Listicle: Six things to do when someone steals your idea

Listicle: Six things to do when someone steals your idea

It’s important to remain calm, but also be proactive


Relax: take time to calm down if someone steals your idea

Relax: take time to calm down if someone steals your idea


There’s nothing more infuriating than someone taking credit for your work. And we’ve all had this happen: you share an idea with a colleague, then hear them repeat it in a meeting. Here’s what to do in these situations.

1 Take time to calm down Take a day or two. However, don’t stew about it for so long that you’re ready to explode by the time you talk to the person.

You also want to make sure the incident is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

2 Assess the severity of the situation Ask yourself: how much does this really matter? Will it negatively impact my career? Not every piece of work has to have your name on it, and managers often take credit for the work of their subordinates.

3 Ask why Instead of making accusations, ask questions.

This shifts the burden of proof to your colleague: he has to explain why he felt justified taking credit for the project or idea.

The goal isn’t to pin blame but to highlight their mistake.

4 Remedy the situation If the credit-stealer acknowledges his mistake, talk about how you can make things right.

Perhaps he can email the group thanking you for your contributions, or you can both go talk to your manager to set the record straight.

Even if he’s not willing to do anything, you can take action. Use any opportunity to demonstrate your involvement with the project.

But what if the problem doesn’t go away?

5 Be proactive about preventing it next time It’s important to agree upfront on how credit will be allocated. Who will present these ideas to the senior team? Who will field questions?

Who will send the email to the rest of the company?

6 Model good credit sharing If you’re generous and intentional about sharing credit, others are likely to follow suit.

Never hesitate to ask your team: what’s the best way to make sure all of our work is recognised?

But don’t attempt to cover everybody. That could devalue the contribution of the key players.

Instead, focus your recognition on the people who truly deserve it.

– Copyright Harvard Business Review 2015


Previously published in The Irish Times.


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