I’m not getting credit for my ideas … but my coworkers are

A reader writes:

I’ll often share ideas with my coworkers, like “If we make teapots out of porcelain, we can sell them for a higher price at the same cost to produce.” Then one of my colleagues (all male) will say, “Yeah, and we can paint birds on them.” Then later, someone will be like, “Tyrion had this great idea for porcelain teapots with birds on them” and. .. what do I say?

It feels petty to be like, “Actually, that was my idea” (especially since Tyrion contributed a detail). But I feel like I’m not getting credit for my ideas and I’m less memorable than my male colleagues. Do you have any tips on how to be more memorable and/or claim credit without looking petty?

Speak up right away and participate in the discussion — and when you do, include a mention that you’d come up with the idea. For example:

* “Yes, I’d originally suggested porcelain teapots because I realized we can sell them for a higher price at the same cost to produce because blah blah…”

* “Oh, I’m glad we’re talking about this! When it came up the other day, I’d suggested we consider using porcelain because (reasons) and then Tyrion added on to that with the bird idea, which I think is great too.”

* “Yes! I’d suggested this last week because I’d been thinking about…”

* “I’d shared my idea about this with the team earlier — I came up with the idea of porcelain because…”

* “Actually, let me jump in here since I’d proposed the idea originally. My thinking on this is…”

Note that in all of these, you’re not just saying, “Actually that was my idea, KEVIN.” You’re just taking a natural role in the conversation and contributing your thinking … and as you do that, you happen to mention (naturally and organically) that this is your idea we’re talking about.

Also, it might be wise to make a point of sharing some of your ideas with your manager first, rather than bouncing them off coworkers. If you do that, it’ll be easier to ensure you’re getting the credit for them. That’s not to say you should stop brainstorming with coworkers entirely — but be strategic about the balance there.

{ 118 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon (and on and on)*

    Do you have female colleagues? You can try enlisting them to use the “amplification” technique created by women in Obama’s administration. When one shared something, the others would repeat it while giving credit, making sure that the idea was heard and attributed to the right person.

    1. Lady Kelvin*

      You can also find men to help amplify your message. I work on an all male team in a field where I attend meetings that are usually almost all men and I find that my coworkers who are my age recognize that people don’t listen to me (at first). If I say something in a meeting and no one responds, they will often parrot “I agree with Lady Kelvin that blah blah blah” and then repeat what I just said. Usually that gets everyone else’s attention and I’m slowly starting to be heard the first time. Unfortunately, it sometimes is heard better if it comes from a male, but you do have to identify others who recognize the problem, which could be difficult.

      1. Quinalla*

        Yes, I have asked male peers (as I have few female peers in my engineering job and none in my regional office) to do this for me and I reciprocate. It is a win-win as the right person gets the credit and the person giving that person credit is seen as a team player.

        And they way I’ve approached it is I start by signal boosting them for a few weeks and then approach them and say “Hey, I’ve been making an effort to signal boost your ideas the past few weeks like when [specific example they witnessed] and [example they didn’t witness], can I ask you to do the same for me? That way we increase visibility for each other and our [team/regional office/etc.]”

    2. Sequoit*

      I was going to suggest this, too! It’s really easy for ideas to get misattributed if folks aren’t paying attention, and this is a great tactic to combat that!

    3. Triumphant Fox*

      I try to do this in general as a technique to bolster the perception of my employees. Leadership tends to think “Oh, this thing went well so of course this manager deserves the praise,” when really it’s often my department who made that thing look good, sound good, be fun, whatever. In the moment, I give credit to the right person. “Oh, I’m so glad you liked those. Sansa had that idea originally and gave us some great options to work with.” Even if they misattribute credit to someone on my team, I’ll correct them – which also helps gives me credibility when I say that I did something. It sounds less weird if I’m like, “Actually, I was the one who completely redesigned your presentation, but Arya made sure every i was dotted and t was crossed. I’m so happy you like how it turned out,” if I’ve also given my employees credit when I’ve been given the praise for something. “Rod and I worked together on options, but he came up with that tagline. He’s been a great addition to the team.”

      It’s worked with men and women for me, but my workplace is pretty great about listening to women.

    4. Bree*

      This is a great strategy, which (sadly) works even better when your male colleagues amplify too. If there are progressive men who would understand the problem, you could also recruit them for support. I had a male colleague who deliberately did this for me in a previous position, and I appreciated it a great deal.

    5. Merci Me*

      I’ve amplified female colleagues and it’s great. The evil looks from male colleagues get added to my merit sash. Yeah, you’re sad you can’t get credit for other people’s ideas anymore and you look bad in front of the bosses for trying? I hear they’re throwing a huge pity party in Antarctica, maybe you should use some time off to attend it.

  2. obviously*

    I totally would say to Kevin outside of the meeting, “Kevin, you keep bringing up my ideas as if they were your own. What’s up with that?” and let this Manstealer sit in his obnoxiousness.

    1. Cat Fan*

      To be fair to the imaginary Kevin, the situation described was a third person attributing the idea to Kevin instead of to the letter writer.

      1. OP*

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s intentional on Kevin’s part.

        Thanks for the suggestions, I love those approaches!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think nearly every woman has experienced a variation of this, and one of the best tools in my arsenal are good dudes being good dudes.

      Good dudes properly credit me, redirect questions about my ideas to me, and endorse that they back my idea. Anytime someone tries to attribute my ideas to them, they are steadfast about giving me credit and the floor. Anytime someone repeats an idea I’ve proposed and others treat the idea like it belongs to person #2, the good dudes will jump in and clarify that it was my idea. When people ask the Misattributed Guy questions, the good dudes jump in and ask if I can answer, first, because it was my idea.

      I really wish there were more dudes who: (1) paid attention and noticed the misattribution problem (which is rife across all fields); and (2) actively intervened by leveraging their male privilege in support of folks being marginalized or misattributed within the team. There are not enough good dudes.

  3. The Gilbert Principle*

    Is Kevin the male version of Karen? Just checking…. (also, Right on Alison – but this sort of thing is SO hard to do if you’ve been socialised out of it.)

  4. Goldenrod*

    I remember Helen Gurley Brown had a great suggestion about this. She said that, whenever possible, she brought in a picture to illustrate her ideas. Then later, after the idea took off and people were liable to forget where it started, she could hold up her clipping and refer back to it.

    I mean, this doesn’t work in a lot of industries – or if you are being very spontaneous – but this idea always stuck with me. She said a visual is more powerful than words.

    1. OP*

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s intentional on Kevin’s part.

      Thanks for the suggestions, I love those approaches!

    2. The New Wanderer*

      That also worked in Working Girl, when Sigourney Weaver’s character cut Melanie Griffith out of her own idea and took all the credit at first. MG showed up with a newspaper clipping and told the owner exactly how the article sparked the idea she came up with. When the owner asked SW about it, she choked.

    3. Quinalla*

      I’ve started making sure I just put my name and the date on things I send out, even if they are just drafts. Not because anyone I work with would steal my ideas, but people forget or inadvertently attribute something to one person that a group or someone else worked on.

      And yes, I’ve used wording like Alison suggested many times when it was brought up around me. I also make sure to speak up for others if I see it happening to them. It’s the right thing to do, it makes it easier for others to speak up if they see someone else do it and if folks know I have their back, I hope they will get mine in the future!

  5. Autumnheart*

    There’s also the pre-emptive strike option: Stop bringing your ideas up around Kevin and the other non-sharers. Bring them up to your manager, or in a group setting with management present. Keep a notepad and jot your ideas down as they occur to you, then save them as agenda items for your 1:1s or team meetings.

      1. Shannon*

        Ugh that’s the worst. (BTW I’m one of the most interesting people I know – blue hair and all – in a heavily female company and the men still do this to me! It’s not you.)

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      That’s what I was going to suggest. Because Alison’s suggestion is fine if you need to reactively manage this type of thing, but if you say it too often it does sound a bit… “me, me! my idea!”

      So rather bring these ideas up in a different forum. But also accept that your manager (regardless of gender) may in turn present them to higher-ups, without crediting you, or as his idea or the team’s idea. You can’t do anything about that and it’s pretty common.

      Also, if you are friendly with any of your team, you can ask them if they experience the same thing.

      Important thing to note though, is that there aren’t a lot of original ideas. If you make a point of presenting an idea as your own, make sure it’s useful and original!

  6. Leela*

    I’ve experienced this so, so, so much. It’s awful and I wish I could share something that worked! I’d even brought it up to leads/bosses before who acted like I was just being crazy or trying to assign myself undeserved credit. So far the best way for me has been to just leave those jobs unfortunately, because the sexism behind that was also behind other things I didn’t like. I hope that Alison’s suggestions work out for you!

    1. Roza*

      +1 to it being awful. I’ve also had the experience of a manager criticizing me for bringing up my involvement in an idea — she got very defensive about how the idea was DEFINITELY 100% her favorite employee’s, and there was no way I had contributed to it. When I offered proof, she then switched tactics and literally told me “Well, ideas are cheap, all that matters is execution!” I’m more senior than her favorite and had my plate full with more urgent things, and had been repeatedly given feedback that part of my job was to come up with good idea but then delegate the execution… It also took all of my self control not to ask her how much IC work she had actually ever executed. Luckily I was able to switch teams and managers.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Well, ideas are cheap, all that matters is execution!

        And if it was favorites idea then favorite should be able to execute it with ZERO help from you.

        1. Mr. X*

          What’s the matter, aren’t you a team player? Favorite came up with this great idea, don’t be so jealous that you won’t help them!

          Wait, why are you quitting?

      2. Roza*

        Just to clarify — I don’t think she SHOULD have been executing IC work. Her job is different, and ideas ARE actually important. But the fact that she just had to find a way to make sure her favorite got all the credit was pretty amazing. Also an interesting dynamic in that she’s female, I’m female (and very much socialized to be passive/not claim credit/be quietly supportive — it’s something I’m working on), her favorite is a pretty stereotypical outgoing and confident white guy. The credit discussion/fallout was the just the final nail in the coffin, there was already a long record of her literally forgetting/overlooking my areas of expertise while exaggerating his (eg I had several years’ experience llama herding before starting this job, regularly discussed my passion for llama herding, and then worked on llama herding for several months while reporting to her…but then she gave Favorite Guy a plum project because, after reading about llama herding for a couple weeks, he was the team expert, and also she had no idea I was even interested, and also if I was disappointed this was my fault for not demanding to work on the project, but then when I started being more vocal about which assignments I wanted I was “difficult” and “emotional”. Really don’t miss that manager. All of her senior reports who weren’t white guys quit the team or the company within a few weeks of me.

        1. 'Tis Me*

          I really hope somebody higher up had a look at that and got some unvarnished feedback on her “management” style…

  7. voyager1*

    1. Men aren’t the problem here, men do this to other men. I have had this situation happen to me where a male took an idea further and got credit. I have had female coworkers do the same. Welcome to the real work world.

    2. Here is something that has worked for me though. I make my suggestions in writing to whoever makes the decisions. It could be a lead or manager etc.

    When you give ideas away for free don’t be angry that someone uses them and gets credit for it. In short look out for yourself, nobody else is.

    1. Fikly*

      If men are doing this to both men and women, how does this not make men the problem? It just perhaps suggests that the issue behind it is not sexism.

        1. Autumnheart*

          I read what you wrote, and if men are doing it, whether to women or other men, then men are clearly the problem. QED.

          1. Essess*

            No you didn’t read it correctly, because you are saying that men are the problem but they posted that female coworkers have done it too.

        2. Fikly*

          People of both genders doing something problematic does not make one gender not part of the problem. It simply means both genders are the problem.

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        Hahaha my thoughts exactly. Voyager1 wrote. “Men aren’t the problem here; men do this…”

        I dunno, if men do this, then it sounds like they are at least part of the problem. XD

    2. Aquawoman*

      LW never said men are the problem. However, I am taking your comment to mean you’re a guy, and if you’re a guy, you lack experience as a woman in the workplace. As a woman in the workplace, 100% of the time this happens, it is a guy giving the credit for my work to another guy.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Sadly, I’ve also seen women give credit for my work to a man. They’re usually the sexist ones trying to get me to know my place.

      2. voyager1*

        Correct Aquawoman the LW implied it and judging from the comments I wasn’t the only one who picked up on it.

      3. Quill*

        The person misattributing can be of any gender, but the overwhelmingly the only time the person it’s being wrongly attributed to isn’t a man is if there are other demographic factors like race in play…

    3. Washi*

      I’ve often found it to be a power dynamic thing – white people and men often seem to find remembering whose idea it originally was more difficult when it came from a woman or especially a woman of color.

      I’m a white woman, and one thing I’ve found helpful is to always, always give credit to the person who came up with the idea, even if I’ve ultimately added quite a bit to it myself. I also always speak up and correct others when they gloss over the original creator or mis-attribute something. It took a while, but I found that over time, my coworkers noticed it and started paying more attention to crediting the right person, because the dynamic changed from “now we have this great idea, doesn’t matter where it came from” to “let’s recognize whoever came up with this great idea.”

      The OP can definitely be more careful about sharing with the manager first, but I think she can also try to model the behavior she wishes she saw.

    4. Les*

      Why is it that every time a woman complains about men doing something to her in the workplace, men chime in to say, “ACTUALLY this has happened before to dudes!”

      Surely OP has noticed a *difference* in how often it happens to her compared to the men. Otherwise she wouldn’t be writing. It just comes across as “well women can’t possibly understand the nuances in any given social situation so I need to swoop in and clarify it!”

      I hate the term “mansplaining” but honestly … it seems to be on the rise.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It isn’t the issue, it’s the degree that it is happening. Once in a while is not the same as almost always.

      2. Artemesia*

        “I know that there is a lot of focus on breast cancer, but did you know MEN can actually get it too?”
        It is always about men.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. This is a well-documented phenomenon that disproportionately affects women. It’s not okay to dismiss the reality of sexism when there’s reams of research backing it up.

        1. voyager1*

          I am not sure if this is addressed to me, or the comment about cancer.

          I probably could have written my first point better. I am just not convinced what is going on here in this situation specifically is gendered. The LW seems to and yeah I know “take the LW at their word” is the rule. But this literally sounds like a group of coworkers brainstorming and a guy at the end got the credit. That stinks for the LW, but this kind of thing has been going on since well forever. And by “thing” I mean one person getting credit for a group effort. Hence why I made the 2nd point about writing things down, if you have documentation that you had an idea first, well it is your idea.

          To me the best case situation for the LW would have been they got the credit for getting the project going. And yes that matters. But having an idea and others making it better doesn’t mean everything others comes up with is your ideas too or that you have any claim to their work. While the LW does not say that, I get that vibe a little bit.

          1. Avasarala*

            You’re reading this as if it’s one situation LW has experienced once, and LW is shocked and has no idea why this is happening. This is one example of many the LW and many many others have experienced where women contribute most/the main idea, a dude tacks on a little/nothing, and credit for the whole project goes to the dude. This is a common trend that women everywhere have noticed and struggled with.

            The point here isn’t to nitpick LW’s example to say “maybe men get their ideas stolen too, LW shouldn’t steal men’s ideas.” The point is to acknowledge that LW is at a disadvantage here due to gender, and help her claw back recognition for the major role that she did play.

          2. Fikly*

            How does “I’ll often share ideas with my coworkers” sound like brainstorming that leads to a collective idea and one person getting the credit? There is clearly an originator of an idea, one small detail added, and then the person who added the small detail getting the credit.

            I don’t get the vibe that the LW objects to the person getting the credit for the detail they added. They object to getting no credit for the base (bigger) idea of switching teapot material.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I suspect OP mentioned gender because gender, and perceptions of gender, affect workplace communication, including whether a person who seeks proper attribution is considered a “team player” or “petty.” And more often than not, women face a different kind of backlash than men when claiming proper attribution, with some exceptions based on intersectional identity, so it makes sense when asking for advice to ask for feedback that is effective in light of that broader social context.

            The way you framed your lead comment makes it sound like you don’t believe that gendered dynamic exists, which I suspect is why there’s so much pushback. But speaking personally, I don’t think determining whether standard-grade sexism is at play in this specific situation really affects the advice for OP.

            1. voyager1*

              How is it going today? Yeah I did get push back, I am okay with it though. Sometimes people will agree with me sometimes they won’t. Not cool when people get personal though… sometimes one has got to take the high road.

              I do want to address one thing though. I have no doubt that rampant sexism and gender bias exists in the workplace. What I don’t like is the whole “all men are bad” trope that gets thrown around a lot on the socials, including this blog. I get it though, using that get likes, retweets and clicks. I imagine for some folks it even gives them some kind of validation too. Sadly though it pushes people like me away.

              Anyway, hope your day is well!

              1. Fikly*

                All men are bad is a trope because, inevitably, the men who respond defensively that “not all men” are exactly the ones who are part of the problem and cannot acknowledge it.

              2. Avasarala*

                I agree with the sentiment that sometimes people are too quick to blame gender, even becoming sexist themselves with “…because he’s a man” when it’s not relevant or helpful.

                But if you see someone asking for help on navigating sexism in the workplace, and you feel the need to chime in with “not all men”, you are not helping. In fact you are part of the problem. And if you feel pushed away, that is because you are pushing yourself away–better to protect the ego that there are some good, innocent men than to acknowledge that even I might be/have been wrong, eh?

                I hope you can learn to sit with this feeling of discomfort and reread the comments here, because I think you’ll learn a lot.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I’m well, thanks :) I hope your day is going well, also!

                I haven’t seen OP or the commenters make any “all men are bad” comments. Instead, I’ve seen folks refer broadly to their experiences with the gendered dynamic in which women are more likely to have their ideas misattributed to men and to experience that misattribution at a higher rate than similarly situated men. That’s an empirically supported phenomenon that’s a side effect of living in a society with pervasive gender inequality.

                Given that there are no likes, retweets, upvotes, or clicks on the comments, it’s not… fair? helpful? … to reframe people’s comments as broadsides against “all men.” (I’m assuming you’re not referring to Alison’s post, because she also doesn’t deploy “all men” stereotyping in her posts.)

                Unfortunately, because the “not all men” response is a super common tool used when dismissing women’s comments about their experiences with workplace sexism, it often doesn’t encourage a more nuanced conversation. It just results in huge derails (like this thread) about whether or not OP and other women’s reality exists. It may help to take a step back when you begin feeling like there’s an “all men” rant to reassess whether that’s actually at play?

    5. Retro*

      I don’t think it’s fair to say that you “give ideas away for free.” In a respectful workplace, you expect that everyone is collaborating and building on each other’s ideas but that you acknoweledge credit where credit is due. If you’re receiving credit for great execution, but it was actually a colleague who proposed/helped plan the execution, you should mention their contribution to the success.
      It’s true that you should be looking out for yourself in work, in all contexts, but it’s certainly not reasonable to think that work is free-for-all credit grab where you need to be cutthroat for your ideas to be recognized.

      1. voyager1*

        In a normal workplace yes, people will share credit. But there are times you really do have to lookout for yourself.

        It sounds like the LW was in a conversation with multiple participants. Apparently one person got more credit then she felt he deserved since he modified her idea and made it better.

        In that case then yes she gave an idea away and someone else got the credit. In a good workplace a manager would give all the participants credit. Not sure if that happened here.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        Also, in a respectful workplace, Keven would speak up that the porcelain teapots were originally the OPs idea and he just suggested the decoration. Because in a respectful workplace you should strive to give credit where credit is due.
        I used to work one place that was especially good about this, even the men. At least it was good for a while anyway until new management came in.

      3. Fikly*

        This isn’t what the LW wants, though? They simply want part of the share of credit. Which is what you say should happen in a respectful workplace.

        Sometimes work is a free-for-all credit grab where you need to be cutthroat in order to get recognition, because otherwise you might be fired/not get promotions/raises, etc. That’s not a healthy workplace, but in that case, the problem isn’t the LW.

    6. Me*

      Men *can* be the problem. This is something experienced by women from men more than women by women or men by men. Pretending that because to does also happen men/men and women/women and women/men there isn’t the potential for sexism to be at play is head in the sand.

      That doesn’t mean this instance is gendered, but please don’t with the not all men stuff.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Exactly. Just because not all situations stem from sexism doesn’t mean that it means there’s not sexism or other discrimination at play.

        Some people, men and women feel superior to others for many different reasons. Discrimination due to gender, sexuality, religion, race, nationality, etc is real, regardless of the assorted equal opportunity jerks among us.

        Sometimes it’s just an alpha thinking that they’re above everyone, everywhere, no matter what. But usually it’s just someone who thinks they’re above that person, over there because they present “weak” for the various reasons that people peg others as “inferior”.

    7. Engineer Girl*

      Your statement ignores several factors.

      I’ve prepared ideas (PowerPoint presentation) and had men receive credit because the person was convinced a woman couldn’t have come up with the idea herself. So even in the presence of massive documentation women still get less credit.

      I’ve also had men claim that they “helped” me withy something (they did not) and receive credit.

      Your dismissal ignores people’s actual experience.

      1. tangerineRose*

        “had men receive credit because the person was convinced a woman couldn’t have come up with the idea herself” This is horrifying. So basically the person is convinced that women aren’t as smart as men?! I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

        1. Artemesia*

          When I was up for promotion, one of the lines of questioning to my peer involved in my research was ‘did she come up with any of this herself, or is she just riding on your work?’ In fact the major creative ideas in the research were all mine; he had some good networks and was instrumental in getting the funding; he was a valuable colleague, but the intellectual muscle had been mine. I also literally had written the whole book that came out of the work that we ‘co-authored; at least I insisted on and got first author. But the assumption was the guy must have been the power behind the work. I did get the promotion, but it is the tide women always are pushing against.

        1. Anonimine*

          Haha….this response is exactly what people are talking about. It is obvious you are very secure in yourself, it is about self awareness.

    8. Lucette Kensack*

      Men aren’t the problem. Systemic sexism, which leads people of all genders to dismiss the value of women’s contributions, is the problem — men are merely the main beneficiaries and (therefore) most prolific upholders of that system.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        This. In my experience (I am female and over 50) both men and women misattribute, often to someone who has a higher profile/more outgoing. In my experience, women are more likely to misattribute/ignore other women than men are.

    9. Anon Here*

      Yeah. I’ve learned this the hard way. You have to learn how to monetize your ideas. Yes, that sounds very business-like and off-putting, but set that aside. When people copy your ideas, it’s because your ideas are valuable. It sucks, but you can also see it as an appraisal of your thoughts’ value in a business sense. The next step is to: 1) Find a way to maintain credit for all of your ideas. 2) Translate that into the appropriate amount of earnings or anything else of value.

      That’s hard. A lot of thinkers and imaginative people are more introverted or socially awkward. It can take a long time to see what your ideas are worth to those around you and how to receive compensation and recognition for your contributions. A lot of us get shamed into thinking we can’t be creative and business-like at the same time, and I think some of that comes from people who want to use other people’s ideas and take credit for them. So don’t feel bad about doing what you need to do.

      As others have said, put your ideas in writing, include one or more managers, and share them with multiple people – in writing – at the same time. That: 1) Makes it harder for anyone else to take credit 2) Creates documentation that you can use when requesting a raise. And it makes it easy to advocate for a raise. You can hand them a list of the ideas you proposed (+ dates) which were then implemented, along with estimated stats on how the company benefited (profits and reduced costs), tally that up into one figure and say, “My ideas generated about $X for the company in total, so a salary increase of at least $Y and a promotion to Z would be appropriate in order to retain me. I would really like to remain a part of this company and keep contributing . . . etc etc.” Form habits around stuff like this so it becomes second nature. That way you can keep thinking about cool new things and not stress about it.

      Also, yes, everyone does this to everyone. But it disproportionately affects some people more than others. It’s not just about gender, or other categories that are easy to point to. A lot comes into play. It’s one of those things where everyone is affected but it also tends to reflect the social inequalities that come up everywhere.

      Lastly, as you get better at getting credit for your ideas, make a point of helping other people get credit for their ideas. Be that person who says, “Actually that was Fergus’ idea.” That not only is a nice thing to do, it also establishes your integrity and credibility so that people will trust that your ideas really are your own.

    10. Bree*

      Oh come on, men getting credit for women’s work is a well-documented phenomenon. Sure, there are exceptions but the anecdote doesn’t outweigh the trend.

  8. Kitten Caboodle*

    In my case, the idea thief is my boss. Usually after a management meeting, where I’ve proposed an idea that he has immediately and adamantly shot down publicly, he saunters into my office two hours later suggesting we implement this brilliant (my) idea he had, and then he mansplains it back to me.

    1. Cottleston Pie*

      Yep, I had a 1 to 1 with my manager one day recently where I pointed out an area for improvement in one of our systems, then overheard him presenting it as his idea with his own manager the next day.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I’d be very tempted to go to his boss and say how great it is that Boss thought the idea you described to him at your 1:1 meeting was so great that it’ll be implemented, with just the right amount of backstory/detail to underscore it was your idea. Self-promotion as enthusiasm.

      1. Cottleston Pie*

        Oh, he won’t get away with it. He’s been around for a long time and I’m relatively new — his boss and others in the organization are already aware that I’m the source of the new ideas coming from his department.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I have a bit of a jerk streak in me, and when people do shit like this in a regular way (like my first Toxic Boss did), I ask them targeted questions about “their” idea in front of other people. It’s usually satisfying, because they often can’t.

      But I’m sorry this is happening to you. I would be tempted to hold back, or to strategically time when I deploy ideas, because Office Dementor Managers like yours derive their only workplace sustenance from making you feel incompetent to cover up their own shortcomings.

    4. only acting normal*

      I had a grandboss who would do this repeatedly, within seconds:
      “Project is going well, we’re painting the teapots red instead of blue per the new design.”
      “Remember you have to paint the teapots red instead of blue now.”
      “Yes, as I said, we have done that. We’re also delivering them wrapped in the new recycled packaging, the customer ready liked it.”
      “You should use the new recycled packaging.”
      And on and on…
      It was that blatant and utterly surreal. My colleague and I came out of the meeting and asked each other “WTF was that?!”
      Then he passed us both over for promotion 3 years running, crediting my work to a male subordinate on a “feeling”. Yes, a deeply ingrained subconscious sexist “feeling”.

  9. Engineer Girl*

    I love this solution. By adding in the execution details you are showing that you came up with the idea in the first place. It shows that there was deep thought involved.

    A thief can’t provide the details.

  10. Phil*

    I was in a businesses where credits are important-music recording and TV sound. I was a staff engineer and had a boss who would take the work from the client, hand to me later and take credit-on the record-for my work. But they got wise. I quit on Friday and came back on Monday as an independent engineer and took ALL the clients with me. And he couldn’t do anything about it because at that point I was the revenue producer for the studio.

  11. Me*

    I work with a guy who is my former boss (thank flying spaghetti monster) who likes to say “There’s no patent on good ideas”. Because if you imply that someone else might also have had the idea then it’s not really stealing.

    He is the worst. With that guy all you can do is flat out state things like “I just said that”. He doesn’t change, but everyone around him at least knows he’s full of it and who to really go to for info/questions.

  12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I echo that you need to speak directly about your ideas to your management team whenever possible. I know the idea of collaborating with your colleagues makes sense, you’re also usually in more direct contact with them on a daily and project basis. But in reality, things get lost in translation so much, it’s not even malicious in the end.

    I have this happen a lot over the years. Someone is more comfortable pitching an idea to me instead of the boss. If I weren’t a mindful individual, I could easily just steal everyone’s ideas and run with them. Instead I coax them to take it to the boss themselves, sometimes they just don’t want to because they’re not confident enough. So I have to drag myself over there if it’s a good enough idea and pitch it myself. I am pretty forceful when it comes to displaced credit but many are not, it’s hard to correct others [which ties into the previous post about correcting your boss]

    So yes, please do things directly as possible whenever possible and don’t allow people to purposefully or accidentally get your credit.

  13. The Starsong Princess*

    LW needs to take Alison’s advice and make sure she pushes back. If she doesn’t, then the Kevin’s of this world will take it as carte blanche to present her ideas and work as his own. Some years ago, I had a guy give a presentation I created with all my own ideas and work, passing them off as his own. He didn’t realize I was at the meeting participating remotely. During the question portion, I asked straight out “how is this different from the presentation I showed you last week of my ideas? I’m confused, it looks identical. “ He sputtered and back pedalled very fast. No regrets on calling him out and I’d do it again. I got a very interesting call from his leader directly after that. He didn’t stay long with the company after that.

  14. Chicken Situation*

    My problem is that I share them with my direct supervisor who then takes credit with the big boss. I have to tread lightly around my supervisor, but at the same time, it’s important to me to get credit for my ideas (especially because I will be the one to implement them, so I need to be kept in the loop).

    1. Artemesia*

      Are there ways you can get those ideas out there without going through your supervisor. Do you run across the big boss in the lunch line or the hallway or elevator; think about ways to mention great ideas you have in those settings just before sharing them with the supervisor. If you can cultivate an informal relationship with this boss, you might be able to talk about how pleased you are about how X worked out or otherwise make it clear where the idea came from. Informal management of such information is an art and there are a surprisingly large number of ways to make it happen. I had a grandboss who asked me to CC him on the next proposal when it went to my boss. I mentioned that grandboss had requested this casually so that boss wasn’t blindsided; ‘he is really interested in what our department is doing here and thinks it sounds terrific.’ Worked.

      Can you suggest them in larger meetings so many people know where they are coming from. The more people who credit you with the idea, the more likely you will be able to take credit as time goes by.

  15. Artemesia*

    Fool me once. Once this happens to you once and especially if you see it as a gendered pattern affecting others too, then you stop sharing ideas with colleagues before suggesting them publicly in meetings or privately to the boss. Of course even being the first to suggest them in meetings doesn’t mean Fergus won’t lay claim to them later in the same meeting but it ups your odds. This is such a common pattern of behavior — men taking credit for women’s work — that if your organize is prone to do this it takes real thinking and planning to counter it. The key is expecting it and so behaving in ways that ripping you off is not easy.

    1. CM*

      I agree with sharing in a group instead of individually.

      To add to Alison’s list, if this happens, you can also say, “I’m glad you like that idea. When I proposed it to Tyrion last week, he mentioned adding the birds. I came up with the idea because I saw […], and to add more detail, […]” I think adding more is really helpful in making it sound like you are just continuing the conversation, rather than just trying to take credit.

  16. Magda*

    I like Alison’s wording but I also agree that pre-emptively sharing the ideas with the group in the presence of the manager is a good idea.

  17. Had this*

    Has happened so me twice this week. Second time I sent an email to my manager saying while I was helping the staff member with the problem they apparently resolved on their own, I feel this is a learning gap for everyone and we should do X training to get everyone on board. In that way I feel I didn’t come across as bitter but made it clear it was because of me that the staff member achieved the result and got the credit.

  18. 'Tis Me*

    My department has a system whereby anybody can submit a form briefly outlying a problem area/improvement suggestion, the impacts/potential benefits, and objectives behind the idea. It includes who came up with it. We review them as teams to make sure they have merit before submitting them to a quality management team who do a first round sweep to see if they’re similar to existing ideas/projects, whether it makes sense to directly assign them to existing groups, or whether we should discuss them at a monthly forum to briefly assess interest/level of impact and look into a project to properly assess their impact, problems’ root causes, and the best way to move them forward, and that information is all collated on a Sharepoint spreadsheet.

    I have heard 2 people refer to uploading a large batch of these in a go as “doing a [me]” (last time I saw a breakdown of my subdepartment’s submissions I’d contributed over a quarter of them… I believe I have single-handedly topped my team’s target number).

    I feel that it’s really helped us embrace a change culture as a department – it’s really nice to see ideas put forward from people who I have in the past heard complaining about all of the changes :-) Plus if something is annoying me I can take a 5-15 minute break to briefly describe the situation in a productive format – and I know that it will be addressed if the benefits outweigh the costs. Productive griping! :-D

    It also means that people get the credit for their ideas, even when they’re refined or other people are able to gather data that the ideas originator don’t have access to. For instance, a little while ago, I suggested that we have some way of reviewing batches of a specific type of item that need our attention, rather than having to click links from system emails on a per item basis when these may have been taken care of by other people already. The guy who oversees the software system in question popped over to thank me for that idea: he has determined that it is sending thousands of emails on a specific subcategory of these, and is going to take forward the idea for people to have access to a control panel page breaking down live items falling into their remit (I suggested either this or being able to run a live-time report) with the developers. One of the things we want to do as a department is to cut down on extraneous system emails to allow us to work more efficiently. So yay me ;-) And the fact that I originally flagged this up is internally very readily available (I think I’m briefly talking about it at a department-wide optional meeting next week).

  19. GM*

    I’ve simply stopped sharing ideas so freely with colleagues and always make sure to document them. I discuss them in management meetings only, in the presence of my manager and/or concerned senior folks who then know its my idea and can trace it to me. Been burnt too many times by male colleagues blithely swiping my ideas and taking credit.

  20. Cheryl*

    I wouldn’t bother with trying to work up any barely-disguised reiteration. If you want to take credit, be direct. “Actually that was my idea” is much better than something like “Say! It’s funny because, as I was saying when the idea originally came to me – and not the other guy, who didn’t think of the idea even though you may think he did…”

    Please, just say what you’re going to say.

  21. Daniel Atter*

    I think there are some great ideas and suggestions here, I just have one more. It’s well documented that women are more likely than men to preface their points with sentences like ‘this is probably a bad idea, but…’ or ‘I’m sure there’s a reason we don’t already do this…’

    Just give some thought to how you present your ideas. Make sure that you are clear from the start that it’s your idea and you believe in it. When someone proposes something hesitantly, and someone else then takes it, rolls with it, promotes it and makes some ‘minor’ changes, it can be fairly easy for people to lose track of who started it. If you own your idea from the start it’s more difficult.

    To be clear, I’m not saying this is your fault – it shouldn’t happen regardless, and it especially shouldn’t happen to women as systematically as it often does. I’m just trying to help you BEFORE you get to the misattribution of credit.

  22. Ronda*

    I write up my idea and send to manager prior to sharing/meeting. Ideas are currency at work and if I don’t get credit, I move on to somewhere I will.

  23. CaVanaMana*

    Okay wow, I didn’t know this was an actual documented thing that happens. I’ve been meetings where I’ve said something, a male coworker has rephrased it and been praised for their idea and I’m sitting there like, uh, that’s what I just said and people do exchange looks. I don’t speak up about it because really, I don’t care for the credit. It wasn’t some brilliance. I was thinking I might be mad or questioning my ability to communicate.

  24. Nanani*

    LW, in case it helps to hear it – This is not your fault.

    This situation is a very common problem where non-male people get ignored (conciously or not) and ideas are attributed to men. People of all genders do it, and it disproportionately affects non-male people.

    There is no magic trick for making sexism go away and you didn’t do anything wrong by experiencing a common gendered dynamic.

    I hope the tips in the reply and comments help.

  25. Mike*

    As a guy I’ve become increasingly concerned about being the one doing this. Sure, it’d be unconscious and because ideas are bounced around so quickly at times that it is hard to keep track of the originator (especially when it morphs, twists, and reverts). So, whenever possible I’ve been making sure I’m giving credit to people when sharing ideas and if I agree with it to spend a little of my own social capital on it. So “Jane has this wonderful idea that I think we should do ______” versus “I think we should do _______”. I’ll keep doing that if I’m representing the same idea (for example, with different groups).

    I really want to hear these people’s ideas because a lot of them are good. And since they are often told in small group meetings I want to make sure the proper credit is given so they build their social capital.

  26. cheese*

    I once presented an idea to my boss. He listened for a while, then stopped me and said no, the way we do things is perfect, and my idea just won’t work. (I actually implemented this idea at my previous job, and it worked very well. Dude just didn’t believe me)

    Later that day, I mentioned this idea to one of my coworkers, and he went told the boss about it. Suddenly it’s a great idea, and the rest of us can learn from Coworker.

  27. LogicalOne*

    I can’t stand workplace etiquette/unwritten rules like this. I don’t like having to speak up as early as possible so I can get credit for my ideas. Like the article states, I too speak with my boss first before anyone else about ideas. If and when someone else steals my thunder about something, I will low-key try to join in and ask them something like, “yeah didn’t you say this etc….” or I will nod and agree. Something low-key so you’re not bragging is ideal. Unfortunately playing the humble game and keeping quiet/polite usually doesn’t get you far in the work world. So if someone steals your idea, speak up or just don’t mention your ideas to other staff at all.

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