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Worst Office Sins in the American Workplace [2021 Study]

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office sins

We’ve all committed some minor sins at work—

A missing ballpoint pen never killed anyone, right?

Sure, you’ve taken the occasional set of staples (or two), but just how far have your fellow co-workers gone in committing sinful acts in the workplace?

We went to the source—1,000+ Americans were surveyed to figure out what the most common office sins they’ve seen or committed in the workplace.

Here’s what we found. 

The 7 Deadly Workplace Sins

Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, a heart that devises wicked schemes—you get the picture.

Biblical imagery aside, most Americans do commit some sinful acts in the workplace. Most aren’t so egregious, but you’ll think twice about leaving your belongings out after reading our results. Let’s break down some key results based on these 7 deadly sins.

office sins


When desires strike, people meet them—even if it’s in the workplace.

When asked if respondents ever had sex at the office, 15% of people confessed to doing it at least once. Men (18%) are more likely to have had sex in the office than women (13%), and Gen X confessed to it more often than other generations.

The same gender gap applies when asking respondents if they have ever masturbated at work. Out of the 17% of people who did confess to doing it at least once, 30% were men, a whopping 20% more than women.

Just how do such desires spring up during work hours? Maybe they’ve sent out some racy selfies. When asked if they have ever taken racy photos at work, 18% of people confessed to doing it at least once.


Oh, the insatiable need to have it all—food, money, status, power. Surely, it’s not all that bad in the workplace, right?

When asked whether they’d borrowed money from a colleague and not given it back, 17% of people confessed to doing it at least one time. One-fourth of all Millennials confessed to doing it at least once, whereas Boomers had the lowest response rate.

Other co-workers simply just steal company property. 45% of respondents have taken company property and not returned it at least one time.

And here’s the kicker—when assessing the open-ended responses (i.e. worst thing you’ve ever seen someone do at work), this sin really stood out. What was the most outlandish cold-blooded answer? 

One of my coworkers staged a fake robbery and locked two employees in a walk-in freezer and stole the safe from the office.”


When others get what you want, what happens? Envy boils in your blood.

But surely, no one ever made a story about their co-worker to get them fired, right? Well, 7 percent of people have confessed to this sin. Who’s the culprit oftentimes? The new guy: 20% of people who have 1-2 years of experience confessed to doing it at least once.

One sin that many people commit is looking through the emails, conversations, or personal files of co-workers. Over 30% have confessed to it, with Millennials having the highest rate (31%) of all age groups.


How far can an envious rage go in the workplace? Let’s say an undeserving co-worker gets a raise or your boss puts extra work on you. What happens next?

Well, some literally get into a fist-fight. 16% of people confessed to having a physical altercation at work at least one time. Men (22%) are more likely to confess to this sin than women (13%). And if you’re in Software/IT, then 1 out of every 5 co-workers get into such altercations!

The most wrathful acts came in our open-ended responses:

“I once erased someone’s emails as an act of revenge.”

“I was a crew trainer at McDonalds and I saw a co-worker spit in a cop's breakfast burger. They looked like they were in a hurry, so I said nothing and handed it out the window…”

“I spiked my manager’s tea with liquid THC”.


Don’t tell me what to do. I can do whatever I want, just watch me, no one will know.

Sound like a co-worker you know? Maybe not, but ask yourself: has your lunch even gone missing? Personal items not where you left them? Well, it’s pride run amuck, and it’s prevalent in many of our respondents.

For instance, 40% of respondents confessed to using the personal items of co-workers without asking them permission. What’s more, 27% of people confessed to eating someone else’s lunch or drink without asking them permission.

The same gender and age trend for most sins continues for pride as well—men do these acts 10% more than women, and Millennials (37%) have done these acts more so than all other age groups.

The most common office sin falls in this category as well—looking over the shoulders of your co-workers without them knowing it. A whopping 82% of co-workers confessed to this, so keep this mind next time you’re browsing the internet at work.


Why eat a co-worker’s lunch? Sure, it’s possible you forgot yours, but what if you were to find out that it was just the person’s gluttonous nature?

office sins

Well—hate to say it, but most Americans are gluttonous. When asked if people have ever seen a co-worker drunk at work, nearly half (48%) said they did. And the number is even higher (51%) for those who came into work hungover.

The real gluttonous move? You’ve gotten drunk at work. 17% of respondents confessed to it at least once, with men (10%) doing so more often than women. There are many open-ended responses who list drinking as the main sin at work.


Finishing off the list of deadly sins—laziness. How did this play out in the workplace?

office sins

For starters, more than ¼ of respondents (29%) confessed to leaving the bathroom stall messy. And yes, men (38%) did it more often than women (23%).

However, when looking at many of the open-ended questions, you get a better picture of what it means to be a sloth in the workplace: longer breaks, not working, showing up late, sleeping on the job—to name a few.

One respondent went as far as “coming to work to clock in, leave for 8 hours, come back and clock outnot a soul noticed”.

Key Takeaways

Whether it’s masturbating at work, stealing company property, or getting co-workers fired, office sins are rampant in the American workplace. Here is a recap of what the main findings are from our research:

  • 50% of respondents will report sinful acts in the workplace.
  • 53% of respondents confess to working hungover or seeing a co-worker drunk (37%).
  • Nearly half of workers (45%) have taken company property and not returned it.
  • 37% of respondents have used co-workers personal items without asking.

Methodology and Limitations

In this study, we collected answers from 1,001 Americans via Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Respondents consisted of 41.7% males and 58.5% females. Our sample’s average age is as follows: 18-24 (15%), 25-38 (45%), 39-58 (24%), and 59+ (16%).

Fair Use Statement

Feel free to share our study! The graphics and content found here are available for noncommercial reuse. Just make sure to link back to this page to give the authors proper credit.

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Bart Turczynski
Editor at Zety since 2016. His career advice and commentary has been published by the Financial Times, Hewlett-Packard, CareerBuilder, and Glassdoor, among others. With a strong passion for statistics and a background in psychology, Bart makes sure all the advice published on Zety is data-driven. Linkedin Website

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