Complaining to your Boss when a Co-Worker Steals Your Idea

February 20, 2017

Complaining to your Boss when a Co-Worker Steals Your Idea

In the previous post, you confront the co-worker (Emmett) who passed your idea off as his. As a result, the boss Len thinks Emmett is the cat’s pyjamas and has assigned him to develop the idea. Your idea.

You tried confronting Emmett but got nowhere. So the next option could be to complain to Len. I mean, surely the boss cares about this type of thing.

So, the next day, you poke your head into Len’s office.

You: Hi, got a minute?
Len: Sure, what’s up?
You: Well, you know that idea you wanted Emmett to develop?
Len: Yeah, it’s great. Emmett’s got a knack for coming up with new takes.
You: Ah, well, that idea was mine.
Len: Yours? What do you mean?
You: I told Emmett about it and he stole it to present to you.
Len: That’s a serious charge.
You: Yeah, but apparently he does this all the time. The others—
Len: (holds up a hand) I don’t want to hear gossip. Have you talked to Emmett about this?
You: Yes, but he denies it.
Len: So, are you sure you didn’t misinterpret what happened?
You: No, I tell you, he stole my idea to give to you.

Okay, I’m gonna stop this right here. The conversation isn’t going in any direction which will produce a good result for you.

You have miscalculated

You made a number of errors. Here are a few:

  • You assumed the boss would believe you. Yes, I know you’re an honest person but how does Len know that? You’ve been on the job three months and suddenly you’re making unprovable accusations. Why would he believe you over Emmett?
  • You assumed the boss would want to rectify the situation. I think that most bosses want to give credit where credit is due. However, it’s sometimes hard (as in this case) to do so with no other witnesses to the conversation and in addition, at some level, management doesn’t care. What they want is a good idea which will make money. Very quickly, the idea becomes a company not an individual one and anyone making a fuss will soon be seen as a bad team player.
  • You didn’t pick up the clues to shut down. Early on, Len said, “Emmett‘s got a knack for coming up with new takes.” In other words, Emmett has already hoodwinked Len into thinking he’s an idea guy rather than the idea-stealer the rest of the staff know him to be. At this point, you should have registered that clue and tread carefully. Are you going to be able to convince Len that he’s been taken in by Emmett?

What should you have done?

It is frustrating, I know. Emmett gets the kudos for your idea and the boss won’t believe your allegations. I suppose you could take it to Len’s boss but I’d think more than twice about that. Do you have any more compelling evidence than you did with Len? Is it really a big enough issue to have a repeat of Len conversation with Len’s boss? I doubt it.

The only other option seems to be to do nothing. That’s the subject of the next post.

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