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How to Handle Coworkers Who Take Credit for Your Work: Part 2

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Last week’s blog asked how you would respond to a coworker who took credit for your work. 47% of responders indicated they would not say anything to their boss, but they would speak to their coworker privately to express their disappointment.

Another 20% suggested that the best approach would be to speak with both their boss and the employee, to clarify each person’s role in developing the marketing plan.

When we think about the correct response to an ethical dilemma, it is important to know there is rarely a definitive right answer. The nature of ethical dilemmas is that there will be pros and cons to each possible response.

There can be multiple variables to be considered before you determine your response. Below are just a few of the factors that may impact your decision in this scenario:

1. Is this a one-time mistake or a habitual problem? Let’s assume this is a first time offense. At a minimum, the misconduct needs to be directly addressed with your coworker as soon as possible. This gives the coworker an opportunity to clarify his/her intent, in an effort to repair any hard feelings in case this was just a misunderstanding. This conversation also helps establish clear expectations for what is and is not appropriate in the future. If the behavior is repeated in the future, you will know with greater certainty the misconduct was intentional, and that will help determine how you react to the next incident.

2. What responsibility do you have to let your boss know when coworkers engage in misconduct? The interesting thing about massive frauds is they typically start out as minor infractions. Sometimes people will test the water to see how much they can get away with. When these minor issues go unchecked or unnoticed, these individuals develop greater confidence they can take advantage of others without being punished. While it may not be desirable to share information with your boss that can result in discipline for other employees, speaking up when you first notice questionable behavior may prevent major ethical issues in the future.

3. How will telling your boss positively or negatively impact the culture within your office? Consider both short-term and long-term implications. Since calling someone out on their bad behavior can cause ill feelings, it is important to consider the ramifications of your response, before you decide which action you will take.

Ignoring the transgression may seem like a good decision to avoid conflict, but you may later resent your coworker if he/she gets the raise or promotion you were seeking. If other employees noticed you were taken advantage of, then that might also impact what they view as acceptable behavior, which could encourage them to take advantage of you or others in the future.

These are just a few of the items you may want to consider when facing this type of dilemma. You may ask yourself these questions and come up with different answers and that is completely okay. There are often multiple responses that can be deemed as ethically acceptable and it is your responsibility to determine the response that best aligns with the values of you and your organization.

I encourage you to seek out a professional mentor who can help you talk through these types of situations. These individuals can help guide you and test out your theories. Use their knowledge and experience to help inform your decisions and actions.

Always remember, Leadership is a Lifestyle.

— Ryan W. Hirsch
Operations Manager, NASBA Center for the Public Trust (CPT)