM »
If I worked in a place where the office manager got fired as a way to place blame for the employees pilfering office supplies and where you had to submit a requisition for a pen or a pad of paper, I'd be the one looking for another job.

If there is really a problem with people stealing supplies, then the solution is to find out who is doing it and address them directly, not to fire someone who is presumably innocent and then punish everyone else by making them jump through hoops to refill their stapler.

cicero

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2014, 10:42:52 AM »
The CEO kept track of office supplies??? He had nothing better to do with his time? I wonder how many good people left because of those draconian policies.

I worked at a place once where the CEO sent out a company-wide memo that there wil be no more ordering of pens until the next year. pens! i'm talking about the el cheapo pens. this company wasted thousands of $$ each month on food, transportation, etc (wasted as in "oops i [again] forgot to cancel lunches or transportation because shifts were changed"). but pens, now there is an important place to save money. Story was that the CEO needed to cut down and was going through bills and pounced on a bill for pens - "what? we spend XX$ a year on pens? that's crazy!" - and decreed no more pens.

If people are stealing - then they should be fired. If people are using office supplies legitimately, then the office manager should order what's needed and the CEO should stop wasting everyone's time.

I am the office manager at my job- i order what's needed, but i don't order frivolous things and we don't waste money. If a colleague says they need a pair of scissors or a pen, they get what they need. if they want a new chair, or a fridge or some other big ticket item - that goes through the big boss.

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lowspark

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2014, 10:50:29 AM »
The CEO kept track of office supplies??? He had nothing better to do with his time? I wonder how many good people left because of those draconian policies.

I worked at a place once where the CEO sent out a company-wide memo that there wil be no more ordering of pens until the next year. pens! i'm talking about the el cheapo pens. this company wasted thousands of $$ each month on food, transportation, etc (wasted as in "oops i [again] forgot to cancel lunches or transportation because shifts were changed"). but pens, now there is an important place to save money. Story was that the CEO needed to cut down and was going through bills and pounced on a bill for pens - "what? we spend XX$ a year on pens? that's crazy!" - and decreed no more pens.

If people are stealing - then they should be fired. If people are using office supplies legitimately, then the office manager should order what's needed and the CEO should stop wasting everyone's time.

I am the office manager at my job- i order what's needed, but i don't order frivolous things and we don't waste money. If a colleague says they need a pair of scissors or a pen, they get what they need. if they want a new chair, or a fridge or some other big ticket item - that goes through the big boss.

That story of canceling the pens reminded me of the (very old!) Lighter Side of... comic strip from Mad Magazine. Incredibly, I was able to find it with about three mouse clicks!!

http://media.dcentertainment.com/sites/default/files/MAD-Magazine-Lighter-Side-The-Boss.jpg

TootsNYC

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2014, 10:59:56 AM »
If controlling office supplies is taking up so much of the office manager's time that more important things (which could have more significant bottom line impact) are not getting done, then he was absolutely right in getting rid of the system. Often, people have pet peeves and they spend a disproportional amount of time on them, which is not efficient.

Personally, I would not quit a good job over that. I would leave the supplies closet open but I would not order supplies as blindly as the previous manager. It is that person's job to notice that they are ordering the tenth toner cartridge this month and check why, instead of letting it grow out of control.

I agree with this.

The office-supplies manager is now responsible for keeping it down to a dull roar (and has the metrics to do so), but should also know that it's just not as important as it used to be.

Dindrane

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2014, 11:11:20 AM »
If I worked in a place where the office manager got fired as a way to place blame for the employees pilfering office supplies and where you had to submit a requisition for a pen or a pad of paper, I'd be the one looking for another job.

If there is really a problem with people stealing supplies, then the solution is to find out who is doing it and address them directly, not to fire someone who is presumably innocent and then punish everyone else by making them jump through hoops to refill their stapler.

I agree. It's very possible that the first office manager had some responsibility (maybe even a lot of responsibility) for not managing the ordering of supplies effectively, but that doesn't strike me as the type of thing that would be a firing offense unless the office manager was the one taking toner and paper home. At most, that would be the kind of thing that would merit some performance management and a discussion of new policies. If the office manager proved unable or unwilling to implement the new policies, that is the time to think about terminating.

There are a lot of different ways that supply ordering can take place, and it is important to keep it reasonable and as abuse-free as possible. But assigning a scapegoat and then instituting draconian policies is not a great way to handle it. The people abusing the open-cabinet policy from before essentially got away without so much as a slap on the wrist, and then everybody has to deal with an extra few steps for every supply they need.

I manage the monthly supply orders for my work group (in that I tell the people who do the actual ordering what we need and am responsible for making sure we maintain the supplies we use at a sufficient level). Since things like pens and paperclips and post-it notes are freely available in the department supply room, I only have to worry about stuff that is unique to our work group. That alone is a pain to manage. I can't imagine how frustrating it would be to have to do that for paperclips. In that situation, I'd probably just start buying at least some of my own supplies just to avoid the hassle, which might have been part of the reason why the company's supply costs in the OP went down so much.


alkira6

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2014, 11:41:19 AM »
Office supplies are a weird thing. How we get things changes from year to year and school to school.  This year the supply money was divided - I got $100 to spend on supplies for my room and the other half of my stipend was taken and used in conjunction with other teachers money to pay for a massive load of paper.  We get two cases - one on fall and one in spring.  This is a waste for me as I have only used 3 packs of paper this year and currently have 6 full cases in my closet at home as well as the two full cases in a storage closet at work.  The actual purchasing I can do with the $100 is limited to an office depot catalog and Knowledge Tree, both of which are horrendously overpriced.

Example: I needed 125 70 page spiral notebooks for my kids.  Ordering that many from office depot cost $150. Buying them myself from walmart cost me $21. The prices for approved vendors are ridiculous and teachers cannot get what they actually need without spending out of pocket.  Some years the school takes the entire supply budget for the teachers and we get nothing but copy paper.

VorFemme

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2014, 12:14:54 PM »
I remember a military base thirty miles or more from the nearest city and fifteen miles from the county seat (slightly larger town). 

New base commander wanted to streamline costs - so he CLOSED certain programs.

The hobby center (rented care repair bays, tools, sold parts at cost, and had the manuals & employees available to help low ranking & low paid military members fix their cars, hobby equipment to rent, lessons on how to do it for things like woodworking, china painting (had the kilns), framing pictures, making trophies & name tags (for the military, civilian organizations, and whatever else people wanted reasonably priced frames for), and the like.  I remember a large floor loom being carried off in someone's pickup one day....and I'd never known that they had a LOOM!

He wanted to close the library on the "campus", too, because the closest town and the county seat had libraries....his advisors point out that BOTH those libraries were smaller than the one that the general "owned" on base AND that they were in constant use by people taking college classes or other training through the education office (I don't know if he tried targeting it in his "new broom sweeps clean" campaign or not).

We were leaving - but I did run into a few people who had had their morale trashed because so much was being closed as "unnecessary" when it was a hour or more round trip to get to the closest substitute, not all of which were as good as the one that the General wanted to close.

Now - the shooting range, uniform supply store, and various training equipment was needed - he wasn't sure about movie theaters, either, apparently.  I'm not sure about the other shopping on base...not all the younger members had cars and it was a LONG walk to even the closest shopping off the base.
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Arila

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2014, 01:18:48 PM »
I guess in that *specific* situation, I would have taken a hybrid approach. Leave the individual-use items like pens, post-its, etc open for all, but keep the higher price, office general-use items like toner, projectors, spare lap top locked up. This reduces the sign-out process significantly (or the office manager can just replace the toner cartridges themself -- ie: employee says "toner's out" and they change it, rather than just handing out toner like candy, not that they buy it themselves)

That's sort of how it works here at our work. We are big enough that we just have a contract with xerox, they do all the machine maintenance, including refilling the toner when it's out. For pens/notebooks etc, each department has a closet with stuff and I could go in there and take what I want.

Onyx_TKD

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2014, 01:34:41 PM »
I agree it seems silly for employees to jump through hoops just to get supplies. As PP said, an office manager should be able to get an idea of how often they order X, Y, or Z without having to have every push pin accounted for.

During the original CEO's audit, did he account for any large projects that had recently taken place, or for a possible price increase from the suppliers? Most business costs are not static, and will fluctuate from time to time (we went through a lot of paper this month because that cruddy printer kept jamming, etc).

FWIW, I used to work at a place that strictly controlled the supply room, and I never felt like I had to "jump through hoops" to get supplies. I worked at a design department off of a factory. When you needed office supplies, you'd go to the supply room on the factory floor, tell the attendant what you needed and show them your badge, and they'd give you the supplies and note down what you'd received. The only inconvenience for me was that the supplies were kept in the factory rather than closer to my department. I never had any problem getting the supplies I needed immediately. I assume if an employee made excessive supply requests, someone would notice and talk to them, but I never heard of that happening. Of course, the caveat was that the factory had to have at least one attendant constantly manning the supply room--it sounds like the office in the OP had more delay for getting supplies because it was handled by the office manager.

Lynn2000

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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2014, 01:58:37 PM »
I think there's no one-size-fits-all approach. In this case, it does seem like the people who were stealing the supplies (if anyone was) got away with it, and then everyone got punished by having to do more work to get their supplies (not to mention the office manager who was fired). That's not good for morale. Also, when a system changes, I think employees who live through the change have a hard time not comparing it to the way it was before--someone who came in after the change might not have found it to be a big deal, but when you used to be able to walk into a room and grab a box of pens, and now you have to fill out a form and wait a day for the pens to arrive (and hope they are the right thing or deal with sending it back, etc.), that could seem like a huge inconvenience.

Where I work, we're going through a long, slow transition that's frustrating because it's not really transparent or consistent. Previously, we ordered all the supplies we needed directly from our office (I did a lot of it myself), using the grants my boss had brought in for our research. Over the last couple years, we've started getting pushback from the Admin Office, who has to approve each purchase--they are getting pressure from up above, who are getting pressure from external auditors, who say that we shouldn't be putting certain things on our grants, the Admin Office should be paying for them. Especially "office supplies" like pens and paper (as opposed to chemicals).

So we'll try to order something, and the Admin Office will reject it (sometimes without telling us!), and they'll say they have the same thing on hand that they can give us. Only usually it's not the same thing--it's "printer paper" but it's not the kind of printer paper my boss prefers. Also, the Admin Office is in a different building, so if they order something for us special, sometimes they accidentally have it delivered to them instead of us, and then someone from our group has to go over and get it--which could involve a couple of people and a cart if we're talking a big box of paper. You just always feel like someone is looking over your shoulder and judging you more. And while there are reasons for that (bad apples who spoiled it for others), and it's certainly a good idea to have some oversight, sometimes it kind of makes you feel like you're being greedy or a criminal when you ordered that stuff for years and no one cared.
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Re: Office supplies abuse and the boss
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2014, 02:23:29 PM »
Back in the old days, my company had a supply room where you could fill a form for supplies and they would pick them and give them to you.

But then "just in time" inventory became the rage and you could order from a catalog through a special program.

But most secretaries had a drawer of the most basic supplies (pens and what not).

Now we just fly in like vultures and pick over the offices of people who leave.  I get free pens from banks and hotels. I buy notebooks at the grocery store.

My DH once had something like this at his office:


Office Supply Vending machine.