What to Do When Your Boss Steals Your Work

October 26, 2021
feature image

One of my former bosses would always take credit for my work.

He would try to inspire me to work harder and faster on what he needed delivered.  

“This is our moment to shine,” he had once bellowed through the phone after I worked tirelessly on a deck for three straight days. “This proposal will change the trajectory for the company!”

He would pretend he would invite me to the meeting to present.

“Sure, let’s talk about it closer to the meeting, I see no issue with that,” he would say when I had asked for my seat at the virtual table. I would text and message him the day of the meeting and receive no response. I didn’t have access to the invite. So the meeting happened without me, and I would have to hear from others how it went.

He would forward on my work without cc’ing me or even attributing my name to any of it.

“Can you please answer the CEO’s question? Please send me back three bullet points on why we should proceed ASAP.” He would then cut and paste my text, and forward it back as his own response. I only found this out after a fellow leader had forwarded me an email with his proposal, a.k.a. my proposal.

This went on for years as I worked for this individual, and in the power dynamics of Corporate America, there was little I could do. As a leader in the organization, I wanted to be able to take credit for my own work, and not have someone else claim it as their own. At the end of the day, I wanted to be valued for my ideas and what I was contributing. It was also important for my career trajectory at this organization. If other leaders didn’t recognize the work as my contribution, then how would I build my value and get to the next level?

So what can you do if your boss consistently steals or takes credit for your work? Here are five strategies you can consider deploying when you find yourself in this situation:

1. Ask for the opportunity to share your work.

“I’m really excited about the proposal I put together, and you had mentioned it was shared at last week’s meeting. I would love to expand my access to other senior leaders in our organization. Would you be able to recommend anyone I could share the proposal with?”

Here you acknowledge you know the proposal was shared. And you position the question as an opportunity for your boss to coach you. Who can they connect you with so that you can share your work? Are there any upcoming forums in which you can present? Is there an opportunity for you to attend the next meeting and provide an update on where the work stands?

2. Let others know your contributions.

If your boss is taking credit for your work, they likely aren’t an advocate for you. They are too busy focused on managing up and scheming for their next promotion. They are too busy singing their own praises to be concerned about anyone else’s career.

Be your own advocate. Let others know what you’ve worked on. A great way to do this is to share your proposal with others to get their feedback, and as you share it, they will understand that you were responsible for the work. If you are catching up with a leader on another topic, be sure to mention how excited you were to lead the project, and how happy you are the company decided to fund it.  

3. Share the credit.

When Madame Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the nation after a historic presidential election, she said the following about President Joe Biden, “What a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his Vice President.”

Harris had the track record of success and the credentials to be a Vice President. And she decided to give credit to Biden in her speech for giving her access and asking her to join his ticket. So what can we learn from Harris’ words?  

Share the credit with your boss. This may seem counterintuitive but think of it this way: Position yourself as an equal and someone who was a thought partner on this work in the narrative you want to share about yourself in the organization.

“I am so proud that we both got to lead this work  for the company and thankful to my boss who gave me the access and the opportunity to work on this incredibly important initiative.”

4. Ask to work on other projects.

If your boss has a track record of taking credit for their team’s work, they are unlikely to change their behavior any time soon. Especially if the organization enables and condones their behavior. You likely won’t be the first or last person whose work they steal.

With the pandemic continuing on, organizations will keep reassessing their priorities and think of how they can add value and find additional streams of revenue. This is the perfect time to raise your hand to work on other projects, which gives you access to working with different leaders. Be intentional and set virtual coffee chats to learn more about initiatives underway and how you can help. Be clear on your strengths and the value you can add to this work. Finally, don’t be shy; ask to join the project so you can help the company through this time, and at the same time you can be self-serving and get credit for your contributions working with a new leader.

5. Start looking for a new opportunity.

At the end of the day, we all deserve to work on a team where we are recognized and given credit for the value we bring to the table. As in the case of one of my former managers, if the behavior isn’t going to change, how long will you allow yourself to be in a position where someone else takes credit for what you do? Over time, not being recognized for the work you do can be demoralizing and can have a devastating impact on your sense of self-confidence.

It’s time to start considering outside opportunities, and to find an organization—and a leader—who will allow you to make an impact and to take credit for that impact. And to ultimately be somewhere where you can thrive.

“If your boss is taking credit for your work, they likely aren’t an advocate for you.”

About the author: Mita Mallick is a corporate change-maker with a track record of transforming businesses and cultures. She is the head of inclusion, equity, and impact at Carta. Mallick is a columnist for Entrepreneur, and her writing has been published in Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Business Insider, among many others.

Return Policy

All sales are FINAL. No refunds on purchases, no exceptions. By completing this purchase from Create & Cultivate, you agree to this policy.

Terms of Service

By completing this purchase from Create & Cultivate, you agree to our Terms of Use and forfeit your right to dispute charges.

Privacy Policy

By completing this purchase from Create & Cultivate, you agree to the terms of our Privacy Policy.

Small Business, Big Influence.
Order Summary
The HR Bundle
$29.99
$22.49
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Venture Capital Bundle
$24.99
$18.74
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Bootstrapping & Budgeting Bundle
$24.99
$18.74
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Marketing Bundle
$24.99
$18.74
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The PR Bundle
$14.99
$11.24
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Branding Bundle
$24.99
$18.74
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Launch Your Business Bundle
$24.99
$18.74
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Grow Your Instagram Bundle
$29.99
$22.49
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Podclass VIP Download
$399.00
$199.50
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Growth Hacking Bundle
$17.99
$13.49
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The WFH Bundle
$14.99
$11.24
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Job Hunting Bundle
$14.99
$11.24
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Grow Your Email List Download
$9.99
$7.49
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Career-Boost Bundle
$14.99
$11.24
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Podclass Download
$299.00
$149.50
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.
Order Summary
The Self-Care Bundle 2.0
$29.99
$22.49
Billing Address
Review your information and purchase when you're ready.