Rift in the Workplace: What it Really Means When Someone Else Takes Credit for Your Work

Take Credit Point

Let’s say you’ve worked for hours to come up with an innovative idea for your team, landed a major client, or even secured a strategic partnership.  You’ve put forth your very best effort.  However, when the big announcement is made in front of your department, someone else takes the credit!  You sit there in disbelief before you are overcome with feelings of frustration and anger.  How could this happen?  Why would this person want to take credit for your work and ideas?  Unfortunately, most life science professionals will deal with a situation like this at some point in their career.

After the initial shock wears off, what should you do?  Should you confront the person?  Or tell your boss?  How can you make sure this doesn’t happen again?  If you work in an organization that is extremely hostile or one that involves a lot of “office politics,” how you handle the situation can leave a lasting impact on your future career at the company.  It’s imperative that you try to avoid making a dramatic or emotional scene.  That would not help you in the long term and you run the risk of looking even more unprofessional than the true culprit, who took your credit.  Before taking any action, it’s important to understand what it really means when someone else takes credit for your work.

1. You have good ideas/work ethic

The first thing you need to do is pat yourself on the back.  If someone went out of their way to steal your idea or take credit for your effort, that means it was pretty awesome to begin with.  Take a moment to acknowledge your own ingenuity, persistence, or thoughts.  How can you come up with more ideas or results like that?  You might want to make a list of the steps you went through or map out your thought process.  Obviously, you will want to keep the details of how you came up with your results to yourself.  You have innovative ideas and probably a solid work ethic to match. 

2. The culprit could be unoriginal and/or insecure

Now, let’s move on to the culprit who took credit for your work.  There could be a variety of reasons why your ideas or efforts weren’t attributed to you.  First, we must consider that perhaps it was an honest mistake.  Sometimes new ideas or solutions are proposed, and the implementation or execution starts to happen very quickly.  Management or the end client might not even be aware of who the thought initially came from, causing them to misattribute the credit.  If you are sure that the culprit knowingly took credit for your work, this says more about that person than it does about you.  This professional might be insecure about their position, status, or role within the company.  If this is the case, they probably don’t have confidence in their own abilities or ideas.

3. You need a plan to protect your ideas 

Many companies harp on the fact that they want new, original ideas but don’t have a way for employees to submit them.  You might mention something to a colleague in passing and the next thing you know, they took it and ran with it.  If your organization doesn’t have a place to submit ideas to management or other departments, bring that up to your boss or in a company meeting.  This is similar to the old practice of having a “Suggestion Box.”  With this option, you can always submit ideas directly and put your name on them.  How you go about protecting your ideas or intellectual property can also depend on the position of the culprit, who took credit for your work.  Your strategy might be different if you’re dealing with a co-worker as opposed to your boss.  Think about a plan that could fit for your specific situation.

Unfortunately, many professionals have dealt with a rift in the workplace caused by someone taking credit for their work.  With today’s culture of online sharing and posting on social media, a lot of people never even think about the originator of content.  It’s so easy to just pass things along without giving the proper credit.  If you’re dealing with a situation where someone stole your work or took the credit, first commend yourself for having a great idea.  Reflect on the fact that the culprit is probably insecure and unoriginal.  Finally, you want to come up with a plan to protect your ideas, to prevent this from happening again. 

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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