What’s a work-related mugging? Basically, it’s the same as any other sort of mugging – you’ve got the goods, and someone more powerful takes them away. Two classic examples occur when you work for (or with) a Glory Hunter.
- You come up with a great idea, do all the work, and the glory hunter that is your line manager/colleague takes all the credit.
- Your boss rips your proposal to shreds in no uncertain terms. Two weeks later he presents a variation on your plan to senior management as his latest idea.
PEOPLE GENERALLY REACT IN ONE OF THREE WAYS
Total acceptance – it’s the price you have to pay in work. You’ve no control. You’re seen as a pushover;
Absolute rejection – I’ll get recognition, just see him try to stop me. Potentially seen as somewhat out of control and over-reacting. You’re regarded as aggressive, strident or emotional (especially if you’re female);
Measured response – your reaction depends on the circumstances. You’re in control. People respect you.
The Impact: Feeling repeatedly ‘mugged’ can be demoralising, and even stressful. Bad things sometimes happen in work, and becoming resilient by learning how to take that measured response can make a huge positive impact on how you feel in work.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOU RESPOND: Start by taking a deep breath. Think about the situation. There may be some mitigating factors.
Firstly, is your boss a repeat offender? There are occasions when a good proposition is more likely to get through if presented by a particular person. If this is the case, does your boss acknowledge your contribution to you personally, to your team, and as part of your performance review? If your answer is Yes, then I don’t recommend throwing your toys out of the pram.
Secondly, when asked a direct question about who made the suggestion, does your boss give you credit? If your answer is Yes, see above.
Thirdly, how sure are you about the relative importance of your input? Sometimes, when working in a group, several people come up with similar ideas, and it may be difficult to identify one person in particular as the originator. Similarly, you may have started with the germ of a good idea, but many others were needed to make it a practical proposition.
Finally, is the only time you get the credit when your boss needs someone to take the blame?
If your answers are No, No, No and Yes, it’s time to take action.
- Speak up at meetings. Don’t be shy, even if your boss is presenting your work as his, why not find an opportunity to “add to” or “further explain” a particular point. People will recognise your expertise.
- Have a conversation with your boss about the impact his behaviour has on you and you colleagues (chances are you’re not the only one). If that feels too daunting here are some hints on how to have that crucial conversation.
- Start documenting your ideas. Confirm discussions by email and keep notes/minutes of informal meetings where you’re making good suggestions. Within reason, try to discuss your ideas with other people rather than with your boss solely.
- Practice what you preach. Make sure you recognise others (including your boss) and encourage this among your peers and direct reports.
- Involve your boss. Keeping him in the dark may make him feel threatened. Find a way to get his contribution/support and then thank him publicly. (This may seem Machiavellian, but actually it makes sense.)
- If you feel unable to get out from under his shadow, then try to get on an interdepartmental project where your contribution is undisputed.
- Finally, if all else fails – find a new boss!