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Anyone Ever Have a Coworker Break Into His / Her Toolbox?

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  • Anyone Ever Have a Coworker Break Into His / Her Toolbox?

    Just curious if anyone has run into this and how they handled it.

    I'm responsible for a facility that develops and builds products for the DoD and DHS. We do a lot of prototype work but didn't have a machine shop. I came to an agreement with the president of our company (and other members of the senior management) that I would setup a machine shop within the facility using my own equipment. In return, I could use the facility to store a few of my project machines and basically get free electricity to run my machines after business hours to do personal projects. We also agreed that the company would cover any damages to the machines and pay for all consumable items (tooling, etc.). I have a Harbor Freight tool chest over there that I keep locked full of my own consumables for personal projects (e.g. endmills, drillbits, taps, lathe cutting tools, welding rod, etc.).

    A coworker, whom I like, was working on a project for work and had previously borrowed one of my personal cutting tools (a slitting saw) to make a slit in an aluminum handle. No biggie - it was a one off and unlikely to have any significant impact on the slitting saw life and work would cover it if he accidentally broke it.

    But the other day, he had to make another one of these parts. I was working from home and - without asking - he tried to pick the lock and managed to gain access my toolbox to retrieve the slitting saw, but apparently destroyed the lock in the process. He called me to tell me he broke the lock and ordered me a replacement. But ... well I'm kind of struggling with this. The issue isn't the lock on a crappy Harbor Freight toolbox or the slitting saw... it's more the sense of disrespect or a feeling of being sort of violated.

    What do you folks say? Am I being too sensitive about my tools? Anyone run into this before and, if so, how'd you handle it? Obviously we'll need to have a conversation but trying to figure out the best way to approach it. Outside of work, I would consider this guy a friend. At work, I'm actually his boss. Feels like a complicated situation to navigate. I'm not really much of a people person in the best of circumstances

  • #2
    1) Set explicit written rules, he and anyone else signs them. Company tools for company work. Your tools and tooling for your use only.
    Define the consequences. Hope there isn't another misunderstanding.
    or
    2) This person destroyed personal property, used your tools without permission. He's done at that company.

    Comment


    • #3
      Well you said he's a good dude, so maybe he just doesn't fully understand your arrangement there? How clear is it that your things in the harbor freight toolbox are different than the rest?

      Comment


      • #4
        That's a tough one. I don't like anyone using my tools- three reasons. One is that the tool may not come back, and the borrower never seems to give a **** about that. Second- if they come back, they are often damaged, and there's never an offer to pay for it. Third- when I need it, it's not there. Not to mention the strain it puts on a relationship.

        You have an agreement with the company where your tools are available for anyone in the shop to use, basically. You locked them up, so it's sort of implied that you don't want them being used when you're not there- but because they are there, it makes it confusing for someone who is there- am I allowed to use these tools or not. You make a statement by locking them up, and yes I would feel used to find that the lock had been broken. I think perhaps you need to reconsider the idea of locking things up- either you don't at all, or you set the boundaries with your friend. If the box is locked, it's not appropriate to break into it. If it's not locked, use what you need- but return it. If you damage it, own up to that. If you broke into his toolbox and used one of his tools, would he be ok with that? I think you need to get this out with him- put him in your place and see how he would feel. He would feel violated, so now he knows how you felt about it. Just get it out, and clarify the boundaries. Go for a beer afterwards.
        I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

        Comment


        • #5
          I say the arrangement you have with the company is untenable. It is bad practice for both parties to agree to build your property into the business practice and then have you hold that property hostage when the business needs it to conduct said business.

          Either your agreement should be rental of space where said space is yours to use exclusively, or you enter into partnership agreement with the business where ownership of your property is transferred to the business for some form of recompense.

          I personally have witnessed a similar thing you described where employees had business tools locked in their toolbox for efficiency purposes. When the need arose for the business to use said tools. The toolbox security is circumvented. Only occasionally was the damage to personal equipment compensated.

          Your case differs slightly in that it is your property. However, unlike a service tradesman who has his own tools on site for his job. Your tools have become part of the business process.

          My suggestion would be to immediately enter into agreement regarding consumables and sell them to the business. Or put up with your toolbox being broken into whenever they deem it necessary. Or give them a key. Hope this helps.

          Best Regards,
          Bob
          Last edited by rjs44032; 07-27-2020, 12:08 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            I might start by politely noting that I keep it locked for a reason (you do, and it's not just to keep this guy out, right?). Hopefully you won't need to mention that it's not really about the lock itself being broken, although it is obviously less than ideal. Then explain the most relevant parts of your arrangement. I wouldn't expect much detail to be necessary, as just bringing it up should likely suffice. Be brief, and then quickly switch to talking about something else. A smile is usually contagious, FWIW...
            For future situations, I would hide a key at the location and insist on being contacted prior to its location being revealed (then move it for the next similar occurrence).
            Last edited by Joel; 07-27-2020, 12:54 AM. Reason: typo
            Location: North Central Texas

            Comment


            • #7
              The way I understand this is the tools in that box are your own personal tools not used for company projects, Right? There are other tools the company uses for business purposes and the tools in that box are there so you don't use company tools for your projects.. IF that is the case I would explain it to everyone and post it on your tool box.... They might not understand your arraignment and you might have to be the bad guy and not use your tools on their projects...

              Comment


              • #8
                There are many innocuous explanations for his actions;

                First, it would be logical to assume that you are locking up "company tools" to protect against appropriation by outsiders like janitors and other departments.

                Innocent example: It's common for people where I worked to lock their desks at night. It was actually a company policy. When teh team lead took vacation all of his project plans were in his desk so I was called upon to pick the lock. I did so in a few seconds and the papers were retrieved.

                I'd give the guy a break and keep the friendship, but I would follow that up by putting a label on the chest declaring that it was personal property for use under your permission / supervision only.

                Dan
                At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and extra parts.

                Location: SF East Bay.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Get a better lock
                  Helder Ferreira
                  Setubal, Portugal

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Kinda complicated situation, he was trying to get his job done and knew where the tools are and had been borrowing them also earlier.

                    But I would be also bit angry at him and I'd explain it to him that those tools are your personal property.
                    I'd be mad if I found the lock broken before someone admitted their doing.
                    Location: Helsinki, Finland, Europe

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                    • #11
                      Borrow it once ok. Borrow it twice you buy your own.

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                      • #12
                        Kinda complicated situation,
                        Balls. There's is no misunderstanding or excuse or complication - he tried to pick the lock! He either was brought up without any sort of boundaries or is one of those unsavories who places his needs so far above anyone else's (even when its anyone else's property) that all that matter is his. These are low EQ people. Even calling you and saying "hey do mind" is a bit rude as it is directly challenging your implicit wish of "keep out of my stuff" - you should not have to be confronted about or defend that....but he didn't even do that. Your stake in it (your tools) just didn't weigh in compared to his need for them.

                        I think you are justified in feeling violated. Not that it makes any difference, but I bet he only called because after breaking the lock he figure out calling was less pain than not. His behaviour is at best quite rude, at worst he's a socially dysfunctional asshat.

                        I'd preface that with assumption there was a clear understanding it was your property, i.e. he can't claim he thought it was the company's so he was justified by the greater for the company etc



                        Last edited by Mcgyver; 07-27-2020, 07:38 AM.
                        in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Fire him, a friend would of called first to ask. He only told you later because there is evidence of what he did with the broken lock. If the lock never broke, would he of told you?
                          At my company, you could tail strike an airplane and cause a million dollars of damage, and keep your job if you don't lie and accept you were at fault and take responsibility. If you lie about anything, or blame others, you're gone.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rjs44032 View Post
                            I say the arrangement you have with the company is untenable. It is bad practice for both parties to agree to build your property into the business practice and then have you hold that property hostage when the business needs it to conduct said business.

                            Either your agreement should be rental of space where said space is yours to use exclusively, or you enter into partnership agreement with the business where ownership of your property is transferred to the business for some form of recompense.

                            I personally have witnessed a similar thing you described where employees had business tools locked in their toolbox for efficiency purposes. When the need arose for the business to use said tools. The toolbox security is circumvented. Only occasionally was the damage to personal equipment compensated.

                            Your case differs slightly in that it is your property. However, unlike a service tradesman who has his own tools on site for his job. Your tools have become part of the business process.

                            My suggestion would be to immediately enter into agreement regarding consumables and sell them to the business. Or put up with your toolbox being broken into whenever they deem it necessary. Or give them a key. Hope this helps.

                            Best Regards,
                            Bob
                            I couldn't agree more. "Free" agreements have consequences. Don't know what you were smoking when you thought up an agreement like that and have no idea what a company that does prototype work for the govt. had in mind when they agreed to it. Use someone else's machines and tools in exchange for you after hours play shop and some tooling ????
                            I'm sure they could afford to buy their own machines since their doing govt. work.

                            Bad decision!

                            I hope that company lets you take your machines home if you should decide to do so after incidents like this continue to happen. They may hold your equipment hostage !

                            My machines and tools stay in my shop and no one uses them.

                            JL..................

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rjs44032 View Post
                              I say the arrangement you have with the company is untenable.
                              yeah, I'd agree with that, not good to intermingle your deals.....lots of baggage if either starts to sour.
                              in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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