Climbing the corporate ladder is a competitive affair—just as competitive as football, basketball, swimming, or whatever your favorite sport may be. Just like in the world of sport, the key to winning is to make the most of your opportunities and to avoid mistakes.
That’s why the cardinal sin of letting others claim the credit for your hard work is extremely damaging. Not only does it represent a missed opportunity to improve your prospects at the next big promotion or advancement, but in most cases it also gives the individual you are competing with an unfair boost.
In a recent blog entry, we discussed the importance of tactfully yet clearly taking credit for the work you have done. Today we are going to focus on a related topic: how to respond when others claim the credit for your hard work.
As always, there is a balancing act that must be maintained. Your “competitors” are also your co-workers and in many cases your friends, so it is important that you don’t jeopardize these important relationships. On the other hand, you can’t be so concerned about maintaining relationships that you let others walk all over you and leave you behind while they advance their career. (Useful link: Tactfully Confronting Conflict)
1) Calmly confront your co-worker and share your frustration. It is important that you speak to the offending co-worker about the situation. However, don’t do so until you have your emotions under control and are able to have a calm conversation. Explain that you worked hard on the project and that you don’t appreciate his/her attempt to take the credit. State that you are glad to collaborate with them, but firmly explain that if the situation repeats itself you will be forced to speak to HR or to your boss. (TIP: Begin this conversation with an open mind. It’s possible that your co-worker made an honest mistake and didn’t intend to steal credit for your work. If this is the case, urge them to do whatever is necessary to ensure that you are properly credited.)
2) Don’t share more information than necessary. Be proactive when it comes to protecting your work. When you’re discussing an idea with your boss or with a co-worker, for instance, don’t spill everything. Keep some of your thoughts, data, or work to yourself so that if the individual does try to take credit, you’ll be able to prove your involvement by revealing additional details and information.
3) Leave a paper trail and spread the word: Documenting your work, particularly when you know that you’re working on something that others would like to claim credit for, is perhaps the most effective way to eliminate this problem. Include dates and time spent working on a project, as well as specific details of what you’ve accomplished. Thorough documentation will serve as deterrence for co-workers that may be considering claiming your work as their own—and in the event of a dispute, it will serve as important evidence. It’s also a good idea to keep your boss up to date—by sending a short written update as you complete milestones, or even by sending a casual “FYI” email just to keep him or her posted. You can also mention your progress in casual conversation around the water cooler. If problems continue, you may have no choice but to explicitly discuss matters with your superior. However, keep in mind that your boss will have a dramatically different perspective on the situation than you will. His/her primary concern is team performance—not ensuring that each employee is treated “fairly” at all times. So while you present your concern, explain the negative impact that it is having on your own job performance. Explain that having your co-worker steal ideas is making it difficult for them to be effectively implemented. Give your boss a compelling reason to take action—otherwise you risk looking childish and immature. (Useful link: How to Deal with Difficult People at Work)
In today’s competitive corporate environment, it’s all too common to see individuals attempting to claim credit for the work and ideas generated by others. If you experience this reality, keep in mind that you must take action. If a co-worker has reason to believe that he or she can get away with claiming the credit that you deserve, it will happen over and over. Take action and put a stop to this behavior. The four steps we’ve covered today will help, but feel free to get in touch with us if you’d like to learn more!