How to Deal With Someone Taking Credit for Your Work
When someone else takes credit for your work, there are four steps you must take: seek clarification, request it be fixed, get mad, then get over it.
We’ve all had that experience where we work really hard on something and instead of getting recognized for our contribution, we have to sit there and choke back bile when someone else takes credit for the work. It’s infuriating to think about how hard you worked and how much effort you put into a project only to see some other glory-hound or charlatan pass all that effort off as their own.
I’ve dealt with it many times. I’ve found copies of my articles and blog posts on other websites only to find they weren’t attributed to me. They were passed off as someone else’s work. It’s maddening. There’s a feeling of helplessness that comes along with that situation.
So what can you do when you’re in this situation? What do you do when someone else passes your work off as their own? How do you handle it when someone else takes credit for work you did? Here are a few thoughts:
It could be an accident. You might be wrong in thinking someone is taking credit for your work. They might have sung your praises before you walked in the room to find them presenting your deck. They may have written a nice email giving you full credit but all you heard was “I received this presentation from (NOT YOU) and it’s great.” Clarify first. Just ask. If you are wrong and the person gave you credit, thank them politely for promoting your work.
Request (Nicely) a Correction
If it’s clear they did pass of your work as theirs or they took credit for your idea, ask them (in private) if they could clarify to others that it was actually your work. You might say “I’m glad you liked my work but after your presentation some people are under a mistaken impression that you did the work. I would appreciate it if you could clarify to them that the work was mine.” More often than not they’ll heed that request.
If it’s your content that has been stolen/plagiarized, send an email or make a call asking the person to remove it and to never do it again. Give them a clear timeline for action and show them a reference back to your original work. They might be unaware that the work was stolen (maybe someone on their team did it – see the point above on clarification). If you’re okay with your work being republished with attribution, ask them to include the correct attribution with any links you desire back to your original article. Many times they’ll comply with this request.
Demand a Correction
If the person decides not to satisfy your request for a correction, demand one. You could petition the person’s supervisor to rectify things (the boss might be unaware that someone is taking credit for your work). Let the person know you’re upset that they took credit and that they’ve violated some pretty clear societal standards on giving credit and taking credit. In some cases (like plagiarism) you might even have your attorney send a demand notice requesting redress.
Go Nuclear or Get Over It
If all the above strategies fail, you have two choices. You can go for the nuclear option and file a formal complaint at work (with your boss, HR, etc.) or sue (e.g., for plagiarism) or carry out a public campaign to call out the fraud. Or you can vent about it, make your case, then shut up and move on with life. Events like this can be total energy-sucks. You can choose instead to focus your efforts on being productive and moving forward knowing that the universe will take care of the fakers of the world.
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC
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This article points out an important danger in the workplace. If you are part of a team, the work product belongs to the team. I may spend hours doing research and developing a deck based on team discussions, a number of individuals thoughts, the collective thinking from the desk research, etc. It is not feasible to give credit to all who contribute. Instead, it is appropriate to refer to the work as the collective output of a team effort. In our organization, regardless of the work put into an end product, ownership (and credit in the client’s eyes) belongs to the team as a whole. Infighting on a team starts to occur when people interpret the absence of being called out individually as someone else taking credit for their work. I have worked with many teams where the focus is on the self rather than the team success, and it leads to just this kind of paranoia, desire for personal attribution, etc. A slippery slope…
I totally agree Shirley. To clarify – the type of credit stealing I’m talking about is the blatant ripoff of work you’ve solely done and someone else misrepresenting that they were the one who actually did the work. I hope that clears things up.
Nice article, Mike. I’ve had the experience of leading a team on an important project, then having another person (my boss) slip in and publicly take credit for the whole works. His personality style was such that most of these options would be sub-optimal (i.e. grudge-holding forever, micromanaging, not listening).
He works somewhere else now. But it was frustrating to hear all the great work he “did.” Your piece clarifies the best strategy, and who knows, I might have to use it someday!