How to deal with a co-worker stealing your idea

How to deal with a co-worker stealing your idea

July 5, 2016
by Mark Drager

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You have the most amazing idea.

It’s Monday morning and you’ve spent the weekend running the pitch through your mind.

You’re all jazzed up; you even got an extra shot of espresso in your coffee before you rock into the team meeting.

Then, out of nowhere Mr. Know-it-all, the colleague whom you casually mentioned the idea to last week has spoken up first and blurted everything out.

What do you do?

If you step forward to claim the idea as your own, it’s the classic he-said-she-said mess that makes you look like a whiney middle-schooler. But if you say nothing, that jackass gets credit for your awesome idea. Your intellectual property.

You scream within the recesses of your mind as you watch your idea slip away from you, into the either of a team meeting. NOOOOOOOOO!

For you, it may not have gone down like that but at some point in your career, someone is going to take credit for something your work.

Here’s how to handle it like the full-grown adult that you are:

Unfortunately, there’s no room for pet-kidnapping or elaborate revenge plots in adult life so this list is not as funny as it could be.

1. Be polite and join in.

Don’t let the thievery stop you from participating in the meeting and elaborating on the idea. You don’t want to be caught stunned and looking as if you don’t know what’s going on. It’s your idea so jump in, flesh it out and make it look like you own it in a collaborative way.

2. Talk to the bandit in private.

Thievery and treachery are never acceptable in the workplace. Mention to them in private what you believe happened. Usually, if this person is a classy adult, they will be apologetic and maybe even offer to make things right. The best-case scenario is that they didn’t intentionally ruin your life. Now on the other hand, if they are a world-class jerk-off and don’t apologize or admit to it at least you know who you are dealing with.

3. Assert You Superiority.

Sound petty? Well, it can be if not executed perfectly. Play it cool. Don’t let people see you break a sweat over this. You have plenty of genius to spread around. It’s a shame this particular idea of yours got swiped, but you are going to be just fine; ideas are free, right? You will have 1 million more. Act like it.

4. Don’t share future ideas.

Learn your lesson and keep your intellectual property among close friends or to yourself. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to steal from you again.

5. Be like the crazy girl from Frozen and let it go.

Some people are jerks. Just move on with your life. You get to be awesome knowing your ideas are worthy of being stolen. That person had to steal to get ahead. Sound like something your mom would say? Well, it’s still the best way to deal with garbage people. Move on, be polite, and don’t give this issue any more of your time.

Should you tattle? In a nutshell, no.

You should keep everything you do above-the-board, super-class-act, pure dead brilliant.

There is no need to point out that this person is an idiot.

They will reveal themselves in time.

Getting yourself involved will just reflect poorly on you, of worse, get you tied up in the BS.

Follow these steps and get over it. You will have plenty of opportunities to shine.

After all, snitches get stitches.

About the Author

Mark Drager

Strategy & Creative Development, Founder | PHANTA

Running a digital marketing agency based on the premise that mediocrity is not an option. Real business results can be achieved and true value can be delivered to clients. Mark can be reached at

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