When Someone You Work With Steals Your Ideas

You’re a quiet but outstanding performer. The person you work with is neither. Yet this person is on the rise. How is that happening? Because they know how to get people on their side, often at someone else’s expense (yours?).

When Someone at Work Steals Your Ideas

“Smooth talkers” are adept at finding situations where they can shine. They know how to use the right words at the right time to get the right people on board with them. They take your ideas and those of a few select others, use them as their own, and in doing so, parlay their way to stardom.

The Smooth Talker in Action

I witnessed someone in a meeting recently who spoke immediately after people on her team had tossed out good ideas or problem solutions. Each time, she used a slightly different variation of, “Yeah, we were just talking about that and I said we should bring it up here, with all of you, so that we could get things going in the right direction now.”

Idea stealers work in different ways, and taking credit for ideas in meetings is one of the most common.

How to Reclaim Your Ideas

There are 2 things you can do when you find yourself working with someone who claims your ideas in this way.

  1. Own what you say with the word “my.” When you put your idea or solution out on the table, you can say, “Here’s my take on (or my solution for) that problem.” Don’t be shy about emphasizing the word “my.”
  2. Expect this behavior from this individual and be ready for it. Don’t get caught with nothing to say when they take credit for your thoughts, ideas and your work. Respond immediately — and use “my” again. When the smooth talker who’s trying to own your idea comes back with their version of, “Yeah, we were just talking about that and I said we should bring it up here, with all of you, so that we could get things going in the right direction now,” your response should be immediate: “And here’s my idea for how to do that.” Say it strongly, but without tension or defensiveness. In other words, hold your own. Keep your voice alive and your value apparent.

Earlier this year I posted about how not to get your ideas hijacked in meetings. In that case I was discussing ways that we can communicate more clearly in group settings to make sure we’re heard. But when it comes to idea theft, smooth talkers will target anyone no matter how clear a communicator you are. You have to go one step beyond.

Question: Have you had an experience in which someone you work with was stealing your ideas? Or do you have a question or a tip to share? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Photo credit: istockphoto.com/joebrandt

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