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Wally Bock

Thanks for that particular case study, Bob. It will be a good thought starter for situations where it looks like those "cooperative social norms" are taking things in the wrong direction.

Garrick Infanger

Great post.
Not only did Latham help devise a method for defusing the theft by means of a library--they went a step further with the amnesty and recovered piles of stolen items.
I think the union element puts an interesting twist on the story, but sad that the management-union dynamic can spill into criminal behavior.


Awesome post, Bob. Thanks for that one -- am going to remember this lesson (hopefully I'll never have to use it).


Stealing (or goofing off) is often more interesting than our jobs.

This reminds me of the story from the early days of HP, when either Hewlett or Packard (I do not remember which) took a pair of bolt cutters and cut the lock on the supply closest, not only so people could get what they needed to work, but also if they needed parts for a side project.

Bret Simmons

This is to me a great example of your point the crappy systems trump crappy people.

When I was young I worked about 10 years in the fast food industry. I know how much food and paper costs impact profits - and small things add up to big costs. To this day, if I go into a fast food restaurant and get bad food or bad service, I always reciprocate by grabbing a BIG handful of napkins or ketchup packets and throwing them away before I leave. If you cheat someone on a good faith transaction, you earn their response. To me this is an issue of equity.

My students love it when I tell them this story :)



I doubt that any of this can be taken seriously. Anytime you hear this tripe, it's always one way. For instance, does anyone count the time employers steal above the 40 hours they pay for under the guise of "management? Nope, didn't think so.

Seriously, start being a little more skeptical on these types of things. American management as a whole is a bunch of ditzes that couldn't manage their way out of a bag of marshmallows. EPIC FAIL!
The layer that's the most useless is management.

Why not do something on "Open Book Management"? Or how about worker-run businesses. Bring "management" into the 21st century.

Michael F. Martin

I meant decreased the uncertainty of course.

Michael F. Martin

Fits very nicely with a version of Robert Ellickson's hypothesis about the formation of cooperative cultural norms: The establishment of a legitimate system for borrowing tools increased the parity of power between, the frequency of contacts with, and the uncertainty about how management will react to the borrowing of tools. Amnesty day simply supercharged the process of transformation.

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