Co-worker stealing work and credit

by Evil HR Lady on February 15, 2010

I work part time as an office assistant.

I am having a a problem with another full time employee who’s current positon does not have enough work for her to do everyday. My boss is unaware that her workload has decreased.

After I left for the day she took one of my completed assignments changed it slightly and presented it to my boss and took credit for it. This is not the first incident.

How would you suggest I handle this situation? I would not want her to take over my position and find myself out of work.

I’m on your side here, but I feel obligated to prepare you for the worst: If your co-worker is full time and doesn’t have enough to do, the most logical thing to do is eliminate the part time position. On that cheery thought, here is what I would do.

I would quietly approach your co-worker and say, “Jill, when you took credit for my work, that was not cool. Not cool at all. Please don’t do it again.”

Say it calmly and attempt to walk away after you say it. Why? This isn’t a discussion you want to have. Jill will be defensive and tell you how she made a ton of changes and your work was terrible and she was saving you from embarrassment by taking over the project. It doesn’t matter that none of this is true.

Then I would let that particular incident go. If it happens again, I would go to your boss with a copy of your draft of the project and say, “I know I’m not here all the time, but Jill keeps presenting my work as her own. Here’s a copy of how I left the information. I don’t want to cause problems with Jill, but I also don’t want you to think I’m not working hard.”

Then let your boss take it from there.

Unless Jill is a brazen type of person, I doubt she’ll do it again after you’ve told her in plain language that it is unacceptable. People do things like this because they can get away with it. Being called out on it is usually enough to get all by the most egregious offenders to stop.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous February 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I think it would be best to find another job. If your coworkers are stealing your work and your boss doesn't notice, then I doubt your boss cares or will do anything about it.

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Anonymous February 15, 2010 at 5:33 pm

EHRL, Why would you say to let this particular incident go? The boss needs to be told NOW, b/c such a devious coworker will not wait; after being confronted, s/he will mount sabotage efforts immediately to make you (the real victim) look bad, destroy your credibility so that nobody would believe your story @ a later date.

So I say tell the boss now, mentioning that "I have already spoken to X about it, but just wanted to keep you informed'.

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Evil HR Lady February 15, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Because I think as a general rule, people respond best when you don't bring in an authority. By telling her that you are aware and that you are not okay with it, she's now got an opportunity to stop the behavior.

If you run to the boss immediately, she's going to be super defensive and it will end up as an attack on you.

Managers don't like it when people tattle anyway. If you can solve it yourself, that is better.

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DC Jobs February 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm

The sad thing is that crazyness like this goes on all the time. The other common trick that full timers pull on part-timers is to dump their responsibilities on them.

Regardless of the outcome, the right answer is probably to bring it to the offenders attention right away. Not doing anything about it will probably make for a pretty miserable workplace.

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Pat February 15, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Good luck. This has happened to me before and when someone is in a higher position than you, unfortunately there is little that can be done except confronting the coworker. Be clear, assertive and reasonable.

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TheLabRat February 16, 2010 at 6:36 am

This same thing happened to me. I actually did exactly what EHRL recommended and it went down exactly as the 2nd anon speculates. I don't even list that position on my resume anymore. The sabotage was so severe (and bordering on assault, she was fond of putting things she hoped I was allergic to in my coffee and lunches) that it completely ruined any attempts to garner a reference out of the job.

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Olivia February 16, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Personally, I wouldn't talk to the co-worker or my boss – I'd take all the steps I could to make sure the situation didn't happen again. For example, in the instance listed, she should have presented the completed project to her boss before she left.
She should also try to communicate on a frequent basis what she's working on, some sort of regular progress report. Then, the boss will already be aware of whose work it is, even if the co-worker tries to claim credit.

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My Wish February 16, 2010 at 3:24 pm

What happens if it's the boss taking the credit for your work? I had created a safety manual for the company on my own initiative, and now my boss presents it as a collaboration between the two of us when she had previously told me that it was a waste of time. Now that it's done, she is taking credit for it.

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TheLabRat February 16, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Ask to keep a copy for your portfolio (minus any proprietary information). It'll put her on the spot but in a non-aggressive way. Assuming proprietary info can be edited out, she has no reason to deny the request, and you may be able to go over her head to have it granted. Then, even if she is sharing a byline (erroneously) with you, you at least will get a positive benefit from the document.

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Olivia February 23, 2010 at 9:49 pm

@my wish – It's a lot harder when it's your boss doing the credit claiming. Did she give you a boost and/or a positive review for your work? I had a boss that "took credit," but on the flip side, he also shared credit for things that he was primarly working on as well. To some degree, it's a political game, to work your way out from under her, if she's not giving you credit, or leveraging your work into better wage or promotions if she is giving you credit.
If you generally have a good relationship with her, you could be open with her. If you don't, tread carefully, and either play the politics, or find a way to get away.

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Anonymous February 26, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I rather like Olivia's advice of beating the thief to the punch.

Hopefully the OP knows this co-worker well enough to gauge whether speaking to them will cause a huge backlash. But whether she talks to her or not, protecting her work should definitely be something she starts doing.

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Anonymous August 30, 2010 at 7:08 am

Agamemnon: History remembers kings! Not soldiers! Tomorrow we'll batter down the gates of Troy! I'll build monuments to victory on every island of Greece. I'll carve "Agamemnon" in the stone.
Achilles: Be careful, king of kings. First you need the victory.

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