Dear Matt: I have a serious problem at work. My boss steals all my ideas and pretends they are hers. Let me share an example: My team worked very hard on a project and I asked her if I could send them a thank you note and some candy. She said no, and then two days later, I come in to work and there is a thank you note and candy on everyone's desk. Please help!
Matt: There are a couple of ways to look at this. Yes, it's frustrating that this person is using your ideas and not giving you the credit you deserve. In the long run, however, how does this really affect you? Were your co-workers and department leaders more impressed with your work on the project, or with the way the manager presented them with a thank you? Remember, your main obligation to the company is to produce results, not worry about being slighted for a thank-you idea. In the long run, what is going to be the key to your career success - performing at a high level or coming up with neat ideas to say thank you to the team? And look at it another way, while you didn't get the credit for the thank you idea, your team got rewarded, which was a direct result of your idea.
On the other hand, no one wants others to reap the rewards of their hard work, new ideas or cost-saving initiatives. The situation you described seems minor, but something tells me there are some other issues going on here that make you unhappy. If the boss is using your ideas to help drive her own career then I would be more concerned.
In the future, one way to make sure your ideas get presented as your own is to make sure you are the one presenting them to the team. Instead of going directly to your boss with your new idea, share it with the team, and then mention something like "I'm glad you all think it's a good idea, I'll bring that to Cindy to see what she thinks." That way, it's out in the open to the team first. Or, if you send what you think is a great idea in an e-mail, copy in some other co-workers who you may be working with on the project so they can see that it originated from you.
Keep on coming up with great ideas. In the long run, your efforts will be rewarded the right way.
Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. The first Sunday of each month this column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.