top of page

The Idea Caper: How to address a co-worker who steals ideas for their own

She’s on fire! Cynthia has been pitching successful and profitable ideas for months now, and she’s really growing confident in her ability to present and outline her processes. This next project that she has in mind, should be huge! Cynthia is a little nervous, and so in order to ease her anxiety before she presented her idea, she shared it with one of her new work friends Beth. Beth embraced the idea and told her that she loved it. During the next meeting, Beth asks if she could speak first, and as she was talking, Cynthia noticed that what Beth was saying sounded very similar to the idea she shared with Beth moments before the meeting. Their boss loved the idea and wanted to know how quickly Beth could begin. Cynthia was understandably upset, because Beth blatantly stole her idea, and did not give her any credit for it. Feeling defeated, she reached out to her business mentor for guidance on how to properly address the issue at hand.

Here are 4 tips that they shared.

1. Stay professional – Don’t react with anger. Take notes of what parts of their idea were borrowed directly from yours, and keep your original outline, remembering the date on which you started it. This acts as part of your evidence to address the issue.

2. Carefully address your concern with the co-worker – There is a possibility that this ordeal is a misunderstanding. Asking your co-worker if they remember the conversation where you shared this same idea with them before the meeting is a good place to begin. If they pretend to be unaware, or just deny the conversation altogether, you have your original outline for proof of your idea. The hope is that after your conversation, the co-worker will admit to the mistake, and correct it by acknowledging the idea or at least part of the idea was yours to your leadership.

3. Having to escalate – If the co-worker is non-compliant, you might have to escalate the situation. The best way to do this is to leave the conversation with the co-worker peacefully, and present the evidence and concern to your leadership, with your original outline. Express your discomfort with the situation, and your boss should

make sure that the matter gets sorted out.

4. Prevention Tactic – Having traceable evidence of an exchange of ideas is crucial to proving whose idea it was. If you are planning to share a very important idea with a co-worker, it might help to email them telling them that you are going to share an idea with them at a specific time. This email can act as a reference to prove the conversation happened. With this and the fact that your outline pre-dates and is likely more detailed than theirs, should provide a degree of evidence to support your case.

bottom of page