How to deal when your boss steals your ideas

The question: I’ve been at my job for two years and receive positive reviews and get along with my colleagues. I enjoy my job and plan to continue my career at this company. I’ve noticed lately that my boss keeps taking credit for my ideas. I’ll suggest something and then he’ll make it seem like his idea. This doesn’t seem fair. What should I do?

This is a tough situation: You’re trying simultaneously to protect your hard work, maintain your job and not upset your boss. You must strike a balance of honesty, diplomacy and directness. Do know that in taking your ideas, your boss is actually complimenting you — he’s just going about it entirely wrong.   

Here’s what you can do: Ask your boss for a review, clarify duties, responsibilities and expectations and express your strong dedication and commitment to the job. In a non-accusatory way, tell him or her that you feel you don’t always get full credit or recognition for your efforts and that it’s really important that you do because you value hard work. Approach the situation gently by taking the stance that there may be a  miscommunication: “I’m sure it wasn’t intentional but I noticed my name was left off the reports.” This  approach will send the message that you’re aware of what’s going on and hopefully it will lead to change.  

Protect yourself by keeping e-mails and maintaining a paper trail, and copy your boss on e-mails that show progress you’re making. Think like a leader: Interact with senior level colleagues, conveying your cutting-edge ideas and expertise so they’re aware of your capabilities and skills. This serves two purposes: One, it helps promote the perception that you’re an important player in the company.  Two, it sets you up for advancement within, should things not work out with your current boss.  

Ultimately, if things don’t change, then bring human resources into the situation. Remember to be calm and respectful because getting credit isn’t worth much if it’s done at the expense of losing your job.


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