Having a job that you love makes you feel happy and content. However, working for a boss who takes credit for your work can be enormously demoralizing. Steve who works for an advertising agency toiled several nights for a big presentation to impress his senior management. But, on that very important day, his boss Caesar tells him that he will be presenting it to the clients, not Steve. Does this situation give you a feeling of déjà vu? If your answer is yes, rest assured you aren’t suffering alone. There are umpteen managers/bosses who effortlessly take credit for things they haven’t done at work. And the person who slogs it out isn’t even mentioned when the boss gets all the accolades.
What do you do when you are faced with such a situation? Quit, and start looking for better opportunities? Well, let’s look at what can be done when it comes to dealing with such difficult and toxic bosses. Firstly, you need to take a step back and get a bird’s eye view of the current situation. Are you being over-sensitive and making a mountain of a molehill or your boss really walks over you and doesn’t appreciate your hard work one bit? If the latter is true, what would you do? The answer to this question is, you need to have some perspective prior to taking any action against your boss. You need to realize that not all bosses are bad by nature. They too have a lot on their plate and because of that they sometimes come across as brash or insensitive. Try and reason out as to what makes your boss so annoying. For instance, here are two instances.
1} Your boss is experienced and doesn’t have leadership qualities
Quite a lot of people when given authority feel they have to compete with everyone around. They cannot stand the idea of experiencing failure in front of their subordinates or senior managers and executives. The transition for them is too much to take and they struggle to keep it steady. After getting promoted to a managerial level, the job expected from them is not restricted to themselves. They now have a bigger role to play and their success is measured if a group does well. Many new leaders need to recognise this difference. If they fail to do so, they will always be very competitive and aggressive in nature.
2} Your boss is full of himself
People who get to leadership positions are in fact narcissists. Their self-esteem feeds on the energy and praises they get from others. They want to be liked and the approval they get from people around makes them feel good about themselves. Narcissists who are good at their job, try and make their achievements public for others to take notice. They are considered a boon to the organization as they keep their achievements visible.
After getting to such a higher position they still feed on the energy of others. This behaviour of theirs is toxic and affects positive people around them. They like taking credit for all the triumphs with regards to a project or an important meeting. And anything to do with failure is pushed on subordinates or people they don’t like. This makes them undermine colleagues and nurses their ego further. They also tend to get aggressive when criticised for anything.
If any of the above description fits your boss, you need to very calmly and intelligently address this issue. If you are sure about your ideas being stolen and your boss taking all the credit for your work, then this is what you can do.
Ensure this isn’t a misinterpretation of events
Before flipping out at your boss for high-jacking your work or ideas make sure you aren’t committing a blunder. In many research institutions, the person who directs the lab has to be named because of his or her contribution in the research as well as supervision for their work. In the same manner, your boss could be taking your ideas to his seniors on your behalf so that it gets approved. You can then take all the awes and wows and wait for your work to get its due in the form of a promotion or a big fat bonus. You will get to know eventually if your boss means no harm and is just doing his job or he’s being sly and side-lining your honest efforts. If it’s just once or twice, remember it’s not malicious, only ineptitude. Being negative or assuming the worst will only aggravate the matter.
Have a one-on-one with your boss
Being passive-aggressive about this situation will only fester more resentment. Instead, start and end the conversation on a positive note. You can begin by talking about the current project that you have been working on by giving a detailed report. You could also talk about the time you may take to complete the entire project and the day you’ll be available to take up a fresh assignment. Once you are done talking about your current situation with regards to your job, you can say something like, “I wanted to discuss about something that’s been on my mind lately. Is this a good time to talk?” If your boss gives you the nod, you can continue by saying, “It took me by surprise when you mentioned to Kathy that John helped you with the accounts of the Amazon project. I worked for two months on those accounts while John just assisted me for a day. Maybe you had your reasons to mention something like that but it was disheartening, I’d like to discuss it with you to clear the air.” Listen earnestly to what your boss has to say and keep an open mind towards the issue. Let all the information sink in and conclude the conversation on a positive note.
Keep a log of your work and document it well
In case the problem persists, then make sure to keep a record of all the work you’ve done or are currently pursuing. Have a securely protected folder for all those documented files so that if you are asked about it in the future, you can easily provide proof to the concerned person. You can also mention about how you came up with the idea and the alternatives you proposed pertaining to a specific project. Keep a work diary where you jot down the day’s events. Write down the ideas you shared in the team meeting along with that day’s achievements as well as errors. Also keep track of emails that were sent from your inbox and the emails you received. Don’t forget to get a print of the praises and the recognition you get in various emails. Do not be shy or afraid of claiming ownership of ideas or projects that you’ve come up with when talking to your co-workers or subordinates. Say things like, “when I thought of this idea, I recommended this alternative… ” or “I already knew this software would help achieve our target easily.”
Work in groups that includes your boss
One of the best ways to let others know that an idea is yours is to ensure you work in a group or a team. Save all your novel ideas for team meetings so that everybody takes notice of the fact that you came up with the idea. Your boss won’t be able to take credit for something that has come out of your mind when there are people around. Lead from the front and show your boss how it’s done. You can volunteer to give an update about your project to your boss’s seniors. That way you can make everyone in hierarchy know that you are the mastermind when it comes organizing and presenting your project. You can email any ideas you have about a project to your boss. This is proof enough that you’ve come up with a solution and under no circumstance can your boss take credit for it.
Let it pass
Life isn’t easy as it seems and on a few occasions you have to experience rough moments and move on. You won’t get your due and you learn this from the ‘school of hard-knocks’. However, there will be moments in the future where you showcase your true abilities and get recognition for it. In the meantime, have some alone time for introspection. Indulge in a brainstorming session and come up with new ideas for your next project. Ideas if kept to yourself aren’t really worth but, if shared with your team can result in joint success for your boss, your team and yourself. On a few occasions you won’t be able to hog the limelight but this teaches your tolerance and patience. As an employee of a company it’s your job to protect your manager, subordinates and ensure they look good in all situations. No one is saying you shouldn’t get appreciated for your work but reacting to every small issue won’t do any good. Be patient and choose your battles in a wise way.
Get a new boss
If there no signs of the storm to pass, then it’s best to look out for a new job. No point in being in such a place where your efforts aren’t honestly appreciated. A lot of people can’t quit their jobs since they have mouths to feed. They have to deal with a bad boss and stick to a job they loathe. But, if your manager takes all your ideas and doesn’t even bother mentioning you to your peers or your seniors quite frequently, then it’s safe to say your boss doesn’t want you to flourish in your career. Your work is yours to keep and a good boss will have no qualms letting you represent your work and won’t steal your thunder, ever.