So Many Ideas, So Little Credit

“The key to every man is his thought.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Truth be told, many office workers merely want credit for their concepts and hard work, but the reality is, pats on the back are on the verge of extinction.

Throughout my career, I’ve heard work colleagues gripe and vent on just about anything.  From the smelly office fridge to the woman in HR who doesn’t wash her hands after using the restroom.  The grievances vary from job to job but there are some consistencies.  None more obvious than workers’ desire to be acknowledged for their work ideas.

Workers simply want to hear, “It was your idea.  Thank you.”

Not getting credit for concepts and solutions is unfair, but it’s also a fact of office life.  With most people hiding behind the “forgetful” defense, claiming ownership is a difficult and awkward case to present.  That’s why you need to let it go.  Here’s why.

YOU GET PAID.  It might not be in your official job description, but odds are, part of your salary compensates you for your ideas and feedback.  You’re already getting rewarded – with a paycheck.

CREDIT IS NOTHING.  Even if you were given “credit” for an idea, it probably wouldn’t get you anywhere within the organization.  Have you ever heard of an employee who shared an idea and skipped rungs to jump right to the top of the ladder?  It might happen, but it’s the exception, not the rule.  

IDEAS HAVE NO OWNER.
  I once heard that every idea has already been thought of.  Even if an idea is “yours,” you are probably merely the first person to act on it, not think of it.  Except the fact that people don’t care where an idea came from.  Do you care who invented the toilet bowl?  No, you just care that it works.

So what happens if you find you CAN’T let it go?  There are a few options…

WITHHOLD IDEAS. 
I’ve worked with many intelligent people who held back ideas at meetings.  They were comfortable biting their lip and letting other people fill the silence.  This approach will leave you unsatisfied, but if you find yourself getting very upset over a lack of credit, it could be a useful last resort.  Remember that keeping an idea to yourself gives it no value.

SHARE YOUR GRADE-B STUFF.  Watching lesser ideas come to life might bother you less knowing that you are still sitting on a pot of gold.  This is also a good tactic to learn who you can trust.  Set an idea free and see how other people react.

CONFRONT.  I can guarantee that if you privately confront the person who did not give you credit, they will be more likely to salute you in the future.  You’ll also keep idea theives at bay.  Keep in mind, however, you’ll tip your hand that you’re sensitive about idea ownership – and that goes against the “team” mentality.  And work organizations are the ones that stripped the “I” out of team.  So even though most of us know that at the end of the day it’s about you and me, we have to pretend that we enjoy sharing the spotlight.

In summary, don’t let a lack of credit for ideas hold you back or get you down.  Be forthcoming, and you’ll be rewarding the most important person of all – yourself.  Besides, you’ll claim all of the ideas as your own on your resume, anyhow!

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