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May 12, 2014 at 1:00 AM

What to do when your boss takes credit for your work

Sometimes, one of the most important things you can do to protect your career is stand up for yourself when someone else takes credit for your ideas or your work. Here is one story I received from a reader:

“My boss has been taking credit for my work. My manager looked me in the face in a meeting and proposed my idea as her own. I was shocked. Throughout this week, I have noticed she is repeating in meetings everything I have said. I have made the decision to no longer give ideas to help the project and only work on tasks I am allocated, which is not my way of working; I prefer being proactive.

“I am thinking of complaining, but she has been at the company about 30 years and is close with the HR director, and I’ve only been there three years. My anger is driving me to potentially complain via the union, but can I? I feel like leaving the company or even calling in sick because it’s annoying me that much.”

My response: You are avoiding dealing with the situation to the extent that it’s making you feel sick just thinking about it. Your first step should always be to go directly to the person with the unethical behavior and speak with him or her.

Try holding a confidential discussion with your manager to point out her behavior and ask her to help you understand why she hasn’t been giving you credit for your ideas. If you are fearful of how she will react, ask a colleague who is familiar with the situation and willing to stand up for you (and for what is ethically right) to accompany you. If your boss’s reaction is bad, then you’ll have more evidence against her — as well as an eyewitness.

Until you make it known to your manager that you see what she is doing and would like an explanation, she likely will continue her bad behavior. Further, the first thing the union or HR representative will ask you is, “How did your manager react when you spoke to her about this issue? Did her behavior continue?” You need to be able to answer those questions in a way that demonstrates your mature attempt at handling the situation.

Your manager knows she can steal your ideas — because you are letting her. Standing up for yourself and others in a professional manner will help you overcome your fear of these types of situations in the future and, most likely, relieve the stress you are feeling.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Your Career, Your Way! Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: career advancement, communication, conflict, office politics, relationships

Blog contributors

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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