What to Do When Your Boss Steals Credit for Your Work

By Beth Braccio Hering for CareerBliss

Let’s face it: Having someone else in the workplace take credit for your efforts and ideas feels lousy. But when the culprit is your boss, the situation becomes especially sticky. While you may be eager to set the record straight, doing so might put your relationship (and perhaps even your job) in jeopardy.

What can you do?

“The short answer:  Let it go,” says Elizabeth Freedman, author of Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself. “This may feel like a bitter pill to swallow and incredibly unfair, but tread very carefully if you attempt to ‘set the record straight’ by going out of your way to point out that you really deserve credit. Even if you did do the work and you’re in the right, you may wind up looking petty, insecure or immature if you go down this road. Worse, this strategy may require you to go over your boss’s head — and the consequences of that move will probably cause you far greater career pain than the short-term frustration and unfairness of not getting credit.”

Instead, focus on what you can do to avoid a similar situation in the future by employing these four strategies:

1.  Attach Your Name to Ideas
It is great to be a team player, but if your input is always indiscernible, the situation is ripe for any member of the group to lay claim – including the boss. Speak up during meetings so that it is plain to see which ideas are coming from you, and don’t be afraid to use “I” instead of “we” when you want to establish ownership. Likewise, circulating progress updates under your own name makes it harder for someone to pass off your contributions as her own.

2.  Create a Trail
Along the same lines, leaving a paper or electronic message trail can make others think twice about taking credit that’s not due. The boss knows he stands a good chance of looking like a fool if “his” bright idea this week originated in your mass E-mail last week.

Lynne Eisaguirre, a consultant at Workplaces That Work and author of We Need to Talk: Tough Conversations with Your Boss, notes that having such hard “evidence” at your disposal can come in handy. “If your boss takes credit for your idea in a meeting without attributing it to you, (you can) say something graceful such as, ‘Yes, as I was suggesting to you the other day, Mr. Big, I think that expanding into China is a great idea because of . . . and I would be happy to pass along my memo on this subject if it would be useful to any of you.’ ”

3.  Avoid Working Solo with the Boss
More sets of eyes and ears mean greater potential for being called out if attempting to take credit for the work of others. To the degree to which you’re able, try not to be the only person working on a project with the boss. As Freedman notes, “It’s far less likely that your boss will be able to steal credit if there is a team of co-workers, vendors, suppliers, or clients that are closely linked to the work and can see for themselves who is doing what.”

4.  Develop Your Network
Finally, experts agree that one of the best ways to deal with a boss who steals credit is to develop an extensive workplace network. “Proactively work to build relationships across your organization, because as your network grows, so will the number of supporters who value and recognize your contributions and understand what’s really going on,” Freedman says. “Bosses come and go, but the impact of strong workplace relationships is a long-term strategy for success.”

Adds Eisaguirre, “Create a reputation for being friendly to everyone from the mail clerk to the CEO so that it doesn’t look as if you’re trying to sabotage your own boss when you start peppering his/her boss with ideas.”

Still afraid of looking like you’re going over the boss’s head? Eisaguirre suggests working on your relationship with your boss in an informal way over drinks or coffee. “Ask for advice about how you can showcase your skills and ideas within the organization. Let him know that you want to expand your potential. Ask how you can develop a relationship with his boss so that he’s not surprised when you do.”

Get more tips — read “Don’t Hesitate to Self-Promote.”

CareerBliss is an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of company reviews, salary information and a free career happiness assessment.


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