How to stop someone taking credit for your ideas

by Feb 6, 2019

How do you deal with someone taking credit for your ideas?

“Hepeating “and “broppriating ” just two expressions used when someone takes credit for your  ideas.

It can be a boss or a colleague, but the feeling is the same and it can be bewildering to know quite how to handle the situation. You might worry you look petty and not like a team player. Should you mention it at the time or just suck it up and get over it? But most importantly how can you avoid someone taking credit for your work again.

You might have had a great idea and bounced it off a co-worker over coffee to see him or her incorporate it into a presentation. Or you mentioned an interesting thought to your boss “I wonder what would happen if….”  Next thing you know it’s in his business plan as part of his strategy. Because this is something that frequently happens to women where their ideas are hijacked by men, it’s even earned the name “broppriation” or “hepeated.”

Professor Nicole Gugliucci first coined that phrase in 2017, where male colleagues repeat an idea of a female colleague maybe even unconsciously. When a woman proposes an idea, it gets ignored but when it’s ” hepeated”  and everyone loves it. Because of gender dynamics at play, the idea is then perceived as being his by association and biased assumptions. The best way if you can is to claim authority on the spot. “I’m delighted that you like my idea.” this next phrase is optional “It’s great that I have your backing. Thank you!”

taking credit for your ideas

How to deal with someone taking credit for your ideas

There is a tendency in all of us to keep our real feelings in to avoid conflict and then vent in private to our friends. But that is never a good solution and can result in you feeling out of sort. It also contributes to a lack of trust within a team which in turn impacts the group dynamic.

1. Approach constructively

The worst way to handle a situation if you find someone taking credit for your work is to go on the attack. This immediately causes the person to become defensive. “What do you think you were doing stealing my idea?”  Park that thought! Take time to calm down and create a considered pitch rather than dealing with it on the fly.

The best approach is to give the person an opportunity to offer an explanation. Sometimes it can be genuinely unintentional.  “It seems that x (Boss) thinks you are behind the “brilliant idea”. My recollection was that I had discussed it with you last week and it was new to you. Help me understand how that happened.”

This will give them the opportunity to apologise and for you to say “Could you make sure that ”x Boss“ knows that the original idea came from me and that I was the driver of the brainstorming process?”

2. The role of trust

It’s highly likely that anyone taking credit for your idea will not follow through with your request. But can you count on them feeling embarrassed about being confronted and not doing it again? Maybe not. Some people are shamelessly brazen.

Your next goal is to stop someone taking credit for your work again. Focus any discussion on team collaboration and the importance of giving recognition where it is due. You can also raise with the individual that this experience has given you concerns about how you can trust them as a colleague and team-mate.

If your company wants to build a strong and gender balanced team – contact 3Plus

Jesse Lyn Stoner, of the Seapoint Center in her post 5 levels of Trust talks about accountability instead of saying someone is trustworthy or is not trustworthy, it is much more helpful to be specific about what you trust and what you don’t. If trust is an issue, describe the level trust that is the issue, and you’ll have a much more productive conversation.

The loss of trust on a team or between colleagues can be potentially damaging and lead to protectionism and a lack of transparency. But there are ways to present ideas more strategically to make sure you get full credit  by being more strategic.

3. Be strategic

There are several ways to make sure you get the recognition you deserve which will stop others taking credit for your ideas without damaging team relationships.

  • Raise your visibility

Make sure that your personal reputation goes before you and you are considered to be an expert in this area. Share your ideas with more than one colleague and do so in a highly visible way.

Need some extra help to raise your visibility, 3Plus can help you. Find out more HERE.

  • Plan and then present

Wait until your idea is more fully formed and better thought out, then introduce it in a bigger group, hopefully one with your boss and senior people present. This can be a little scary, but if you’ve done your preparation you should be well equipped to answer any questions. Be prepared to have your idea nixed.

  • Strengthen you non-verbal communication

Sitting tall in your chair, maintaining direct eye contact all help to strengthen your executive presence.  Some women have even suggested that standing up behind your chair can be a card worth playing. That will depend on  your seniority perhaps and your confidence level. It’s a very  assertive move.

  • Use the Shine strategy

First implemented by staffers in the Obama administration engage the support of another colleague to back you up. The message is more powerful if someone intervenes or says “I love Susan’s idea!”

  • Don’t give away the farm

Very often if you have some good ideas and are contributing to a team, don’t put all your content on the presentation. Harriet Merrick, a UK based training consultant had devised some new approaches to coaching call centre personnel. She found that other stakeholders were using her methodology without giving her credit. She switched to using images only in her presentation and delivering the content verbally. The images on their own would be of little value and she was able protected her IP.

A way forward

Dorothy Dalton in a post 7 tips to avoid being a toxic boss encourages all leaders to create a team charter as “one of the simplest ways of empowering any team is to agree guidelines on the things that are important to them, communicating goals and agreeing norms and values. This could be about communication style, the way meetings are run, dress code or protocols for the resolution of disagreements and conflict. An inclusive management style will have an immediate impact on employee engagement.”

The issue of colleagues high-jacking ideas is an ideal topic for this forum. It is also a better way to escalate an issue as a group discussion to create a better way forward to avoid being seen as the person who whines to the boss. if you don’t have a team charter suggest your team creates one. The loss of trust because of others taking credit for your ideas can be very damaging long-term to both the team and therefore the business.

Better still   – let’s tell men to stop doing it. And other men if you see your colleagues doing this  – don’t be a wimp. Be an ally.

Achieve your full potential find out more about 3Plus’ Career Booster Coaching NOW.

3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Leadership and Competence Building or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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