My Boss Stole My Idea At Work – Now What?

June 13, 2013


“Hey Mr. Bossman!  I have a great idea about how we can improve our company……”

“Well, Mr. employee, that seems a little out there.  Let me think about it.”

Two months or even two years later…

Mr. Bossman says: “Good afternoon Team!  We are here today to implement this great new idea that I have.”  Hooray!

In my experience, it’s pretty common to hear from people who feel like their boss or even a team member has stolen their idea without giving them credit for it.  The bad part about this is that it can leave a tension between people that can stick around like a student loan.  So, how do you deal with that?

Want to improve your team?
Sign up now to receive my free ebook: "ENGAGE YOUR TEAM - 5 Steps To Epic Results."
We hate spam just as much as you

Getting A Patent On Your Work Ideas

Aside from real breakthrough, and patent-able innovations, most ideas can’t really be owned.  They are just floating around in the air and can’t really be protected in any way.  Especially when you are already being paid to have them.

With that being said, why do you want to protect your work ideas in the first place?

While there may be some legitimate reasons for holding onto an idea and even for wanting credit for it, most of those reasons are selfish.  Let’s face it, if the idea you have is a good one, it should help you, your company, and even your co-workers.

That means there’s no reason to hang on to it or keep it secret.  As for getting credit for it, read on…

Make Me Look Good

There’s really only one person that matters when it comes to getting credit…Your boss.

Let’s just face facts; one your most important roles at work is to make your boss look good.  Don’t get me wrong, if he or she is doing things wrong, you shouldn’t be covering them up.  However, if your sole focus is to make yourself look good without regard for how your boss looks, then your career is going to be in big trouble.

Focusing your energy on doing the best job you can while bringing new ideas to the table will only do you good in the long run.  He or she has the power to bring your career the attention you want or leave it in the dark.  I say, let the light shine on in!

Share and Share Alike

I used to be overly concerned with who got credit for ideas.  Like the ideas I had were so awesome that nobody else deserved them.  They were Bob’s Billion Dollar Ideas…Thanks for playing!

But, over time, I realized that it just doesn’t matter who gets credit.  If the idea is good, everyone wins!

The energy I would expend worrying about who instead of what, was much better spent generating new ideas and sharing them.  Getting that creative flow going between bosses and team members can help blossom an amazing culture.  I’d much rather be known for helping to create a culture of innovation than being known as a stingy, jealous genius!

I Had A Good Run

If you’ve ever watched the show “Married With Children” you will know Al.  Al (a middle aged shoe salesman) sat on the couch a good part of the show talking about highlights from his high school football career.  It was pretty sad and pretty funny at the same time.

Ideas in business are a lot like this.  You may have one today that is amazing!  Your boss may even implement it right away. Good for you!

The problem here is that it doesn’t end and is quickly forgotten.  There are more ideas out there than you can shake a stick at.  Yep, I said “shake a stick at”!  So, don’t let the one idea you had stolen keep you from sharing the next one.  And certainly don’t let it stop you from helping your team do the same!

Question:  Have you had a co-worker or boss steal an idea?  How did you handle it?



8 responses to My Boss Stole My Idea At Work – Now What?

  1. Ha ha very funny! I was wondering about those lost 7 years. 😉

    I appreciate the dialogue you shared there! It is nice to take credit back if you can do it without a big fuss. Unfortunately, I’ve seen people dig in with the whole credit thing. It can get really ugly and become a huge issue.

    No idea is worth that!

  2. I have a boss now who steals my and colleagues’ work. She doesn’t even change a little bit of our work before presenting it.

    My approach, for right now, is to let her take it. She’s now suffering the consequences of stealing others work. My momma had a saying, “bad guys always get their come-uppings”

    • That’s a great attitude Alex! It would be easy to let that get you jaded. Hopefully, that doesn’t continue. Sounds like “your Momma” raised you right!

      Used to live in Michigan myself; made it to the UP a couple of times. Stay warm my friend! 😉

  3. “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do in the world as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.” -Unknown

    I learned to let the credit thing go. The goal is to improve the whole…the company, results, people, growth, etc. If you do this, you will be noticed.

    However, I have gleefully sat and watched as idea stealers crashed and burned during business meetings where they were asked to expound on the idea. The experience, thought processes, the rejection of other bad idea, etc…never happened and therefore exposed the thin veil of innovation.

  4. I’m in a sticky situation. I came up with an idea of how to use an existing piece of software in an unconventional way to make a significant amount of money.
    I approached the company who made the software & corresponded with the CEO who asked for a sample of what I had done.

    I gave him the outline of my terms (didnt speak money yet as I have approached them out of the blue).

    He agreed & I sent him the prototype.
    Now I’m a little nervous as I was hoping to hear back from him by now, and I was wondering how/if there was anything I could have done different?

    I have the correspondences from them by email. Which I assume could be used in my favour in any court action. But the truth is I cannot afford to take legal action nor do I know if the case would be in my favour?

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

    • Hey Tony! Sorry for the delayed response. I sincerely apologize!

      I can only imagine what you must be feeling right now, wow!

      I guess, first I have to say that I’m not an attorney and would never claim to understand legaleze. With that being said, I do have a pretty good understanding of people and business.

      First, I would say that now is no time to be silent! I’m not sure where you are in relation to the company you are talking about, but a physical meeting would be my primary objective in a situation like this. It sounds like you’ve done your homework in finding the right person to speak with, now try and get a meeting to discuss next steps.

      As far as what you could have done differently…I think it’s always important in any business situation to lay out clear expectations and protect yourself. If you wanted a monetary benefit from the exchange, you should have put that right on the table. Otherwise, you risk them not considering that request or worse yet believing that you aren’t worthy of doing business with in the first place.

      Bottom line, it’s always a risk to do what you did. I wouldn’t give up on it easily, but I also wouldn’t lay all of my hopes and dreams on a situation like this. It’s just difficult to say where their heads are at without asking them. Of course, once you’ve laid out your expectations, if you feel like they are taking advantage of you, I would suggest seeking some legal advice (from a trusted source). Even a simple letter from a respected attorney can garner attention that was previously missing.

      Good luck and God Bless!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. When To Fight And When To Retreat Against A Leadership Decision | Corporate Culture Revolution - August 7, 2013

    […] You’d be surprised the number of times I’ve voiced concerns or thrown out ideas and had my suggestions get rejected, just to see them implemented a month or two later.  Ok, sometimes a year later.  😉  Just don’t let jealousy get the best of you here.  To understand how to deal with this check out my post, “My Boss Stole My Idea At Work – Now What?”. […]