“On great teams—the kind where people trust each other, engage in open conflict, and then commit to decisions—team members have the courage and confidence to confront one another when they see something that isn’t serving the team.”
Sofia was floored when during a team meeting, her coworker stood up to present a project they’d been working on together. They hadn’t planned to share their results until next week. Using materials she’d helped to create, he described it as his project and announced his results. What should I do? Sofia thought frantically.
If one of your coworkers keeps reframing your ideas as his own at meetings, or if your colleague went so far as to present your strategy to your boss, you need to take action. Avoiding conflict in such scenarios would harm the whole team. Tread carefully, though, or you could end up accused of stealing credit from others.
If someone rephrases your ideas as his own…
If a coworker is continually restating points you have made at a meeting and framing them as his own, he might be doing it unconsciously. That doesn’t mean it’s okay, but it helps inform how you should respond.
- Before saying anything, calm down. Losing your temper could make you look irrational—fair or not. Plus, you won’t get your thoughts across clearly if you’re angry.
- Address the transgression tactfully but directly in the moment, if possible. For example, if a coworker restates your idea, say, “Yes, that’s exactly the point I was making. I’m glad you agree with the idea.”
- If it keeps happening, approach the person one-on-one and ask if you can talk with him. Remember, if someone is repeatedly claiming your ideas as their own, it’s probably a sign of insecurity—so be gentle, or you’ll put him on the defensive. Affirm that you fully believe it wasn’t intentional, and validate the person’s contributions so acknowledging his mistake won’t feel as hard. For instance, you might say: “I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but a couple of times during the meeting, I felt you were framing X idea as your own when I introduced it earlier on. I’m happy that this idea resonated with you, because I appreciate the expertise you bring and would love to get your insight on similar ideas in the future.”
- If the issue keeps occurring, mention it during a one-on-one meeting with your boss. Focus on your desire to strengthen working relationships, stick to the facts, and maintain a positive tone. “I think Coworker Y has many strengths, and I hope he’ll become secure enough in his own ideas that he doesn’t unconsciously lay claim to those of others,” you might say.
If someone presents your idea or success as her own…
Say you believe a coworker has stolen your idea outright, and presented it to your boss or team as her own. Or say your coworker took credit for your work on a big project. You don’t want to look like a pushover by letting it go, but you don’t want to obsess so much about the transgression that you look irrational or insecure.
- Again, calm yourself down before taking any action so you’re fully in control of your words.
- Try to find out if there’s any way it could have been unintentional. Maybe you were brainstorming together, and she inaccurately remembered the idea as being her own. Or maybe you worked on the project together, and she accidentally left out your contribution during a meeting out of nervousness. Talk with her one-on-one, and phrase your question in a non-accusatory way so you won’t be sabotaging a working relationship. Give her a chance to apologize, but if she doesn’t, push back, says Karen Dillon in HR Guide to Office Politics. Making it uncomfortable for her to continue the behavior will deter it from happening again.
- Get support from other team members, if others know for certain that the idea was yours. Ask them to acknowledge your contribution in the next meeting, or in a team email. If the coworker at fault sees you have support, she may back down.
- If the offense was truly egregious—for example, if a coworker took your name off a presentation you created and presented it as her own—meet with your boss to explain what happened, sharing evidence to support your case.
If someone repeatedly takes credit for your work…
- Keep a log showing details about what happened and when.
- Find out if colleagues have experienced the same behavior from this coworker. Gather your evidence of the transgressions.
- Talk to your boss about the situation, along with any other coworkers who have been affected. Stay collected and share evidence, if you have it. Rather than badmouthing the coworker at fault, focus on your desire to feel heard and to create a harmonious office dynamic.
- Help create a culture of sharing credit by always highlighting the contributions of others.
Preventing idea theft
Work to prevent theft of your ideas by documenting them well. If you share them, share them with more than one person so you don’t end up in a “he said/she said” scenario. Better yet, share them electronically, so there’s a record.
Remember, too, that one idea isn’t everything. You’ll have other great ideas, and you can be more conscientious about how to share them in the future. Don’t fixate so much on remedying this issue that it keeps you from shining in other ways, or makes you look petty. If you focus on the future, others will notice your stellar performance and give you plenty of credit for it!
Contact leadership coach Joel for more advice on promoting your work and building a strong reputation.
“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.”
~Billie Jean King~
Client Clara asks: I always get so nervous before my annual performance review. How can I calm my nerves and make sure it goes as well as possible?
Coach Joel answers: Performance reviews can be daunting, but being proactive about the process will make it a motivating ritual that you look forward to. By conducting a review of your own performance before you meet with your boss, you’ll have thoughtful answers to all your boss’s questions. Here’s your guide on how to do that.
Your boss might conduct performance reviews once a year, every six months, or on a quarterly basis. Forty-eight percent of employees are reviewed annually, and 26% are reviewed less than once a year, says Gallup. More frequent reviews are optimal, allowing you to recollect more of what happened during the review period.
Aim to conduct your own performance review on a quarterly basis. Even if your boss only conducts reviews once a year, you’ll have detailed notes from each quarter to use in preparing for your annual review.
According to Gallup’s research, good performance reviews are “achievement-oriented, fair and accurate, and developmental.” Gallup suggests calling them “progress reviews” to emphasize these areas of focus.
In other words, they should be less about a grade and instead focused on utilizing the performance review process to continue developing your skills.
- Evaluating fulfillment of the role
- Look at the description of your role. Then ask yourself how well you’re fulfilling each of your primary responsibilities.
- Ask yourself if the expectations are fair, and if you have adequate time and resources to fulfill the role, advises Gallup. If not, determine what changes are necessary.
- Reviewing your past goals
- Look at the work performance goals you set for the period you’re reviewing. Where did you achieve them, and where did you fall short?
- Analyze what went wrong when your efforts didn’t succeed.
Make a list of the areas you want to strengthen.
- Acknowledging successes
- List and share your achievements, both concrete and less tangible.
- Have you developed any new skills, even if you haven’t put them to extensive use yet? Be sure to add them to your list, so you can make them known to your boss.
- Examining your leveraging of success
- Ask yourself how you leveraged your successes, advises Sharon Armstrong in The Essential Performance Review Handbook. Have you effectively used them to boost your visibility and influence?
- Consider where you could leverage successes better in the future.
- Create a visibility plan outlining how you’ll do that.
- Setting goals
- Now it’s time to set new goals for the next period. Make sure your goals are SMART—“strategic and specific, measurable, attainable, results-based, and time-bound”—emphasize Anne Conzemius and Jan O’Neill in The Power of SMART Goals.
- Consider what actions you’ll need to take to reach your goals. For example, if you want a promotion, look at options in your company and prepare a compelling argument for why you should get one.
- Developing ideas
- Write up specific proposals for ideas you wish to pursue, suggests Armstrong. Generate ideas that will challenge you and emphasize the skills you want to highlight.
- If you have ideas for how the department or company could improve, write them down as well.
- Evaluating salary
By conducting a review of your own performance, you’ll feel energized and inspired at performance review time. Plus, you’ll come across as far more articulate, insightful, and capable during your meeting with your boss. And in turn, you’ll make better use of that meeting, coming equipped with questions to ask and polished ideas to present.
Hire leadership coach Joel Garfinkle for more advice on preparing for career advancement.
“They’ve asked me to do this temporarily. I don’t know what temporarily means. Life is temporary.”
~ Bob Schieffer ~
Client Patrick Asks: Does it every make sense to just make a career out of temping? Does this make me look like I can’t hold or don’t want a “real” job—that I lack ambition?
Coach Joel Answers: That depends on your life situation and your personal motivations. For example, if you like the freedom to work when you want and pursue other interests at the same time, temping is ideal. Sometimes temping can give you a higher rate of pay, but it often lacks the benefits and job security of full time employment. You could easily work fewer hours and make more money, so that makes it attractive. And many people like the challenge of getting acquainted with new companies, new people, new responsibilities.
Here are a few more benefits to add into the equation, if you’re considering a long term career as a temp.
- Temping enhances your resume. It shows you have a variety of skills, as well as the ability to fit easily into different environments.
- Temping enhances your network. You’ll meet a lot more people, get to know them and get them to know you through working temporary assignments. Who knows when the guy in the next cubicle can open the door to a whole new career or even introduce you to your future spouse?
- Temping keeps your skill set sharp. You know that sign on the wall at the gym—”Use it or lose it?” The same thing applies to your professional abilities. Often you go into a new assignment wondering how in the world you’ll every figure it out. Then you do, and there’s another win you can tell future employers about.
- Temping can facilitate a major career change. Let’s say you’ve spent your life so far in sales but you see a brighter future in IT. Maybe you’ve taken some courses or gotten some volunteer experience, but you’ve got no track record. If you can land yourself a temporary position, even at an entry-level wage, you’ll start building toward the career you really want.
In today’s economy, temping makes a lot of sense from the employer point of view as well. According to research conducted by Forbes, 36 percent of US companies will hire contract or temporary workers this year, up from 28 percent in 2009, according to the survey of more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals. They are maintaining their productivity while reducing their risk. That presents a tremendous opportunity to someone like you. If temping feels like a good place to be, I’d say go for it.
If you think temping may have potential for you, make a list of five action items you could do this week that would get you started down the temporary path.
Talkback: Are you (or have you been) a successful temp? How did you do it? Share your best advice here.
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“You do your best work if you do a job that makes you happy.”
~ Bob Ross ~
Client Lindsey Asks: Lately I’ve had a funny feeling at work. I’m apprehensive because I don’t think things are going well. I’m doing my job, the same as always, but I seem to be left out of the loop. I’m not invited to meetings but later I find out through the grapevine that people have made decisions that actually affect my work. Am I about to get fired? This isn’t exactly my dream job, but it’s been a good job and in this economy, I don’t want to lose it. I’m feeling very scared.
Coach Joel Answers: There are several clear signs that you’ve fallen out of favor with your boss and your job may be in jeopardy. You’ve already mentioned one of them. If you suddenly find that you’re no longer in the loop about things, that’s typically a bad sign. It’s often the first and most subtle sign that your time may be short. When you’re being kept out of decisions and new information that you normally would have been involved in, that’s a red flag. And if you’re seeing a reduction in your responsibilities, it could mean you’re being phased out.
A more obvious sign that your job is on the rocks would be overt criticism from your boss, or a poor performance review. Often companies will “build a case” for letting an employee go in order to avoid a potential wrongful termination suit. This case building typically includes documentation of performance issues, as well as written warnings and documented disciplinary actions. It may also include mentoring or coaching from your boss. This could have one of two purposes: it could either bring your performance back in line with the company’s expectations or it could serve as more documentation to support firing you.
Other obvious signs include: seeing a job posting or ad that matches your job description; being notified of a pay cut, or being moved into a position with fewer or no employees reporting directly to you.
What can you do to turn things around? What can you do to turn things around? First, decide if this is the job you really want. You mentioned that this isn’t your dream job. Would being terminated open the door to new opportunities?
If, however, you really want to hold onto this job, you need to take immediate positive action.
If you know your performance has been sub-par and you feel like you’ve fallen out of favor with your boss, talk to him or her. Explain that you’d like to make an immediate course correction and really become a valuable member of the organization. Ask what specific changes s/he would like to see and write them down. Then develop a written plan based on what your boss has said and have it on his/her desk within 48 hours.
Keep your enthusiasm high and your attitude positive. Schedule a follow-up meeting with your boss to discuss your progress. Assuming that the decision to let you go hasn’t been written in stone yet, your actions could give you a second chance to turn your situation around.
Assuming you want to stay where you are, make a list of things you like about your job. Make another list of specific tasks or areas where you think you could improve. Within the next week, schedule a meeting with your boss to work out an improvement plan.
Talkback: Have you ever been almost fired? What actions did you take to avoid it? Share your story here.
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“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
~ Henry David Thoreau ~
Client Kevin Asks: I am so stuck in a rut with my present job—it feels like walking through quicksand. I know what the next step is, the promotion to the job I want but I’m so busy doing what the current job demands that I have no time to even plan a strategy for moving ahead. How can I get out of this swamp?
Coach Joel Answers: Unfortunately, many companies easily overlook the people who labor in silence, who do what it takes to get the job done, but never manage to get ahead. If you really want your paycheck and your job title to match your capabilities and the amount of work you do, you need to focus on creating visibility—and you need to be happy while you’re doing it. Appearances count for a lot, and you need to love the job you have while planning your next move. Here are three important steps you can take right now.
- Love the one you’re with
- Divide and conquer
- Create a new model
1. Love the one you’re with. I see you stressing out a lot because you don’t have the band-width or energy to do everything that’s on your plate right now. Before you can move ahead, you need to enjoy being where you are. Start having fun at it. A few things you can start doing today:
- Ask for positive feedback. Don’t wait for your annual review. Look at your current projects and ask your team members or your boss for some positive input. Focus only on what’s going well.
- Start the day on a high note. When you look at your current projects or to-do list, pick the most enjoyable item and start there. It will change the tone of your whole day by creating energy and enthusiasm.
- List your accomplishments. Once a week, write down everything you’ve accomplished—from small things to big projects. You’ll be amazed at what you’re getting done.
2. Divide and conquer. Even though you’re doing a great job now, what got you here won’t get you there. First, lay out all your current projects and responsibilities. Ask yourself what HAS to get done to continue your success at a base line level so you don’t create any red flags. You might have 1/3 that has to get done, 1/3 that relates to the job you want to have (visible stuff) and the other 1/3 is the stuff you might be able to get rid of, or put less time on. This will create more time and energy for new activities. Here’s the key to making delegation work: keep your name on key projects so you are getting some of the credit while not actually doing the work.
3. Create a new model. You need to show continuously visible productivity, or put plainly, work on the things that everyone sees. Make sure you understand your boss’s priorities and make them your priorities. Volunteer for high profile projects or new company initiatives. Speak up in meetings. Be enthusiastic and make sure everyone knows you’re happy to be part of the team. Call attention to your successes while sharing plenty of credit with those around you.
Keep your eye on the prize. You already know what your next career move looks like. Keep focusing on that. Ask yourself each day, “What did I do today that fits my new model? How did I move closer to my next dream job? Before long, you’ll be exactly where you want and deserve to be.
If you’re struggling to break out of the pack and move to the next level, contact Joel today for more strategies you can use to move to the next level.
Talkback: Are you stuck in a rut? Do you have some success strategies that have helped you break free? Share your experience here.
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