Among the many things that bad bosses have been known to do is to take credit for your hard work or ideas. You don’t like it when a peer does it, but with that group, you feel you might have some recourse to stifle what they’re doing. What do you do when a boss does it?

The line between a legitimate ethics violation and simply representing innovation in the department can at times be hard to tell. There are some perspectives to have first before taking any action.

You need to understand that the boss has a job to do and that is, not only directing your work and that of your peers, but also “managing up” with their boss. Their boss is looking for continual improvement in results of the organization, along with the dialogue of what innovative ideas the group is coming up with to stay competitive. In other words, the discussion frequently doesn’t involve the specific person who accomplished something or the origin of ideas or proposals. Certainly, that type of information has its usefulness with the big boss for such things as promotions, salary increases or tactical decisions. The higher you go in the managerial food chain, the less detail is desired.

There may be times when your boss is speaking to other people in your organization and refers to your work or ideas without giving you credit. There are several possibilities for why they aren’t giving you credit at that time:

*It’s not relevant to the discussion.

*Your work or idea may be part of an overall direction the boss has identified; and there may be a number of people in the mix.

*Your idea may be a spinoff of something the boss has been talking about or a spinoff of a group discussion.

*They may have legitimately forgotten who the originator was.

In other words, you may be sensitive about “getting credit” for things when there is no need to be. You need to look at their actions in the circumstances to see if it genuinely warrants your reactions. However, there are times and certainly bad bosses who will blatantly represent your work and ideas as their own and perhaps your peers, as well, on a consistent basis. It is this situation that calls for some careful footwork for you to pursue.

The biggest issue is not so much what they did; it’s the possible impact on your career. In order for you to get promotions and growth, the people above you have to observe your accomplishments, growth and potential. It’s not always obvious at that level to know the details, so they may rely on your boss to be the one to fill them in. If your boss is using it to advance their own growth without any support of you on the way up – you have a problem to deal with.

What can you do without stepping on a land mine? Here are four suggestions:

1. Privately ask them if they had remembered that you originated the work. Have a non-defensive discussion to let them know what you noticed to get their version of why the omission took place. Discuss how the gaff can be rectified and move on. Don’t attempt to nail them, it will only go bad.

2. Document and publish your ideas and work. If your organization does status reports, this is a perfect time to put in black and white your great work. It also makes it more difficult for other’s to stake a claim. Even if your group doesn’t openly publish status reports, you can still do one each month and copy your boss, along with any other key players you think would benefit. Look at this as a form of communication.

3. When it’s time for the annual raise/performance review, ensure you document your accomplishments prior to the process being kicked off. This way, it will help the boss remember your results.

4. Look for public opportunities to subtly inject a bit of ownership into your work and ideas. This is known as self promotion, which makes some people cringe.

The deal is, if you don’t promote yourself, who will?
When the bad boss takes credit for your work, it’s insulting and degrades any environment for trust. Most of the time, these bosses really aren’t trying to rob you of any glory, but they’re being thoughtless. You can adjust both your thinking and, when needed, your behavior to make sure your career stays on course.

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