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Sticky Situations: My New Boss Takes Credit for My Work

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Sticky Situation:
I am an assistant marketing manager and have been in my position for two years. There has recently been a change in management. My boss has been promoted to vice-president of marketing and her position has been filled, externally, by a guy who used to be the sales manager for the competition. He is a good motivator and numbers-driven, but lacks creativity and planning. Those were my previous boss's strengths. I have learned well from her and was at first proud to see my new boss use my ideas and designs. I gave him the benefit of being a newcomer easing his way in, thinking that he would eventually spread the news about my collaboration. Now, three months later, I am getting tired of the lack of recognition for my contribution. Plainly stated, he is taking credit for my work and I want to be acknowledged for what I do.

Solution:
More than ever, in these tough economic times, it is every man for himself--and it's not always done honourably. Not only is your boss hogging the spotlight by benefiting from your work, but he is withholding benefits from you. If your inputs were acknowledged, they would have an impact on your reputation, your performance appraisal, upcoming promotions, your salary, and ultimately your quality of life.

It is not too late to remedy the situation in a professional manner without resentment. Yes, that is right. Take the situation professionally, not personally. The boss that displays this behaviour would take advantage of whoever would be pleased to fill his voids.

Foremost, you want to become very vigilant about protecting and showcasing all your contributions. That means documenting, archiving, backing up your work, and keeping both inbound and outbound communications. When you receive praise from other colleagues, forward it to your boss. The writings of others could inspire him to do the right thing by acknowledging you. You could even volunteer to prepare and send regular status updates. These regular memos to all team members would show the involvements of all, including yours.

If you partake in meetings where your superior presents one of your projects, it could simply be a matter of speaking up. Publicly recognize your own accomplishments by giving the group details about your research, timeline, or other aspects of your work. I know it's easier said than done, but doable. You may even start by thanking your boss for referencing your work. Like all sticky situation conversations, you can practice this scenario with a trusted friend to find the right words.

If you are not generally present in the meetings where your work is presented, you could, depending on who puts together the project, put your name on it. Another idea is to mention your contributions to other team members at more casual times, such as breaks. It could sound something like this: "I am so happy that we are finally launching the new promotion. I have been working on it for a full month and am really happy with the end result. I am particularly pleased with the colour combination. It is great!" Normally, this intro should spark a conversation about the details of a project where your accomplishments will be highlighted.

Maybe you have already tried some of the above solutions and feel that a more direct approach is in order. This could be done during a private chat, when the opportunity presents itself and when no one is around. If need be, you could request a meeting. I do not recommend putting this in an email. Simply mention that you are happy, even proud, that your ideas are being adopted and that you would appreciate acknowledgment so that your reviews may reflect your participation.

HR is always an option and because you seem to have had a good relationship with your previous boss, who is now a VP, you may want to seek her counsel on how to handle this sticky situation.

Whatever you do, do it positively, without making accusations. Remember, take it professionally, not personally, by controlling your emotions and being non-threatening.

Have a Sticky Situation yourself? Email julie@etiquettejulie.com and she will reply promptly.

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