“Yeah. In a couple days we are presenting to our executive team and I wanted to see if you had that one report we went over at our last team meeting. I wanted to include it,” explained one of the other managers in my office.

“What is the topic?” I inquired.

“The presentation is about (proprietary topic). The Senior VP wanted to learn more about it. (My boss’ peer) will be presenting about it.”

“Oh, ok.” I muttered, surprised by the comment.

I couldn’t believe it. That topic was something that I had been analyzing for months. I was not only part of the team that had conducted an in depth analysis and strategic recommendation but I had been assigned to lead the efforts by my boss’ peer. Now he was going behind my back, taking the work I had done, reformatted a few things and was going to present it to the executive team without even telling me.

The corporate world can be a jungle and not everyone will be looking out for your best interest. There will be people who attempt to get ahead by using your work and if you don’t stick up for yourself then no one will. At the same time though, kicking and screaming isn’t the right way to plead your case and mark your territory. In the situation I faced I had to be strategic about my response.

When facing these types of situations, there is a right and wrong approach. Here are a few ways to keep the credit for your own great work:

  1. Claim your work– The first way to maintain rightful credit for the work you do is to label it as your own. If you are making a slide deck or word document, put your name or a unique identifier in the footer of each page. Moreover, instead of sending a Microsoft office document, send a PDF so that your work can’t be easily taken or adapted. Finding a place to store it in the cloud that can timestamp your work is another good way to offer proof that you were the original author.
  2. Don’t assume the worst– It would be a mistake to assume that any time someone replicates your work they have done so with malicious intentions. More often it may be that they forgot who came up with an idea. This possibility intensifies when group work is involved, since there is a higher likelihood people think that a certain idea was originally their own because of the group brainstorming process many teams go through.
  3. Find a channel to object– When you find out that someone has been copying and taking credit for your work, remember to be professional. Don’t vow to have your revenge. Instead, find a way to prove that they stole your original work and that you should have a share of the credit. Value proof over confrontation.
  4. Be ok with others using your work– In some respects, sampling of your ideas and work you have done is unavoidable. To help control how your work is disseminated, create some simple guidelines that outline some terms you require if people are to use your work (so they don’t represent that it is their own). Be a team player but ensure that they reference you when sharing your work with others. It is important to do the same when you use the work of someone else. Credit those who rightfully deserve the credit. Moreover, when someone runs with one of your ideas, find ways to get involved in the project so you have some control of how your work is being used.
  5. Surround yourself with team players– One of the best ways to ensure that you receive rightful credit for your hard work is to find bosses and co-workers who value each other and foster a culture of teaming. If you work in a toxic work culture, where everyone is out there for himself and where your boss regularly takes credit for your work as if it were her own, find a way to get out. Look for healthy work environments where the credit is shared with those that most deserve it.

In the case of the situation above, I decided to keep my cool and instead of confronting my boss’ peer, I shared my concern with my boss. I explained that I felt it was unfair that the work I took the lead with creating was being presented to executives without my participation. I didn’t push to be the one to present it nor did I ask to receive all the credit; instead I just made a case that I should be involved. In turn, my boss breached the topic with his peer.

Soon after, I received a call from my boss’ peer who offered an apology for his mistake. He invited me to participate in the preparations for the executive readout as well as the presentation meeting itself.

Keeping my cool paid off, but so did sticking up for myself and letting it be known that I (just like everyone else) deserved to be credited with the hard work I had done. Leverage the advice outlined above in your workplace interactions to make sure to receive credit for your great work.