Credit where credit’s due

15 Jun 2010

To get ahead in your career, it’s important to strike the balance between getting recognition for your own ideas and being a loyal and contributing member of your team.

In today’s business environment, the concept of knowledge management, where employees share ideas with their fellow workers in order to deliver better results, is particularly popular. Brainstorming together may be an effective way to move projects forward, but what happens when a colleague starts taking all the credit for your work? How do you get beyond seething resentment for infringement of personal copyright to do what’s best for the business?

According to Lorna McDowell, managing director of Xenergie Consulting, the first thing you must do is become your own brand manager and take ownership of your ideas, while remaining a loyal member of the team.

“If you want your ideas to be recognised, you have to have the courage to get yourself noticed at work,” she says. “Being a shrinking wallflower does not help people to recognise all you have to offer and these days confidence is an asset, not a sin! You have to manage your own reputation because if you don’t, no one else will.”

She recommends letting your boss know the work you’ve done: “Often bosses are too busy to notice what their employees do in huge detail, so unless you ‘manage your manager’ and communicate your ideas and your good work to them, these golden eggs might go unnoticed; even worse for the company, great ideas could be lost altogether.” 

Protect your ideas

In terms of protecting your own ideas, she has a variety of recommendations. “If you write documents, plans and proposals, put your name to them; however, do ensure you give credit to others who have inputted — if it was jointly prepared, then make sure it is jointly attributed. If you’re worried about someone erasing your name, then pdf the document, so it cannot be edited. It’s unlikely anyone will totally retype it from scratch; they just won’t have the time.”

If someone has taken credit for something you have done, she advises nipping it in the bud at the earliest stage, but she urges caution in accusing someone of this. “Be careful that you’re not misinterpreting signals before you launch in — what hard evidence do you have that your colleague is taking credit for your work? Is it that he or she just seems more confident than you and is talking more about it, so that people think the idea originated with her?”

Responding to colleagues

However, if you do have evidence, McDowell advises against getting emotional in your response and instead doing a ‘feedback sandwich’, so called because the charged comment is in the middle of two supporting sentences and holds the relationship in good rapport.

“The feedback sandwich could go through the following ABC stages,” she says:

“A: ‘Jill, the presentation you made this afternoon went down really well, the managers seemed very engaged.’

B: ‘But, I noticed you said that idea X was yours. I’m wondering why that is because I feel it was my idea, and I would like people to know that? (Give the person some time to respond.)

C: How can we work on this for next time?’”

Finally, McDowell advises not letting the fear of your ideas being stolen eat you up. “At the end of the day, fear of not being noticed will reduce your self-esteem. In teams, we have to relinquish some ego and self-gratification in order to respond to the greater good. If your team is a fulfilling, engaged, co-operative place to be, it will not matter so much to you.”

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