How to Respond When a Co-Worker Steals Your Idea

You probably weren’t even surprised, you just knew that that no-good stupid colleague of yours had it in her, stealing your idea like that! The manager said you should work together, that you should run your ideas by her, and a lot of good that did. You ran all of your ideas by her, and she ran no ideas at all by you. That’s probably because she had no good ideas, no ideas period actually.

But you never expected such a below the belt hit, did you? You just walked into the board meeting one day –admittedly you were five minutes late- and there she was presenting your idea as her own. Sure, she bothered to make a great presentation, but it was still Y-O-U-R idea, she had no right to it.

And what can you do now? It’s not like you can run to your boss and complain about how she stole your idea. You’re neither six years old, nor is your boss your teacher, and even if you did, what could he do about it? Unsteal it back for you? Telling your boss would surely set the record straight, but then again it’d be your word against hers, and you wouldn’t want to draw that negative attention. No, what you need is to come up with the perfect plan on how to get back at her without the entire thing turning into a cat fight.

Worry not, because we’ve got your back. The how-to guide below will help you in your hour of need, pour yourself a glass of wine and let’s discuss how you can get back at your colleague.

1. Don’t Over Compensate


The first thing you should do is to come up with an elaborate plan on how to reclaim your territory. If your idea was any good, it probably means that your colleague is now the boss’s pet. So your fist step of action should be to regain your boss’s respect (if you lost it), or establish that you still have it.

To do that you need to be your usual professional self, don’t kill yourself trying to come up with a new idea. What’s done is done, and it shouldn’t appear that you are trying too hard because your boss might think you’re over-compensating because you feel guilty.

2. Offer Some Insight

talk to boss

It’s essential that you don’t appear angry or outraged; you need to keep your calm, otherwise, adjectives such as hysteric and crazy might come up when people talk about you. Since you can’t be a child about it and throw a tantrum, what you need to do is act like you couldn’t be happier to help.

Since it was your idea and you did all the research and put in all the work, your colleague probably just presented the core of the idea, what you need to do then is to impress the boss with all your knowledge.

Have some statistics at the tip of your tongue for when the boss asks to pick your mind about your colleague’s idea, offer strategic ways in which the theory can be applied; just make sure your boss knows that you know more on the topic at hand than your colleague does.

This will work to your advantage as the boss will realize that you know more about the idea than your colleague, and, therefore, you can be trusted more. If you go about it skilfully you can also let your boss know that it was your idea without actually telling them, just throw in a comment here and there and let your boss put the pieces together, you can for example say ‘As I was telling –the evil colleague- a couple of weeks ago, this idea can be easily applied because such and such’. But you need to do it in such a way that your boss does not suspect that you are saying what you are saying, you should let them realize it for themselves, and patiently wait until they ask you to confirm their suspicions.

3. Handle Your Colleague Appropriately

man pushing coworker

Sure that covers the boss, but what can you do with the evil colleague you might ask. Well, obviously, you can’t pin her down to the floor and scream at her face, you need to be an adult about it, which means that you can’t send her an angry email –for the entire IT department to witness- neither.

You need to tell her that you don’t appreciate what she did, but you should refrain from calling her names. Don’t go up to her, rather cautiously plan to corner her in the kitchen, and while making tea let her know that you are disappointed in her and go.

Before long she’ll need your help, but decline helping her unless it’s done through the proper channels (an email for example). If your boss has asked you to help her, you should help her but you should casually update your boss on anything she doesn’t know. This way, it won’t be long before your boss realizes that you can bring this idea to life without anyone’s help, whereas your colleague simply can’t.

If you think that you are not required to play dirty, then you are wrong my friend. You need to play so dirty so that nobody actually knows that you are playing dirty.

If someone’s stolen your idea, it means that they are up to no good, and if they think that they can steal something and get away with it, then you should make them regret even thinking of stealing your idea. The trick is to do it in such a subtle manner that no ill word can be spoken of you.

Welcome to the dark side.