Two colleagues arguing

What to Do If a Coworker Attempts to Take Credit for Your Work

Bethany sends you a report to print and assemble for a key client. Only her name is on the report, but you invested significant time and effort into the project.

As unfortunate as it is, the situation described above takes place every day across the US and, if it hasn’t happened to you personally, odds are you know someone who has horror stories of a coworker who is so eager to get ahead that they will ride the coattails of their associates and claim what others have produced as their own contributions. As with many things, not all credit-stealing coworkers are created the same and there can be mitigating circumstances to consider when dealing with these “teammates.”


Inadvertent Theft

This is the easiest situation to deal with. If a coworker simply neglected to acknowledge your contributions to a project, all you need to do is gently remind them that you were involved and deserve your due. A lot of people are overworked and overstressed nowadays, which can make it easy to leave something out of a prepared presentation or an email.

Also, don’t forget, some people get flustered in front of a crowd, so if you were expecting a “shout out” during a key presentation before the board and didn’t receive one, it doesn’t necessarily indicate malice on the part of the speaker. Sometimes you will need to give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt and not jump to conclusions. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring this error to their attention to keep it from happening again.


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Intentional Theft (minor)

When someone intentionally takes credit for your work, you have to ask yourself how important that particular task or project was. If the undertaking was relatively minor, you still need to stand up for yourself, but the solution could be as simple as having a chat with your coworker about giving you the credit you deserve. Depending upon how that conversation goes and how your coworker reacts, you may want to take things a step further and inform them that if a similar situation arises, you will not hesitate to go above their head to be sure that you get recognized for your work.


Intentional Theft (major)

If a colleague takes credit for a high-profile project (a new product idea, marketing campaign, or critical report, for instance), then you need to bring it to the attention of your superior immediately after speaking with the perpetrator. Make sure you remain calm as you describe the situation to your supervisor and be sure to bring evidence of your contributions to back up your claims. Avoid playing the blame game or clamoring for punishment – the purpose in bringing this to the attention of company leadership is to ensure that it does not happen again.

When it comes to coworkers who will take credit for other people’s ideas and contributions, the most important thing to do is stand up to them and let them know that their behavior will not be tolerated. If a colleague gets away with stealing your hard work once, they won’t hesitate to try it again. It’s essential that you nip these things in the bud. Once you become aware that someone you work with is capable of pilfering your ideas, you need to protect yourself by keeping notes on project meetings and tracking the contributions of all team members (you never know, they may choose a different victim next time).

By Freddie Rohner, iHire | April 24, 2015
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