THE BLOG
09/15/2014 06:50 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2014

What to Do When Your Manager Steals Your Ideas

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Many of my business coaching clients are doing their best to advance. They're clawing their way up the corporate ladder and do quite well reaching executive levels... but not without challenges. One such challenge that I've seen a lot of post-2008 financial crisis, is when a manager steals a subordinate's ideas.

Let's face it, times are tough and competition fierce and this comes into play even in the manager/employee relationship. Since the balance of power favors the manager given that he or she controls appraisals, promotions, and raises, it can render one feeling frustrated, betrayed, and unsure how to proceed. This quandary is a tough situation as you're trying simultaneously to protect your hard work, maintain your job, and not upset the person who oversees your work. Knowing though how to strike a balance among honesty, diplomacy, and directness is crucial in dealing with this issue.

Here's what you should do:

  • Keep in mind, in taking your ideas, your manager is actually complimenting you. He or she is just going about it entirely wrong.
  • Ask your manager for a review, clarify duties, responsibilities, expectations and express your strong dedication and commitment to the job. In a non-accusatory way tell him/her that you feel you don't always get full credit or recognition for your efforts and that it's really important that you do because you value hard work. Approach the situation gently by taking the stance that there may be a problem of miscommunication: "I'm sure it wasn't intentional but I noticed my name was left off the reports." This indirect approach will send the message that you're fully aware of what's going on and hopefully it will lead to change.
  • Speak to a mentor within the company. A senior level employee will likely be more familiar with the corporate culture and policy and can provide direction and support. Find someone you can trust and who is familiar with your work.
  • Protect yourself by keeping emails and maintaining a paper trail. Copy your manager on emails that show progress you're making.
  • Think like a leader: interact with senior level colleagues conveying your cutting-edge ideas and expertise so they're aware of your capabilities and skills. This serves two purposes: 1.) Helps to promote the perception that you're an important and vital player in the company. 2.) Sets you up for advancement within the company should things not work out with your current supervisor.
  • Ultimately if things don't change, then bring human resources into the situation. Remember to be calm and respectful because getting credit isn't worth much if it's done at the expense of losing your job.

For more tips on dealing with challenging situations at work and home check out my book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.