One of largest complaints that employees have is that they simply do not get recognition for their contributions. When a supervisor doesn’t acknowledge the hard work, it makes the employee feel as if all of it is for nothing. This is especially true when a boss takes a team member’s idea and uses it as their own. Typically, companies with supervisors who behave in this manner will end up seeing high turnover rates and low employee morale.
It’s easy to feel infuriated and disappointed if you deliver an outstanding pitch, only to have your boss repeat it at the next big meeting as though it was their original creation. Especially if clients, board members, or coworkers compliment your boss, you’ll likely find yourself biting your tongue, fearing that if you speak up, your job will be at risk. However, there are a few things you can do if your boss has taken credit for your ideas or hard work.
1. Document everything
Keep a good stash of notes and emails and create a record of what was said and assigned. If it’s appropriate, use CCs or give file permissions to specific leaders/team members, including to senior-level workers whom you want to be aware of what you can do.
2. Talk about your work
Make general references to your work to colleagues, ideally to more than one person at a time. You also can note progress or mention what you’re up to in broad terms on social media channels (being careful not to give away company secrets). The more you reference the project or are open about your ideas (within the bounds of confidentiality requirements), the harder it will become for the boss to get others to believe you were just on the sidelines or not involved.
3. Reframe your language
Since you don’t necessarily want to humiliate your boss in public, praise or agree with them about the project in front of others. Then slip in your own “I” or “we” statements, such as “I’m so glad I was able to be part of this and take care of X and Y on it!”, “I’m really honored/flattered you decided to go through with my idea”, or “We definitely worked hard together on this!” Your boss will have to acknowledge these statements of inclusion, but at the same time, you’re not saying a single bad thing about her or him.
4. Take a break
Emotions can get heated when you believe your boss has betrayed you. Take a few hours or even a full day to reevaluate your evidence. Because this has the potential to affect your career, make sure you’re taking the next steps based on logic and facts, not on spur-of-the-moment feelings.
5. Confront your boss
Remember, sometimes a boss doesn’t even realize they’re claiming the idea. Sometimes they just think they’re accepting accolades — as they naturally should as the team leader — on behalf of everyone involved. And sometimes nerves can get the best of even seasoned pros, with “I” becoming unintentionally dominant. Have a private discussion with your boss to make the offense clear. You should always try to investigate the situation and not accuse.
6. Notify others
If you feel the problem is still persisting even after you let them know you see a problem, ask for advice from other senior-level employees and/or your mentor. The senior employees/mentors are critical, as they can verify your work ethic, conversations, etc. You also should notify HR, formally filing whatever paperwork the department requires.
7. Do work on the side
Doing work on the side such as speaking engagements, ideas or hobbies you’re passionate about can further demonstrate your expertise. Make the projects and engagements as visible as you can without divulging sensitive information. These efforts will demonstrate your capabilities, interests and potential like your regular work, and your boss can’t touch them. They’ll also help you build a bigger network of individuals who can vouch for you.
Bosses take credit for the work of others for all kinds of reasons, such as their own need for recognition or because they genuinely believe others will receive concepts better if their name is attached. Whatever their motivation, intentional theft of credit isn’t something you should tolerate. Use these strategies to rebuild your relationship or get the company to take corrective action.
(written by: Whitney)