Dear Orna: Last week I presented a new idea to my boss, but she rejected it. Yesterday, she presented the same idea to her boss, and he loved it. She took all the credit! Do I have to put up with that because she is my boss?
~ Signed: Outraged!!!
Dear Outraged: I don't blame you for being outraged, I would be too, but before you get even more outraged, be sure you are not jumping to conclusions. Sometimes bosses speak in such a way that they take ownership, but in fact, it's just part of how they share information about their team. Consider giving her the benefit of the doubt, BUT be sure to clarify the situation first.
Let's be clear . . .
Approach your boss as soon after the incident as possible. Be positive and ask her directly if she presented your idea to her boss and how he liked it. Tell you you appreciate her confidence in you enough to share your idea with her boss. This is your subtle opportunity to let her know you are keeping track. This alone, might prevent it from happening again.
Be Proactive in a Competitive Environment
If you are in an environment that is so competitive, that people actually steal each others' ideas, the best way to handle it is to share your ideas with as many people as possible. Don't share your ideas only with your boss, but rather put them in an e-mail bring them up in meetings and chat them up at the coffee machine. This will ensure that many people are aware of where the idea originated.
And in general, it's always a good idea to document your work, especially on important of high-visibility projects. If you keep good records, you will be able to provide credible information and a timeline of you you cam up with a specific idea, if needed.
Always Stay on Your Boss' Good Side
It's always a good idea to maintain a solid relationship with your boss and stay on her good side. So if you think your boss is seeking visibility, then consider praising her publicly. In a staff meeting, be sure to mention how your boss was instrumental in helping you complete a successful project or achieve a key goal. You can also include positive comments about your boss in an e-mail that is widely distributed within your team or organization. Your boss will appreciate your positive comments and as a result, may reciprocate by giving you full credit for your ideas in the future.
Maybe Your Boss Deserves the Credit
Here's another perspective. Perhaps there is a way to justify your boss taking credit for your good work and ideas. If your boss is accountable for all the bad performance, mistakes and missed goals of the team, why shouldn't they then get the credit for the good things that come from the team? Hmmmmm.... just something to think about.