How to Deal With a Coworker Who’s Stealing Credit for Your Hard Work

Photo of worker ready to battle a credit stealing coworker.

You stayed at the office late, went the extra mile, and lost a night of sleep trying to make sure your latest project was executed perfectly. Now the project is in the bag, and you’re hoping you’ll be assigned to the next big task, one with a greater level of responsibility and a potentially higher profile. But a minute ago you walked past your boss’s open door and overheard this snippet of conversation:

Your boss: I’m pleased with outcome of the X project.
Another person: Yeah, that went really well. Steve really came through for us on this one.
Your boss: Steve is great. He’s proving himself for sure. Let’s put him on the next one and see where he takes it.

Everything about this conversation validates your extra effort and fills your heart with pride. You’re happy to hear the X project is being well received….There’s only one problem. Your name isn’t Steve!

You can’t exactly burst into the room and set these two straight. So what can you do to make sure the credit for the X project lands where it should? And what can you do to prevent this conversation from happening again in the future?

How to Deal with Credit Stealing Coworkers

  1. Be a pronoun dropper. When you next discuss the project with your boss, be clear with the use of your personal pronoun, as in: “I’m glad you liked my work”, or “What did you think of the graphs I added? I stayed late on Tuesday to finish those, but I think it paid off.” 
  2. Don’t be afraid of a little passive aggression. The office is a place for indoor voices and professional behavior. Always. But if someone close to you has overstepped a boundary and caused potential harm to your career and your reputation, find a polite way to express your feelings on the subject. If Steve openly took credit for your work, betrayed your trust, or bent the truth at your expense, it’s okay to make him feel uncomfortable about it. Just make sure your message is clear. Be polite without being confusing. 

  3. Turn to the official or unofficial head of the project to set the record straight. Steve may not be entirely to blame. Make sure you address those who are truly responsible for the communication breach. 

  4. Keep an eye on Steve. If he happily took credit for your work this time, he may do it again. Don’t let him take advantage of you twice. Be ready to turn a polite and gentle response into one that’s a little more direct. 

  5. Let it go…this time. Don’t harp on this forever. What goes around comes around, and Steve may later have a chance to redeem himself in your estimation. You may even find the same accidental forces working your favor the next time. 

  6. Work a little harder to protect your profile. The next time your team is turned loose on a project, stay tuned in to credit distribution issues from the beginning. A spirit of teamwork is great, but teamwork starts with trust, and trust has to be earned. 

Learn How to Talk about Your Accomplishments

The best way to get the credit you deserve is by getting comfortable with self-promotion. Polite, professional bragging is a valuable skill, and mastering it can help you sidestep credit thieves and put your career on the fast track. For more guidance, turn to LiveCareer. Explore the site for tests that can help you make sure the career you’re stepping into is the right one for you. Then use LiveCareer’s resume development tools and practice interviews to land a position with the company that can help you reach your goals.

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