Defending Against Credit Stealers

July 31, 2017

Defending Against Credit Stealers

In the last post, you found out that you and your collaborator, Wes, had completely different interpretations of whether he had hogged the limelight. You were eventually able to work out things out.

But what if you have suspected all along that Wesley, hail-fellow-well-met that he is, is unlikely to be trustworthy in sharing credit?

How do I know?

It’s not always easy, especially since Wesley has been helpful with your project and added value. But some things you can look for:

  • Does he use ‘I’ a lot? I did it rather than we did it. This can be an indication of his penchant.
  • Is he the first off the mark? That is, he consistently grabs the first word even in just regular get-togethers.
  • Does he go on and on? He never takes a breath so someone else can break in.

All of these are annoying but can just be the signs of a vigorous extrovert. The real kicker is:

  • Do you trust him? If you already find yourself picking your words carefully when with him or avoiding sharing ideas, you might have something to worry about.

Setting up differently

Knowing that you are both going to be in this meeting, you might want to do a little pre-planning. You need to:

  • Come up with some killer points which show both the brilliance of your thinking and the depth of your knowledge.
  • Practice how to introduce them casually but authoritatively.
  • Estimate where Wesley will try to take over things and have some counters ready. Example: “Thanks, Wes. Yes, I’m keen to get going on that.” Then add a killer point.

In the meeting

When someone takes credit for your work, you’re usually so stunned that you can’t say anything until it’s too late. However, if you have your wits about you, you can intervene as it is happening. Let’s replay the meeting with the prep work you did above.

Manager: So Wesley and Nick want to give us an update on the smart pre-kindergarten game. Who’s gonna start? Before You can say anything:
Wesley: Why don’t I? I’m really happy with the progress on what I’m thinking of calling the Baby Einstein game. This is news to you!
You: Hey, that’s an interesting idea but I want to focus right now on getting the technical side right. For example, (give an example of what you mean). Introduce killer point.
Manager: But I like the name. Taps into the whole bragging rights for parents. Keep showing ownership.
You: Yeah, it’s a possibility, for sure. Wes has been great at contributing ideas to my project and I’d like to thank him publically for that. My project. Thanking him shows you’re the driver.
Wesley: Hey, no prob. I think this whole bragging rights thing is the way to go. Jump in.
You: Gosh, thanks for reminding me, Wes. Last month, I ran a series of proof-of-product tests with parents of pre-schoolers and they were uniformly enthusiastic. You make sure you introduce the work.
Wesley: Yeah, I think going after private pre-school programs is the way to go.  
You: It’s certainly one of the options. But I’d like to leave defining target populations until we’re sure we have a sure-fire product. Shows who owns the project.

And so on. If you don’t trust Wesley, stay on your toes the whole meeting. If he has been helpful, as it seems he has, give him full credit but don’t leave doubt in anyone’s mind who the project leader is.

It can be a different kettle of fish if you think your boss is stealing credit. Next post.

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