Taking Undue Credit

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Q What do you do when a colleague steals your idea and takes credit for it?

A: “Be prepared for a fight,” says Jinni Rock-Bailey Enterprises, a human resources consulting firm in Montclair, New Jersey. Rock-Bailey’s advice: Decide whether or not the issue is worth pursuing.

If the idea didn’t result in financial gain, a patent, promotion or any other visible benefits, you may choose to let it go. On the other hand, if the culprit was largely rewarded, you must have proof before you report the incident to your immediate supervisor. In determining the validity of your claim, your superiors will closely evaluate your employment history. “Understand that when you accuse someone of stealing your idea, it’s your reputation against someone else’s,” she says.

Documentation is key. To protect yourself from “idea theft,” Rock-Bailey recommends that you put all of your ideas in writing and mark your correspondence “Confidential.” Also, keep hard copies of important letters, memos and e-mail messages at home. Safeguarding your ideas will get you the credit that you deserve.