How to Deal With a Colleague Taking Credit for Your Work

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Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Thursday, October 14, 2021

When co-workers taking credit for things you’ve done starts to become a serious problem, it's time to think about positive steps you can take to address the issue.

Article 4 Minutes
How to Deal With a Colleague Taking Credit for Your Work

Everyone deserves to be fairly recognized and rewarded for the good work they do, so it can be particularly irritating and difficult when you see a colleague taking credit for something you’ve achieved.

As well as simply being unfair and unprofessional (on the part of the person accepting the praise), this can have an impact on your career if you're being overlooked for promotions, new career opportunities or pay increases.

If this is starting to become a serious problem, there are some steps you can take to address it in an appropriate and constructive way.

1. Stay calm

One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make in the workplace is going into a potentially explosive situation when their emotions are running high.

You might feel angry when you see that a colleague has taken credit for your work, but that doesn't mean you should rush into confronting them and embarking on a tirade about their irresponsible and unprofessional behavior.

Starting a sensitive conversation when you're already angry is unlikely to lead to any positive outcomes and could reflect more negatively on you than the person who was guilty of the initial wrongdoing.

The best approach when you have a grievance you want to resolve at work is to give yourself time to think and prepare. This will help you create an unclouded picture of the situation in your own head and also allow you to consider the key points you want to make.

Ultimately, you're more likely to give a good account of yourself and get the outcome you're looking for if you're calm and collected.

2. Don't throw accusations

As convinced as you might be that someone else is unfairly accepting recognition for your hard work, it's important to remember there could be another side to the story.

For instance, it's possible that credit for a big sale or a successful project has been inaccurately attributed because of managerial oversight. The person you think has deliberately stolen the limelight from you could be entirely innocent and just as confused about the mix-up as you are.

This is why it's important not to let your emotions dictate your actions and to refrain from making any allegations before you have all the facts. One useful tactic is to focus on asking questions, rather than rushing in and throwing accusations around.

Firstly, this will help you gain more information about exactly what has happened and why. Secondly, if a colleague has consciously taken the credit for something they didn't do, asking questions will place the onus on them to explain their actions.

3. Treat others how you’d like to be treated

One of the best ways to bring about change in the workplace is by setting a positive example of how you’d like every member of staff to behave.

When it comes to giving out credit for outstanding performance in the workplace, if you expect to get fair recognition for your own achievements, then you should also be ready to acknowledge other people's successes.

You can lead by example by making a conscious effort to identify and celebrate individuals who’ve played a vital role in delivering excellent results for the business.

This will help create a culture of transparency, mutual appreciation and respect for the contribution every member of the workforce makes. As a result, people will be less likely to unfairly accept praise for the hard work of others.

4. Stop it from happening again

'Prevention is better than cure' is a maxim that can be applied to many situations and challenges in business. It's always worth investing the time and effort required to develop practices that will prevent difficult situations, rather than waiting for problems to occur and dealing with them retroactively.

When it comes to people taking praise for the achievements of others, one way you can reduce this risk is by starting every project or process with a clear understanding of who’s taking the lead, where key responsibilities lie and who deserves credit for particular outcomes.

Make sure you have satisfactory answers to questions such as:

  • Who will present these results or ideas to senior management?
  • Who’s best-placed to answer questions?
  • Who will communicate data and performance insights to the rest of the company?

Being clear on these sorts of matters from the outset will greatly reduce the risk of anyone missing out on the recognition and rewards they deserve.

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