Better be on the lookout for workplace idea theft

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It might be the season of giving, but that doesn’t mean taking is in any way, shape or form acceptable — especially at the office.

And I’m not talking about pilfering a pencil or two or a ream of paper here and there.

This is much more cerebral.

It seems that taking credit for someone else’s ideas is fairly commonplace in the workplace.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents to a survey conducted by OfficeTeam said they’ve had an idea stolen by a co-worker. And more than half of those did nothing in response.

Obviously they didn’t grow up in a tiny little town in south Texas — where thievery of any kind is sorely frowned upon.

So, what’s the motivation for taking someone else’s idea and making it your own?

I’ll leave it to Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam to fill you in.

“Today’s workplace is more competitive than ever and, unfortunately,” he said, “there are people who will go to great lengths to make themselves look good or get promoted, including taking credit for someone else’s ideas.”

So, what’s an honest, hardworking employee to do?

“Being proactive in sharing your vision with your manager and colleagues early on can help ensure others know the concept originated with you,” Hosking said.

And here are a few other tips from the folks at OfficeTeam to help ensure that you get the credit you deserve:

Report up. Use status updates to remind your manager about your ideas and the progress being made to implement them.

Look for patterns. If a minor contribution is occasionally overlooked, you might decide to let it go. However, if other people routinely get credit for your ideas, it’s a sign that you need to be more assertive.

Don’t act in haste. When someone receives credit for your idea, try to get to the bottom of the situation. It could be a misunderstanding. Be sure to give your colleague the opportunity to present his or her side of the story to you.

Set the record straight. If you are credited with a co-worker’s idea, be sure to swiftly correct. Your colleague will appreciate it.

But don’t forget that giving credit is just as beneficial.

“Employees and supervisors should acknowledge those who help to move an idea forward,” Hosking said. “Most business successes are the result of collaboration, not the efforts of a single individual.”

And of course, if thoughtfulness, kindness, understanding and brotherhood don’t work — you could always revert to the Wild West mentality and get a rope.

Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at mike.boyd@csbj.com or 329-5206.