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.
“I’ve been employed at the same company for over 10 years. I feel secure in my position but, with all the turmoil in the economy, I guess anything could happen. How can I make sure I’m staying competitive?”
What a great question! I love this kind of proactive thinking. Even though there’s no immediate danger, this person is looking ahead and preparing for the future.
When you’re in the same role at the same company for a long time, you can easily get complacent. But as the questioner indicates, in today’s world, there’s no such thing as certainty. You can’t let yourself get too comfortable. You never know what’s ahead so keeping your competitive edge is always a good idea, no matter how “secure” you feel in the moment. And who knows what kinds of opportunities may come your way?
The following tips will help you stay at the top of your game. That way—whatever happens—you know you’re in a competitive position.
Develop Your Skills
You should always be looking for ways to expand your existing professional skills and develop new ones. No matter what role you’re in or how long you’ve been there, you always have room for growth. If you ever find yourself saying, “There’s nothing more to learn,” you’re kidding yourself. You’re just not looking hard enough. And you’re probably not being totally honest about your capabilities.
New technology shows up every day. New ideas are always being explored. You simply can’t know everything. Look for opportunities to practice different skills, implement new processes, take on new responsibilities or try out new technology. Get creative if you have to. Just remember that there’s no such thing as standing still. Every day you aren’t moving forward you’re actually falling behind.
Invest In Yourself
There are many ways to develop your professional capabilities, and most require an investment of time, energy and/or money. I can’t stand it when I hear from “professionals” who aren’t willing to invest any of their personal time or their own money in their development. They expect their company to foot the bill for everything. While that sure would be nice, it’s an unrealistic expectation. And it’s completely backwards. If you aren’t willing to invest in yourself, why would anyone else want to? If you don’t make the investment, you’re not a serious professional. Period.
And just to be clear: I’m not talking about thousands of dollars here. A book costs about $10 and you can learn a ton by actually reading a book on any topic. (Sadly, too many people buy books they never read—not a wise investment.) For just a little more, you can attend classes, workshops, webinars, seminars, etc. There are literally hundreds available to you right now for under $100.
Give yourself an annual budget for professional development and use it. Don’t expect your company to reimburse you. It’s a personal investment that will pay off over time.
Join a Professional Association
I’ve long extolled the value of professional associations for a wide variety of reasons. First off, when you’re involved with a group of likeminded professionals, you gain access to a world of wisdom and experience. You create amazing business relationships with people who can help you grow in ways you could never imagine. And these same people can help you tap new, exciting opportunities you would otherwise never know existed.
Aside from incredible networking, most professional associations also give you access to valuable learning opportunities—whether through featured speakers at meetings, annual training conferences, or newsletters highlighting trends in your field.
There are literally hundreds of associations from which to choose, but you want to be selective. Some are better (MUCH better) than others. Visit a few local chapters to see what feels right. You want to find a group that’s really engaged. Become an active participant today and you’ll start reaping the rewards immediately.
Consider volunteering a few hours a week with a community association for which you feel some kind of affinity. Aside from personal satisfaction, you’ll also gain valuable experience you can use in the workplace. Much of what you do will be quite different from your day-to-day work. You’ll likely find yourself stepping out of your comfort zone frequently—and that’s a surefire sign of growth.
Depending on your role and the organization, you may also gain some great networking opportunities. Remember that everyone you meet is a potential business contact so take your volunteer work as seriously as you take your regular work.
Attend regular networking events in your community. (Your local Chamber of Commerce may be a great resource for this.) Sadly, too many people associate networking with job search. They wait to do it until they need something from the people they meet. That’s a horrible way to start a relationship! And that’s what makes people dread the idea of networking. Get out there now and start developing real, authentic connections with other business professionals. Build trust. Have fun. Get to know people for who they are, not what they can offer you. Then, should you need a little assistance in the future, you’ll have a strong network to call on. And they’ll be more than willing to help you—as a friend, not just a “contact”.
Hone Your Leadership Skills
Any person in any position at any level in any industry will benefit from leadership skills. Seriously!
Look for opportunities to take on leadership responsibilities at work, in your community, and anywhere else. As a leader, you’ll practice a variety of skills including communication, management, negotiation, collaboration and more. Regardless of your career aspirations, you’ll benefit from this—even if you have no desire to grow into an “official” leadership capacity.
Acting as a leader also improves your visibility and helps you build a powerful professional reputation. And let’s face it: A big part of being competitive is getting noticed in the first place.
Finally, I encourage you to continually challenge yourself personally as well as professionally. Seek out opportunities for growth, even if you don’t immediately see how it relates to your career. The more you expand your horizons, the more you have to offer in the workplace—and you never know how it will pay off.
When I started my first blog so many years ago, I was looking for a hobby. I knew nothing about building a website but I was willing to learn. It was difficult and frustrating and incredibly rewarding. I could have never guessed then how dramatically it would change my career and life.
Find something that inspires you and go for it. You’ll become a better person and, by extension, a better (more competitive) professional.
Clint Eastwood knows a thing or two about bombing. After last week’s widely panned “performance” at the Republican National Convention, he could probably teach a graduate level course on the topic. Thankfully, most of us don’t have to deal with our mistakes being broadcast on national television. But they can feel just as embarrassing. And if we don’t take the appropriate measures, they can potentially cause serious havoc in our careers.
So what is one to do if and when you pull “an Eastwood” at work (meaning you make a bad move that leaves everyone around you scratching their head)? Here are five steps to help you recover.
This article was originally published on U.S. News & World Report.
With the campaign to see who will be the next president of the United States now well under way, President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney are currently in the midst of the world’s toughest job interview. The prospective employer (i.e., the American public) is known for putting its candidates through the ringer. After all, the job itself is no cakewalk. The interview process is rigorous for a reason.
While most of us won’t experience anything near this level of intensity in our own job-search efforts, we can still learn quite a bit from watching the candidates as they make their way through the process of trying to get the country’s most important job.
Those of you who don’t currently subscribe to my enewsletter might not know this, but I recently celebrated a birthday of undisclosed number. (Side note: WHY are you not getting my newsletter?? Sign up here!)
As part of the festivities, I attended an ABBA concert at perhaps one of the world’s most beautiful venues—Red Rocks Amphitheater here in the Denver area. That’s right. ABBA. Dancing Queen. Mama Mia. FERNANDO. What could be better?
Now, technically, this wasn’t the real ABBA. I mean, let’s be fair. They’d probably be shuffling around in walkers at this point and that wouldn’t make a very lively concert. Instead, the group was called “Arrival from Sweden” and they are absolutely unquestionably the best tribute band ever. As the website says, “This production is the closest you will ever get to seeing ABBA!” So take it or leave it, folks.
(Sadly, I was trying to convince my mother throughout the show that this was, indeed, the real ABBA because, at the time, I didn’t “get” it. I just figured they were in really, really great shape. REALLY great shape. Ya know, for being like 60. But we’re clear now.)
So we had a great time at the show. We sang along and danced and ate great food and drank a few cocktails. It was a great birthday celebration all around.
And, of course, I found a few career lessons in there too. Here’s what happened and what I learned.
1. Know when to hold ‘em….
As I said, we had a great time. But it wasn’t without its challenges. You see, the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater is 100% outdoors. And, as luck would have it, we had some weather.
We saw the storm clouds approaching on the drive out there but we kept saying, “It’ll blow over.” In Denver, rainstorms come and go in the blink of an eye…MOST of the time. Of course, on this particular night, this particular rainstorm came and decided to stay a while. An hour and a half to be exact.
Like the die-hard ABBA fans we (apparently) are, we stuck it out. At some point, you get as wet as you can get so there’s no use whining about it. But yes, we still whined. After a serious rain delay, the band was finally able to take the stage and the show went on. And we eventually dried out.
Career Lesson: Sometimes, if you’re willing to put up with a little pain and frustration, it’s worth it in the end.
2. Know when to fold ‘em.
There was a time during that rain delay when we almost gave up. It appeared the rain was there to stay and we were convinced the band would ultimately cancel the show anyway—meaning all our time spent getting soaked would be for naught. Though we were bummed, it just didn’t make sense to continue suffering when it became pretty clear that there wouldn’t be a payoff.
We had actually packed up our stuff and started walking out when we heard the announcer say that the weather radar showed the system moving through in 10 minutes. That was just the reassurance we needed. We sat back down and said, “Okay. 10 more minutes. We can hold out for that much longer. But that’s it!” Surprisingly, it was exactly 10 minutes later that the rain stopped completely.
The big issue with performing in the rain at Red Rocks Amphitheater, as you might guess, is the fact that the band is surrounded by amplifiers and wires and other various electronic equipment. When the rain blows in, it makes the stage a potential disaster zone. It’s understandable that the band and the venue decided to delay the show while the rain passed. It’s just not worth the risk to push it.
Career Lesson: NEVER let work put you in a position of risking your health (mental, physical or emotional). Regardless of how many people might be counting on you, you’re not doing anyone any favors by jeopardizing your own safety. Remember that it’s perfectly okay to call a time out now and again. The people who believe in you and want you to succeed will understand, and they’ll be there when the rain passes.