The Office

How Do I  Safeguard My Ideas?

Dear DW,

One of my colleagues is constantly stealing my ideas and making it seem like they are his own. How do I work with someone who rarely contributes original thoughts yet gets credit for my work?


Dear Plagiarized,

When someone frequently takes your ideas, it shows they lack the confidence, creativity, or knowledge to come up with their own, says Lynn Berger, a New York–based career counselor and coach. But if you sit back and do nothing, “you are allowing the person to have power over you,” Berger warns.

Keep in mind that it is possible for two people to come up with similar ideas. However, if a colleague often offers the same idea you have, and you’re certain they had access to your ideas or work, speaking up could help to nip the offending behavior in the bud. Berger suggests casually mentioning to this person, “I also had that idea and discussed it with you last week,” and see if bringing it to their attention gets them to back off.

If the behavior continues (and you are unable to keep the colleague from access to your ideas), mention your concerns to a manager. That’s the only way your manager will see and recognize all your contributions, which can have a major effect on future raises and promotions.

Studies have shown that women are less likely than men to tout their accomplishments at work. This is a time when you need to make your contributions known. Document the date you conceive ideas, and if you can, make sure other colleagues are around when ideas are discussed so they can see that you are the originator of the work.

Don’t take a wait-and-see approach. Speaking up sooner rather than later would be the best way to go, “before it gets out of control,” Berger says.

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