What to do when a colleague takes credit for your work

By The Intersect Group

When a colleague takes credit for your work, it can feel like the ultimate betrayal. You work hard, and you’re great at what you do, so having someone else put their stamp on that awesome presentation or that innovative idea certainly doesn’t feel good. While this is often a difficult and emotional conversation to initiate, you can do it gracefully. Here’s what we suggest if a colleague claims your work as their own.

  • Relax, tiger. Seeing that a colleague took credit for your hard work can make even the calmest person go from 0 to 100. You may be tempted to call them out at a meeting or confront them in a breakroom. But, according to experts, this isn’t the best solution. “If you’re emotionally piqued at being ripped off, it’s not the time to talk about it. Neurologically your mind is not working at its best, and you may get out-argued,” says Brian Uzzi, professor of leadership and organizational change at Northwestern University. It’s best to spend some time (ideally a day or two) calming down.


  • Speak up. Once you’re calm, cool, and collected, prepare to address the situation. Uzzi suggests writing down your issues then revisiting them later. That way, you can properly assess which ones really matter and can best get your point across. Also, when you go into the discussion, try to avoid using the word “you.” It can come off accusatory and make your colleague less likely to listen to your concerns, no matter how legitimate. According to Monster & Powerhouse Inc.’s Alyssa Krane, you should instead try positioning your concern as an observation: “Explain that, from your perspective, there appears to be great similarity in your ideas. Share your observation, then listen to the other person’s perspective.” You may discover that your colleague’s thievery may have been a complete misunderstanding.


  • Prevent it from happening again. Whether it was an unintentional slip-up or an egregious act, surely you want to make sure you’re given the credit you deserve. In the future, cc your boss on project-specific emails and provide regular updates to ensure they know you’re on it. Also, make sure you’re making your contributions known in meetings — this can prevent your ideas from being snatched up by someone else.

Though sometimes working in teams can blur the “credit lines,” take steps to ensure your great ideas are not only heard but acknowledged.

The Intersect Group can help you find an opportunity where your voice will be heard. Check out our available positions to see which is a good fit for you!