Have you ever proposed an idea at work, and it is either ignored or dismissed — and then some time later a co-worker proposes the very same idea to fanfare? Boom! Credit for your idea has migrated away from you and to another person.
The problem is that it can be very challenging to gracefully and professionally reclaim that idea during the meeting.
Saying something like, “Hey, I just said that 15 minutes ago and you ignored me!” or “You jerk! When I mentioned that idea last week you said it wouldn’t work,” probably isn’t the best response (even if you feel like this).
Regaining ownership over an idea, in the middle of a meeting, is very tricky, and runs the risk of making you look petty or less than professional. This can be very frustrating but the truth is it happens all the time!
The trick to professionally reclaiming your ideas is about getting two things right:
The first is how you address the situation.
The second is how you leverage other people.
PART ONE: ADDRESS THE SITUATION
As you take action to regain control of your idea, your goal is to hold a strong sense of professionalism so that this event will maintain, or possibly elevate your professional reputation and level of influence. If you hold the right mindset, then yes, elevating your professional reputation by dealing with this issue is possible.
1. Establish Authority
Addressing the situation is like playing football.
Now, I am no sports expert but I do know that if you are running with the ball and all of a sudden someone jumps in front of you, you are likely to get hurt if you tackle them head-on.
Instead, you will need to run around them. Turn to the left, or spin to the right. But head-on is very risky.
So when your idea first gets stolen, the spin to the right or the step to your left is your taking control of the conversation.
Provide additional research findings and extra details, or feed numbers into the conversation to illuminate specifics around the idea. Any extra details that you gathered when you initially looked into the idea is what you want to bring up and deliver to the conversation.
Voilà! Now you are back in the game again and running with the idea by establishing authority over the details. Providing those extra details you initially collected allows you to expand on the conversation.
And now, you once again have command over the idea.
2. Speak to the Person After the Meeting
There are times when you do need to address the situation head-on.
If this is the case, do so outside of the meeting AND as soon after the meeting as possible.
Heading into that conversation, assume positive intent. In other words, assume that they did not have malicious or negative intent when they presented your idea.
Put another way, assume they are a good person and that you don’t know all the possible information.
With this mindset, when you address the situation you will be more likely to approach the conversation in an inquisitive way that will draw an open response and keep you open to the possibility that there is information you are not aware of.
Unfortunately, sometimes people are not professional, and they do blatantly cross a boundary like intentionally steal an idea.
After you have approached your co-worker and asked an open question while assuming positive intent, if their reaction indicates it was not an innocent mistake be prepared to explain the consequences, like escalating to your boss or HR if your co-worker steals an idea again.
If the person is a repeat offender, or if the impact is high (like your bonus or promotion is on the line with credit for this idea), consider escalating the situation straight away.
Have you ever reclaimed an idea that migrated? How did you handle the situation?
In the comments below, tell me how you did it!
Interested in learning more about this subject? Click here for a free webinar on how to professionally reclaim credit for your ideas.