What do you do when someone else takes credit for your work? It’s a common problem—one often exaggerated and made light of in sitcoms—and yet, in the real world, it can lead to some pretty serious career damage if not handled properly.
The situation is ugly and unfair, and it usually goes something like this: You get the blame when things go wrong and they get the credit when things go right. Whether it’s coming from a co-worker or superior, the behavior is completely unethical.
Sure, you could ignore it. But that’s not really fixing the problem. You deserve better. Ignoring this kind of thing is equivalent to giving in to a bully. You’re letting others walk all over you. More importantly, you’re not getting the recognition you’ve rightfully earned. When others steal the credit for your hard work, they’re building a false reputation for themselves and corrupting your professional image at the same time.
Don’t stand idly by watching this happen. The tips below will help you take control of the situation.
1. Address it with the person.
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they don’t realize what they’re doing. Maybe it’s an honest mistake. New managers, in particular, are especially forgetful when it comes to acknowledging the efforts of their team members. They’re typically not trying to be underhanded; they just lack awareness. A simple reminder can go a long way in these circumstances.
Yes, this conversation can be uncomfortable. But an assertive, straightforward discussion shows that you’re not oblivious to what’s going on and you’re not going to just roll over. If they know you’re watching, it’s much more difficult to behave this way. And, if the behavior continues, you then know it’s conscious and intentional.
2. Focus on self-promotion.
If you don’t promote yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. Be vocal about your work. Stand up for yourself and your ideas. Tell others what you’re working on and how it’s going. If you’re loud about it, no one can steal it. The people who get walked on are those who stay hidden in the shadows.
3. Go over or around.
If the situation gets serious, you have to protect yourself. Go over the person or around them to make sure the appropriate people know what’s going on. Consider getting HR involved if necessary. Be sure to document the situation and provide proof of your work so it’s not just a “he said, she said” kind of thing.
A lot of people feel very self-conscious about involving others in workplace disputes. But stealing work is a highly sensitive situation. It’s an issue of ethics. If this person is willing to do this to get ahead, what else are they doing? In all likelihood, they’re not just hurting you; they’re hurting the business. Maintain your professionalism but, at some point, you just can’t fight the bully on your own.
4. Share the credit.
Look, if you don’t want others taking credit for your work, don’t do it to them. Share the credit when others help you. Acknowledge the work of your teammates. Don’t be afraid to share the spotlight when things go right and be willing to accept the blame when you make a mistake. Your actions influence the actions of those around you. Demonstrate the same professional respect you want to receive.