How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable happens: a colleague claims credit for your work.

As you reel from the shock of what just occurred, your self-talk goes into overdrive. “How dare they. The audacity!” you say to yourself as you start to play out the consequences in your mind. “What does the rest of the team suppose my role was? Making the coffee?”

But in the time it takes to come to grips with what just happened, something even more critical occurs: The moment passes. The team moves on to a new topic. The time for speaking up and publicly correcting the “mistake” has passed. Everyone “knows” who owned the accomplishment, and it’s not you.

Prevent it from happening again

There’s really only one sure-fire method of preventing this from happening, and it is to preemptively, publicly, claim credit for everything you do.

At the Executive Women International Academy of Leadership conference last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, keynote speaker (and all-round awesome lady) Fawn Germer said “If you don’t take credit for what you do, it is likely that someone else will.”

To be completely realistic, though, I understand that are many very reasonable reasons why you may not be entirely comfortable doing this. And you are by no means alone. Later that day at the EWI conference I asked my class of 120 women (and one man) in my leadership workshop “Who here feels 100% comfortable promoting their accomplishments at work?” As is usual in such groups, only three or four individuals raised their hands.

Publicly claiming credit for the work you do, also known as “tooting your own horn” is not comfortable for most people. Why? Here’s my theory: We’ve all worked with someone who overdid it and was always bragging about their achievements. In response to this, we say to ourselves “I never want to be that person” and cease claiming credit for our work – even in situations where it is appropriate and necessary.

But consider the consequences: Unscrupulous colleagues can seize the opportunity to claim credit, because you’d left it sitting on the table as though it was there for the taking.

Now consider what feels worse: Proactively claiming credit for your major accomplishments, or having that credit taken by someone else. Hopefully you can agree that promoting your achievements is the lesser evil.

So mark each major milestone by stopping work and taking action to attach your name to the result. For example, make an announcement in a meeting or by email such as “Team, I just completed the financial modeling for this quarter and have begun work on next quarter. If you’d like have questions or would like to discuss the results or methodology, please let me know.”

In theory, doing this consistently should shut down the likelihood of a colleague claiming credit, but of course in the real world, one might still slip through! If so, how should you respond?

Here are three steps to decisively and diplomatically shut down a colleague who takes credit for your work.

Step 1: Immediately set the record straight

Let’s say it happens again. You’re in a meeting and a colleague, Kevin, claims credit for your work… again. What should you do?

Whatever you do, don’t let the moment pass. It is important to speak up immediately, even if this means interrupting or speaking over the top of someone.

If you feel flustered, try not to let it show. Smile, and aim to speak with warmth and authority in equal measure, and say “To clear up any misunderstanding, what Kevin is trying to explain is that we collaborated on this effort. He led the initial data gathering, while I devised the methodology and performed the analysis. ” Smile one more time, and then shut up.

Why say it was a collaboration, even if it wasn’t? It is to help Kevin save face with the team, because the real conversation will take place with him privately, later. You don’t want to raise his defenses any higher than they already are. If you thrown him under the bus now, you can forget about having reasonable conversation later.

Step 2: Follow up in private

Later, but not too much later, with your trademark mix of warmth and authority, approach Kevin privately and ask if this is a good time to discuss what happened.

After you have his permission, tell Kevin that you respect his work and his contributions to the team, and that you won’t hesitate in future to praise him publicly for his contributions. Then with a tone of pure authority, say “But if you claim credit for my work again, I will set the record straight. Is that clear?” Listen carefully to what he has to say, but don’t be persuaded to back down from this very reasonable request.

Close the conversation by thanking him for understanding and adding anything else you’d like to say to ensure there are no hard feelings.

Step 3: Repeat

With that, the matter should be settled. But just in case it ever happens again, be on the alert and ready to speak up, firstly in public and then later in private, whenever someone else claims credit for your work, Kevin’s work or that of another colleague. If their behavior continues after multiple conversations, escalate your complaint to a higher authority such as your supervisor, and share your track record of prior conversations to show that you’ve been handling it like a grown-up and taking reasonable action.

In her keynote speech to EWI members, Fawn Germer also said “Don’t avoid uncomfortable conversations. They take between five and fifteen minutes,” and often a lot less! Ultimately, a short, uncomfortable conversation can be far less stressful than working in a team where credit and praise are unfairly given and taken.

Facebook
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Follow by Email
Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is founding editor of BeLeaderly.com. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

Facebook
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Follow by Email
25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

Whenever I’m asked “What are some of the best questions to ask a ...

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

25 Songs For Your Leadership Playlist

What are your all-time favorite leadership songs — the ones that make you ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a question I ask in a survey ...

How to Ace the Q&A (When You Don’t Know the Answer)
How to Ace the Q&A (When You Don’t Know the Answer)

Even the most confident communicators can fumble when fielding unpredictable questions in front of an

7 New Rules of Teamwork
7 New Rules of Teamwork

Have you ever been on a team project where you didn’t make much of a

The Top 5 Most-Read Articles This Month
The Top 5 Most-Read Articles This Month

Here’s what other emerging leaders have been reading at BeLeaderly this month. If you feel an

Leaderly Quote: Keep you mind where your feet are…
Leaderly Quote: Keep you mind where your feet are…

Keep you mind where your feet are. —Lori Wren Elerts

4 Steps to Becoming a Powerhouse Public Speaker
4 Steps to Becoming a Powerhouse Public Speaker

Want to expand your reach as a leader? Deloitte partner Jennifer Knickerbocker has a tip

How to Get Over Your Pre-Presentation Jitters
How to Get Over Your Pre-Presentation Jitters

It’s no wonder that for many people, the fear of public speaking registers as more terrifying

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Lisa Bogart
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Lisa Bogart

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what they’re doing to

Leaderly Quote: Find the fire within you…
Leaderly Quote: Find the fire within you…

“Find the fire within you that burns through all blocks and fears.” —Ashley Turner

10 Signs You Need a New Job—Fast
10 Signs You Need a New Job—Fast

When GoBankingRates asked about the warning signs that it’s time for a job change, I

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Cara Wulf
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Cara Wulf

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what they’re doing to

Ask Jo: How can I thank my mentor?

Question: I have an incredible mentor. She ...

Teamwork is a Skill. It Takes Practice!

Everyone wants to lead, or be a ...

It’s Worth the Risk (I promise)

This is Sarah. She’s one of my ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a ...

Leaderly Quote: Great Leaders Know When to Step Aside

“Great leaders know when to step aside.” ...

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Subscribe

captcha

PRIVACY

We will never share, rent, or sell your personal information or email address. Read more.
Copyright 2018, Be Leaderly