Early in my business career, my boss took credit for an idea I had conceived and implemented. To make matters worse, he did it publicly during a meeting, leaving me with the choice of either confronting the issue directly and publicly, or just biting my tongue. I chose to be silent.

Mary, an accounting clerk, found a billing error that when corrected generated an additional $90,000 in income for her company. Immediately, her supervisor marched into the president’s office and announced that he had found the error, thereby taking credit for improving the company’s financial performance for the month.

Effective managers give credit

Some managers never see a good idea that isn’t theirs or experience a mistake that isn’t someone else’s fault. Most workers, at some point in their career, will have an idea stolen by a boss. Very few things will destroy employee morale and stifle future innovation more than having a supervisor take credit for somebody else’s idea. Effective managers understand that they never lose credit when they share the glory with their staff. When managers highlight the contributions of others, they increase their employees’ self-confidence and raise their spirits — which ultimately improves future performance. Stealing credit, either overtly or by allowing false perceptions, is dishonest. As Moses instructed, “You shall not bear a false report” (Exodus 23:1, NASB). Taking credit for another’s efforts is bearing a false report.

Jesus said, “The worker is worthy of his support” (Matthew 10:10, NASB). Supporting our workers involves more than simply furnishing a paycheck. A manager never loses out by giving credit and recognition where it is due. Business leaders and customers are concerned with overall performance, not who the star might be on any given day. By sharing credit, effective managers demonstrate that they have effectively built a strong team, which is an excellent and worthy accomplishment.

Dealing with the situation

Unfortunately there is limited recourse available for victims of workplace rip-offs. The best option is to discuss the issue calmly with your boss. Explain that you want to be a team player; that you want to do your part to make your team — and your boss — look good. Ask to be more involved in future meetings, and keep a paper trail or an e-mail record of your innovative ideas. Going over your supervisor’s head or complaining to the personnel department typically yields little fruit, and may serve only to antagonize your boss. If you believe you are the victim of a credit stealer, you must decide whether you can resolve the situation, learn to live with the situation, or look for a new job.

If you fail to reach an understanding or an agreement with your boss after attempting to work out the situation, seek the Lord’s guidance as to whether you should extend grace to your boss and live with the situation, or seek other employment. Developing a negative attitude will only undermine your work performance, damage your credibility, and eat you alive. It’s up to each individual as to whether he or she can come to grips with the situation and truly let go of resentment.

Here’s a cautionary tale for those who are tempted to steal credit from others: I know of a situation where the chief financial officer of a large company consistently took credit for every good idea, while being a master at passing blame to others. Over time, several key accounting managers became demoralized and resigned, taking with them the key innovations needed to make the company run smoothly. After these people left, the good ideas suddenly stopped coming and the performance of the department began to sag. The CEO quickly noticed the downturn, decided that the CFO wasn’t getting the job done, and fired him. The CFO’s unwillingness to share the glory, and the subsequent departure of key staff members, directly caused his demise. Had he been willing to acknowledge the contributions of others and build up the team, the company would have been stronger, and he would have kept his job.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Child