How to Handle a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Are you sitting comfortably? Welcome to my Workplace series of podcasts that will help you to navigate those inevitable difficult events at work that are part of being a manager and Leader.  

Today I want to talk about how to handle a colleague who takes credit for your work.  

In an ideal world, the workplace would be full of people with compatible personalities who get on and want to work towards the same goals. But the reality is that some people just don’t get on, and they have an altogether different agenda.  

Getting on and doing well at work can be more of a challenge when you have to deal with a colleague who undermines you in order to advance their own position. 

Colleagues like this might exclude you from meetings or decision-making, they might boss you around, or take credit for your work or ideas, and this can cause problems for you and your career.  

So what can you do when someone takes credit for your work? 

Almost everyone experiences this at one time or another; whether you share an idea with a co-worker and then they pass it off as their own in a meeting, or they work with you on a project then act as if you don’t exist when it comes to claiming the credit for themselves; it can be infuriating.  

Because let’s face it, getting credit for your work matters. If you do great work and it gets recognised, it means that the value you bring to the organisation is recognised. The more valuable you are, the better chance you have of being first in line when it comes to promotions, pay rises, and desirable projects.  

But when you have worked with others on a project, it’s not always clear who has played the key role, and herein lies the problem. Some people will take that as a green light to take as much credit as possible for themselves. So what if you find yourself in this situation? 

First of all, stay calm, even if every fibre of your being wants to call them out for their behaviour and make a scene.

If you confront someone when you’re emotional or angry, you’re less likely to come across as being rational. Leave it for a day or so, so the anger has subsided a little, but it’s not forgotten about.  

Next, consider whether you’re jumping to conclusions.

Is your colleague trying to make you look bad and make themselves look good, or did they unintentionally take credit? Did they mention your name a few times in relation to the project or work or did they add their own ideas to the ideas you came with and all you could hear was them taking credit? 

Try asking your colleague about the project or work. This puts the ball in their court; they have to explain why they took credit and thought that it was okay to do so. This usually has a far better result than just coming out and accusing them.

Ask questions like ‘when you talked about the project (or idea), you said ‘I’ instead of ‘we,’ did you intend to do that?  

This will show them that you noticed they didn’t acknowledge your involvement and you thought that was wrong. 

If at this point, your colleague admits they were wrong, decide how the situation can be remedied. Perhaps talking to a manager or sending out an email thanking everyone who contributed to the project will be enough, but when it’s not, make sure you make your involvement with the work clear.  

You can do this by answering questions or providing details on the project when you’re asked, or in meetings, which will demonstrate how much you know. You could also ask another co-worker for backup. For example, if the project comes up in a meeting, you could ask them to ask you questions about it. Answering the questions with your detailed knowledge of the project will make sure everyone knows exactly who was responsible for the work.  

If this doesn’t work, and aside from taking credit for work, your colleague is completely undermining you, it’s time to talk to your manager.

It’s important that when you do, you don’t complain about your colleague. What you should do instead is tell your manager that you want to deal with the issues because you want to create good working relationships.  

You might discuss with your manager how you can prevent situations like this from recurring, and one of the steps you can take is to always agree on how everyone’s contribution is going to be recognised at the start of a project. Agree on individual responsibilities and put them down in black and white on an email.  

A final thought:

If you find yourself feeling very angry at a colleague who has taken credit for your work, remember that this might be coming from a place of insecurity. Nevertheless, your work and ideas are your own, and you are entitled to praise and recognition for a job well done.  

I hope that you got some good tips from today’s podcast, and I’ll see you next time for the next one in the series.  

This is The People Mentor, signing off. 

Managing boundaries and expectations in your team can seem hard sometimes so this blog has some pointers.

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