Idea theft can range from co-workers overstating their involvement in a project to brazenly claiming credit for the work you or others performed. While you should be tolerant of people forgetting to give you credit in certain situations, anyone who intentionally presents others’ work as their own should be confronted and stopped.
If the failure to give due credit was an oversight -- for example, if a co-worker simply forgot to mention your name during a presentation of a project you both worked on -- politely voice your concern later. Don’t be shy about asking for credit. You deserve recognition for work you have performed, as does everyone on the team. Tell her you understand it was a mistake, but ask her to be clear in the future about who contributed what.
If someone intentionally steals credit, a more assertive approach might be necessary, according to the book “Asserting Yourself at Work,” by Constance Zimmerman and Richard A. Luecke. Explain that the behavior crossed the line, and that you and your teammates won't tolerate it in the future. Warn the co-worker that you will report her to management and that you will be collecting evidence to back your claims. Don't be combative, but be firm and clear about your intentions.
Report the Theft
If your co-worker continues to take credit for work you or the whole team did, speak to your supervisor. Explain the situation, and supply evidence to back your claims. Bring your project notes, records of the hours you put into the project and any other materials that show you did the work, not your co-worker. If others on your team have also been victimized, ask them to support you in the meeting.
If you prefer to deal with the situation without involving management, find ways to discourage theft of credit. Attaching your name to everything you produce might make it harder for your co-worker to claim credit, advises Ian Newton in the book “How to Get Ahead at Work.” Other options include keeping your notes separate from team materials and volunteering to present your own work rather than letting a spokesperson do it. Also, keep minutes at group meetings to track the contributions of different team members. If a record exists, the thief might think twice about claiming credit.
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