Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

How to Handle A Credit-Stealing Co-Worker

When it comes to writing a blog, one of the unfortunate realities you have to deal with is addressing online plagiarism (for those who aren’t familiar, online plagiarism is when someone posts your content on their site without proper attribution for who created it). In most cases, this occurs because some malicious site owner wants to use the content you created in order to increase traffic to their own site.

However, as is the case with most interactions, sometimes the line isn’t so clear and it’s hard to know whether the offending act was done intentionally or merely out of a lack of awareness. It’s this kind of situation that a friend and fellow blogger recently found herself in and which she sought my advice about to figure out what she should do to address it.

In this case, my friend had come across a website which had taken a recent post of hers and re-published it in its entirety on their blog without her permission. What’s more, the only attribution given for the post was a vague ‘article source’ link – something few readers would bother to click on in order to find out who wrote the piece.

Following our conversation about this situation, she contacted the site owner and thankfully, ended up with a satisfactory resolution for both parties.

Of course, bloggers and others who create content online are not the only ones who have to deal with this problem. Indeed, most of us have at one time or another faced a similar situation of having someone take advantage of our contributions or worse, taking credit for the work itself. And unfortunately, few of us are lucky enough to see these situations resolved in an amicable fashion that reinforces our sense of teamwork and fair play.

So how do you address a co-worker whose taking credit for your work without creating a new source of conflict within your team and workplace? Here are three steps you can take to ensure a successful and mutually-beneficial outcome.

1. Discuss the situation with someone you trust in order to confirm your perceptions
Even if we think we have all the facts about a situation, it’s important to recognize that how we view or understand a situation is filtered through the various lenses that reflect our upbringing, experiences and values. Indeed, in most cases where people disagree, it’s not so much the idea itself that they’re disagreeing with as it is how each side expresses or describes that concept.

That’s why an important first step to resolving such conflicts is to seek the input of a trusted friend or colleague, someone you know who can be impartial about the conflict and who can help you to assess not only whether you have all the facts, but whether you’re perceiving the situation correctly.

Acquiring these insights beyond simply ‘having the facts’ will help you to not only validate your perceptions, but it will also serve to inform you of the possible routes you can take to address the situation.

2. Start the conversation by giving the other party the benefit of the doubt
When faced with a situation where someone appears to be taking credit for your work, it’s only natural that we’d go on the defensive because our position is under attack or threatened. However, while this emotional reaction might be expected and understandable, it’s important that we don’t let our emotional reaction be the sole basis on which we respond to the situation.

Also, it’s important to recognize that in most cases, your co-worker might not even realize that they’ve been stepping on the toes of their fellow team members. Unless there’s a recurring history – where your co-worker has been advised repeatedly about this and they continue to do it anyways – it’s not fair to your co-worker to assume that they’re doing this out of any self-serving or malicious intent.

As such, when you first approach your co-worker about what they did, be sure to go into the conversation with an open mind and a willingness to accept that this was accidental and not intentional. This way, you’ll avoid escalating the situation to the point where both of you are too busy trying to defend yourselves from the onslaught that you aren’t able or willing to understand where the other party is coming from.

3. Offer alternative approaches/solutions instead of simply demanding that they address your situation
When we feel wronged, it’s only natural that we approach these conversations expecting the other person to address our concerns in order to resolve the situation. And yet, while this might give us some satisfaction in having this problem fixed, a better approach would be to use this conversation to also offer alternative approaches or solutions that will help your co-worker to avoid a repeat of this in the future with you or anyone else in your team.

Although it might sound unreasonable to help a co-worker who crossed some line in their dealings with you, consider the mutual benefit that would be gained from making such an effort. Namely, that by providing such support or guidance, you will not only help them to become better team-players, but it will also help to reduce the chances of such situations occurring again. As a result, you and your team can focus more on your collaborative efforts to reach your shared goals, instead of having to protect your territory in future turf wars.

Granted, there is always the possibility that your co-worker might refuse or even ignore the ideas or alternatives you’re putting forth. In those cases, at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you managed the situation well by trying to improve things in a mutually beneficial way, as opposed to simply seeking to cast blame or fault on your co-worker.

Confronting a co-worker who appears to have taken credit for the work done by others can be uncomfortable and potentially damaging to a team’s cohesiveness, which is why so many of us avoid having these conversations.

By implementing the three steps above, we can make these discussions easier to have because we’re allowing ourselves to shift our focus away from what losses or threats we perceive, to how we can help to clarify the situation and provide a resolution that encourages a more collaborative and transparent partnership with those we work with and share a common goal we want to achieve.

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  1. On February 15th, 2012 at 8:21 AM Susan Mazza said:

    Great advice Tanveer. And I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the insight and wisdom you share on your blog!

  2. On February 15th, 2012 at 10:59 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Aw, thanks Susan. I appreciate the kind words, my friend.

  3. On February 15th, 2012 at 11:23 PM pnr status said:

    Hai Tanveer!
    Great way of advise from you.This may be happening in some way or the other place.Thanks for sharing your idea.

  4. On February 16th, 2012 at 9:07 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks; glad you enjoyed this piece.

  5. On February 16th, 2012 at 10:37 PM @r_ganesh said:

    What I liked about the advice to this oft-perceived problem is that you have tackled the "other side" of the coin, which is missed by the so-called victim.

    Many sticky situations at work resolve satisfactorily with a constructive conversation but people hesitate to do it either assuming the correctness of their views or because they do not know how to conduct the dialog. Your article helps address both of these.

  6. On February 17th, 2012 at 9:49 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks; you're right that we often tend to view these situations more from the perspective of whose been wronged and consequently, this leads to measures of blame and defending our turf from future encroachments.

    However, if we take a step back to evaluate just how much we truly understand a situation, as well as why the other party did what they did, we stand a better chance at not only achieving a more ambicable resolution, but a greater chance that it won't occur again.

    Besides, we don't have to look far to see many examples of how drawing those proverbial lines in the sand and crying foul due little to resolve situations. On the contrary, it only paints each party into a corner leading to a pathetic game of chicken where both sides refuse to budge.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

  7. On February 17th, 2012 at 1:06 PM Joseph Lalonde said:

    Tanveer, I really liked point two. So often we are blind to the other side of the story. Taking the time to figure out where the other person is coming from is key.

  8. On February 19th, 2012 at 10:19 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Absolutely, Joseph. Unfortunately, it's also the hardest step as it's easy to succumb to the 'being wronged' mindset and look for retribution instead of clarity, awareness, and understanding.

    However, as we see in most conflicts today, such an approach rarely, if ever, leads to a successful or satisfying outcome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this piece, Joseph.

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