🚀 My Boss Is Stealing My Ideas! - Issue #225

How to handle a manager who doesn't give you credit

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Someone in my community asked an anonymous question over the weekend:

What do I do when I realize my manager might be claiming my ideas, thought framework, proposals — as his — when he talks to his manager?”

I have so many follow-up questions that would have helped me understand the situation better. But that’s not possible when they are asked anonymously.

  • How did you find out?

  • What kind of ideas and proposals?

  • What’s the context of that conversation he’s having with his manager?

  • What happens after he talks with his manager?

  • Do your ideas and proposals get accepted and implemented?

I’ve had a manager take ideas and run with them without giving me credit. I would guess that everyone has experienced a boss or manager doing this, to some degree.

So, what do you do about it? Here are my thoughts on the situation.


It confirms your talent

Strangely, it is flattering. Your manager’s actions demonstrate that you have great ideas that are worth sharing up a level.

It’s a confirmation that you’re doing good work. But, I know that it isn’t a positive experience. It would feel a lot better if your manager acknowledged you and gave you credit.

It might not be intentional

Are you sure that it is intentional “theft”? Sometimes, your boss isn’t trying to be malicious.

He may even think that he’s doing it the right way by representing your ideas up the chain to make sure they get heard. That’s part of your job as a leader. You champion good ideas and proposals for your team.

I guess it depends on how your boss is talking about your ideas in those meetings. I don’t know how you found out or “realized” that your boss is doing this. But, it sounds like you aren’t in those meetings, so you may not have the full picture of how he’s handling those discussions.

It might be good for you

Is the net result still positive for you? You might feel upset, but the situation may be helping your career.

Here’s what I mean. I had this happen, and it was irritating. But it helped my manager see me as a valuable employee who made him look good.

My ideas were heard and implemented. He gave me raises and promoted me. He wanted to keep me around.

Would I have liked to present directly to the big bosses? Maybe. But, I also may have screwed up the presentation and not had success.

Strategic pitches to upper management are challenging to do well. It takes a great deal of practice and learning from failures. You should be allowed to do this, of course. But you also want your proposals accepted.

In my case, good things were happening for everyone, and my career thrived. It eventually should pay off for you. However, if you are not benefiting from this situation, that is a problem that you will need to address soon.

Document your ideas

Find ways to share your ideas through channels that create a “paper trail.” Send proposals via email so you can document that you initiated them.

Find clever ways to CC other colleagues so people can see the proof that it’s your idea. Just be careful and don’t make it obvious that you’re trying to call your boss out.

That hardly ever ends well. 😔

Only use this technique when it is appropriate and makes sense that others should be on the thread. No one likes those employees who CC everyone on every email.

Present your ideas

Step up to present your ideas in a larger group setting vs. just giving them to your boss.

  • Share your cool ideas in a team meeting.

  • Give a brown bag talk about the concepts you’re coming up with.

  • Present your proposals at a department meeting.

  • Share your big project accomplishments at a company “All Hands” meeting.

It quickly becomes clear who created the proposal/concept when you are the best at talking about it, answering questions, etc.

I remember one meeting when I was supposed to be presenting to a group of reporters. But, my new boss stepped onto the stage and tried to run with the show. 🙄

As the reporters dug deeper, he panicked and turned to me, “Uh, Larry. Can you answer that question?” 😂

Present to upper management

Find a way to have skip-level meetings and presentations. Again, this is tricky and must be handled well. But, it can be a great way to increase your visibility in the organization.

Essentially, you want upper management to see how you think. In one company, I did this a few times to increase my visibility, and it eventually ended up with me receiving a promotion.


The big takeaway? Increase your visibility

As I’ve suggested before, you must increase your visibility to showcase your talent, skills, knowledge, and wisdom. Let the world see how you think and the kind of work that you are capable of doing!

It’s going to be really hard for your boss to steal all of your ideas if other people have already watched you present them first. Seek opportunities to share your ideas to a broader audience, present to others within the company, and make sure people know that you’re the brain behind it all.

By the way, you don’t want to cut your boss out of the picture completely. That’s a great way to earn an enemy that you don’t need. So, keep sharing your thoughts with your boss. But, you don’t have to give everything away, and you don’t have to pass every single great idea through them first.

It’s ok to make your boss look good. Really! Managers love employees who make them look like a smart and effective leader.

But, if they aren’t giving you enough credit, it’s time to make sure others are aware of how talented you are, too.

Ask Your Own Question


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