Is your boss trying to sabotage your career . . . and what you can do about it! (Part 3 of 4)

boss stealing ideas

Back in 2010, AOL listed what they called the 20 worst bosses on television.

No surprise that Cosmo Spacely from the Jestsons, whom I referred to in Part 1 of this series, made that list for “constantly threatening to fire George Jetson for poor performance, and always yelling.”

While the list itself presents many memorable names from TV land (some real and some fictional), there are reasons why these characters made the list that stands out the most.

From reality show’s Hell’s Kitchen’s Gordon Ramsay who “yells a lot, is condescending, and extremely critical,” to Ugly Betty fictional character Wilhelmina Slater who “will sabotage, manipulate, or seduce to get her way and climb the corporate ladder,” there is no doubt why these individuals cracked the top 20.

Despite the many reasons that contribute to making a boss toxic, one of the worst is stealing or poaching the ideas of employees and claiming them as their own.

This is particularly troubling in today’s uncertain business climate as being both original and innovative are seen as being key advantages in a highly competitive global marketplace. You must continually protect your brand at all times and assess the price you might be paying when you do not have the support of a boss who should champion you.

Originality . . . your ability to conceal your source?!

This brings to mind the movie “Working Girl” in which Sigourney Weaver’s character with ruthless intent, steals underling Tess’ spark of genius under the auspices of a “bring me your ideas and I will see what I can do to make it happen for you”.  Empty promises require no further explanation other than the fact this behavior can be destructive to your hard earned credibility and reputation.

The question is what do you do if you are the victim of idea theft?

FOR THE TOXIC BOSS WHO STEALS YOUR IDEAS:

In a meeting, when they take credit for your ideas and if this keeps happening, it’s your time to say something.  Rather than sulk or shut down, you can actually repossess your idea.  Simply add information to what they have already said to which they would not have anything else to contribute.  By doing this, you avoid confrontation but you also get to reclaim your power.

While the above may help you to address an immediate situation, there is a much broader picture that needs to be considered involving your long term career prospects.

For example, if you are up for a promotion and know that you have the qualifications to do the job, but you seem to be hitting far too many roadblocks to be coincidence, your boss is likely sabotaging your chances of advancement.

Of course, you probably won’t be able to prove that your boss is sabotaging your career advancement, but you do have options.

1.  Initiate a candid conversation.  Arrange for a private meeting with your boss to question why you aren’t moving ahead.  Be upfront as to your disappointment and concern for their lack of acknowledgement of your ideas and support. If there is a valid reason, you have now opened the door for them to discuss their apprehensions.  Should a lame excuse be given, you at least know you are going nowhere fast. This is an opportunity, however, to learn if it is personal or if you are lacking the skills to be promoted.  Should the latter be the case, make sure you know what they recommend to elevate your competencies and seek out their commitment for putting your name forward once you follow their recommendation.  Insist on a timeframe to revisit this topic.

2. Initiate a courageous conversation. Let them know that you are seriously considering finding work in another department or company if you don’t receive the promotion. This gives your boss fair warning that you know something isn’t right, with the added benefit that your threat of leaving will most probably concern them if they acknowledge that you are vital to the business. As a result, they won’t want to lose a good employee and may well reverse the actions that they have been taking. In addition, it will not serve their reputation when they have to explain to HR why you are seeking to leave.

3. Initiate a dialogue with senior management. Conversely, and given today’s uncertain job market, the threat of leaving your current employer may not be a viable option.  If this is the case and, if in fact your boss has designed it so well that you will never be able to get ahead because of your invaluable expertise, there is little you can do about it except bring it to the attention of senior management or human resources. The challenge with this course of action is that you may offend your boss and therefore they may start to push you out the door.  A sign of a pending storm along these lines is if your boss – all of a sudden, begins to find faults with you and your work.  For example, you start getting called into the office for reprimands, or questioned about things that you have always done that were not previously a problem.  In short, you can’t seem to win these days and it all seems to be coming from the boss that previously had nothing but wonderful accolades for you before you applied for that promotion.

In this last scenario, and referring back to part 2 in which I indicated that you should not wait until you look so bad that you have no choice but to leave, you should seriously consider moving on but making sure that you leave as the hero keeping both your integrity and image well intact.

All in all, it is important to remember that you have to get beyond the emotional upset of having someone steal your ideas and claiming them as their own without offering even the slightest acknowledgement of your contribution.  Ironically, and for the vast majority of employees, it is not just a question about money or being promoted up the corporate latter but, the appreciation for a job well done.

In this light the old saying that originality is your ability to conceal your source while an amusing anecdote, is anything but funny, especially when it negatively impacts both individual and team morale.  With this in mind, you should always be certain to stay tuned in to your industry looking to network as often as possible with other professionals both within and external to keep your options open.  This ultimately is the best way to mitigate the effects of a light fingered boss.

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About Roz Usheroff

Author and Host of the PI Window on The World Show on Blog Talk Radio.

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