Someone Took Credit for Your Work – What to Do

In the work-place, is it better to ensure you individually are given credit for your work, or that the team benefits from your work?

My team recently submitted a proposal of which I prepared more than 75%. In fact, of the 25% my analyst (who is junior to me) prepared, I had to revise significantly. The final paper was jointly signed by both of us. Our Chief Risk Officer reached out to my analyst commending his great paper, cc:ing my boss. My boss then congratulated the analyst on his great work as well.

I am not sure if I should raise this issue with my boss or just keep the peace. I am up for promotion, and really want to make sure that my work is recognized. I also don’t want to throw the analyst under the bus, despite being annoyed that he didn’t even acknowledge my work. (Yes, I’m a little bitter right now.)

Lei-HanTo answer your general question, I would say you need both – ensure you get credit for your work, and that the team benefits from your work; I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive.  Often, many of us do great work and hope that people recognize it.  Well, it often does not work like that in corporate America.   Unfortunately, hard work alone does not guarantee success.

People are busy and may not know your level of contribution unless you figure out a way to tell them tactfully.  We all need to learn how to self-promote subtly in order to get the credit we deserve.

To answer your detailed question of whether you should raise this issue with your boss, I wouldn’t recommend doing it directly. Doing so would be awkward, and you will come across as self-serving and as competitive with the Junior staff – neither are good images for you.  However, I do believe you have other options to subtly claim credit while “keeping the peace.”  Here are some ideas, but you need to decide what works for this situation, as I don’t know all the details.

  1. Reply to the email the Chief Risk Officer sent – You didn’t mention how you knew that the Chief Risk officer sent an email to the Analyst to congratulate him.  Assuming you were copied on it, and depending on the tone, you can choose to “reply all” and agree with the CRO that the Analyst did a great job.  Mention that you couldn’t have done it without him.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s one way to inject yourself into a conversation – but only if you are copied on the email.  Indirectly, you remind the CRO and your boss that you led the effort.
  2. Send a thank you note copying your boss and other people’s bosses – Assuming you were not copied on the email from the CRO, you can choose to initiate your own email with a premise to thank all those that helped you and your team to do this work.  I am assuming others in the company have helped in some way with this proposal.  This is a way to acknowledge their help. Under the premise of sharing good news and thanking them you accomplish a few objectives. 1) Indirectly establish yourself as the lead on the work without saying so. 2) Acknowledge others to your boss and their bosses for their help. 3) Use “we” to include yourself and the analyst so it doesn’t appear like you are just talking about yourself. 4) Give those who helped you an update on how their help have resulted in a good proposal. You can copy your CRO as well, if it’s appropriate.
  3. Include this work in your self-evaluation – for your promotion – Don’t assume that just because your boss said something great to the Analyst meant he thought you didn’t do the work.  During a review, there is normally a self-evaluation portion.  Include this as a major accomplishment.  Leave out the part that you did most of it as that doesn’t help you.  Instead, you can claim that you managed junior resources to get it done together.  That makes you sound like you have management skills, and skills to get the work done – both are qualities of someone ready for promotion.  If the boss asks you about this, then you can elaborate. If he/she doesn’t ask, then perhaps you were over-worried, and he/she already gave you the credit.

At the end of the day, your focus is to do good work and be proactive in building the right reputation for yourself. Perception is reality in the work place. You need to be strategic about shaping the perception of those who can impact your career. That’s why I believe that self-promotion is one of the 28 key soft skills for your career success.

As you work in the future, it would be wise to always include self-promotion activities as a regular part of completing your work, in order to get the credit you deserve.  Here are some self-promotion ideas in addition to the ones above.

Your comments:  Can you relate to this story?  What else would you do to subtly promote your work to others?   Share your comments and questions below.  Let’s have a discussion.

Like this post? Share on Linkedin, Email, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, etc.

I am always in your corner.

– Lei

4 thoughts on “Someone Took Credit for Your Work – What to Do”

  1. Dear Lei,
    since 3 years I’m reading with interest your mailing
    I’m from Italy and often I can see that your organizational an career tips are cultural-depending. For example in this one in Italy all would have been happened at the coffee room not by mail. If you write such e.mails probably nobody will care.
    Have you also a face to face suggestion for your issue?
    I’m not interested in particular in this one, but overall at the approach.
    In this case I think that it’s a good job if a manager make jr work! 
    Thank you very much for your knowledge sharing, I relly appreciate this.


    1. Marco, thanks for writing. Glad you have been reading my articles. ;-). Always happy to hear. Pls always feel free to add your cultural perspective. I definitely have an american bias. If I understand you correctly, you are asking what you should do if someone in the coffee room congratulates your analyst on the good work but not you.

      If that is the question, You don’t want to say directly , “I contributed to that too .” Too defensive.

      You can potentially do it smoothly by doing the same verbally as I suggest on email and say “you are right, Sam did a great job on xyz. We couldn’t have done abc without his help.” This way you agree with the speaker and inserted yourself as the leader without sounding defensive.

      And also if emails are not read, then as you meet leaders whose team members had helped you, make sure you tell them how much you appreciate that team members help. It’s builds your reputation and relationships.

      Hope that helps


      1. Sure you do (help)
        Thank you very much

        I feel my English is not very good since not all I wanted to explain arrived to you.

        If I’ve understood the meaning of “american bias” I exactly wont to tell you that cultural environment make the sense of what we do / we see in worklife too as much as in personal one.
        In Italy (please believe me I l_o_v_e my little country) we do not have the responsibility culture at all. You can always have a mess mode to avoid responsibility, and this is not good for those of us that work in organizational like you and me 

        However I do not have the problem of a jr. overtaking, and I think that starting from appreciating the output of the work is a good idea in case of that.

        I’m very happy you write me back!


  2. Hi Lei, this is a great article. I tend to look down on self-promotion, as it seems arrogant and self-serving, but I can at least be comfortable with the idea of subtle self-promotion. Other ethical concerns aside, at least this is a good way of building a positive professional image without coming off as arrogant. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

Leave a Reply