Sunday, June 12, 2011

How To Handle When Someone Else Takes Credit For Your Work

We've all had that experience where we work really hard on something and instead of getting recognized for our contribution, we have to sit there and choke back bile when someone else takes credit for the work. It's infuriating to think about how hard you worked and how much effort you put into a project only to see some other glory-hound or charlatan pass all that effort off as their own.

Heck, I got a taste of that this week. I saw a bunch of traffic coming to my blog from Dr. Shailesh Thaker's blog (UPDATE: security software now indicates his blog is a virus attack site – DO NOT GO THERE). At first I was psyched. Here was a self-proclaimed "Management Thinker, HR Guru, and Corporate Coach" telling his fans my content was good.

Then I saw it. It was my blog post on shutting your cake hole. The ONLY thing that was different was the author. Apparently that article was now written by Dr. Thaker himself. Hmmm. I wonder if Thaker rhymes with faker.

That's right folks. Blatant plagiarism. Here's my original post and here's his post (UPDATE: he finally removed all posts however his site is now showing up as an "attack site" in my antivirus so I've disabled links to him). Unfortunately he wasn't bright enough to disable the hyperlink back to my blog and that's how I found the content. It turns out he ripped off several of my articles, a few from SmartBrief on Leadership, some from Kevin Eikenberry and others.

So what can you do when you're in this situation? What do you do when someone else passes your work off as their own? How do you handle it when someone else takes credit for work you did? Here are a few thoughts:

Seek Clarification

It could be an accident. You might be wrong in thinking someone is taking credit for your work. They might have sung your praises before you walked in the room to find them presenting your deck. They may have written a nice email giving you full credit but all you heard was "I received this presentation from (NOT YOU) and it's great." Clarify first. Just ask. If you are wrong and the person gave you credit, thank them politely for promoting your work.

Request (Nicely) a Correction

If it's clear they did pass of your work as theirs or they took credit for your idea, ask them (in private) if they could clarify to others that it was actually your work. You might say "I'm glad you liked my work but after your presentation some people are under a mistaken impression that you did the work. I would appreciate it if you could clarify to them that the work was mine." More often than not they'll heed that request.

If it's your content that has been stolen/plagiarized, send an email or make a call asking the person to remove it and to never do it again. Give them a clear timeline for action and show them a reference back to your original work. They might be unaware that the work was stolen (maybe someone on their team did it – see the point above on clarification).

Demand a Correction

If the person decides not to satisfy your request for a correction, demand one. You could petition the person's supervisor to rectify things (the boss might be unaware that someone is taking credit for your work). Let the person know you're upset that they took credit and that they've violated some pretty clear societal standards on giving credit and taking credit. In some cases (like plagiarism) you might even have your attorney send a demand notice requesting redress.

Go Nuclear or Get Over It

If all the above strategies fail, you have two choices. You can go for the nuclear option and file a formal complaint at work (with your boss, HR, etc.) or sue (e.g., for plagiarism) or carry out a public campaign to call out the fraud. Or you can vent about it, make your case, then shut up and move on with life. Events like this can be total energy-sucks. You can choose instead to focus your efforts on being productive and moving forward knowing that the universe will take care of the Thakers… I mean fakers of the world.

And by the way, if you're dumb enough to steal content from a blogger, disable the hyperlinks so you can't be tracked as easily. And if I can ask a favor folks – if you like this blog and this post, please retweet it, share it, send it around. Maybe if he sees his name up in lights enough on Google searches as a plagiarist, he'll remove my article (he hasn't yet responded to my "ask nicely" or my demand of removal…

What will be really ironic is if this post gets picked up and republished on some "Management Thinker's" or "HR Guru's" blog…

Thanks to Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC


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