When the Boss Takes All the Credit

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It happens. You (and others) work like maniacs, put in hundreds of hours, eat bad pizza in the office at midnight, incur the wrath of loved ones for never being home, break out in acne from stress, and live in fear of missing a deadline. The boss checks in on the team every once in a while, asks how things are going and then moves along saying, “OK, keep me in the loop if we fall off the tracks.”

Finally, the project is complete and it is a big success. The data is accurate, the findings are important, the recommendations are perfect and the story is complete. High fives are exchanged all around. The finished product is well worth the time and effort spent. The boss acknowledges the good work with big THANKS.

But wait. What happens now with all that good work? How will it play with the more senior executives who need to see it? Who will make that presentation? Who will be in the room?

Ugh. It turns out the boss is just knowledgeable enough to give the presentation to all the bigger bosses. No one on the team is in the room. Worse, it turns out that during the presentation of all that good work that you and the team slaved over, the credit is given to the boss. You know this because the low level person in the room assigned to take notes tells the team. Now what? It’s time for some hard questions.

Should you confront the boss? WTF! You say. How dare the boss do that! If you are young, marketable and willing to relocate, this could be a good strategy. Confrontations with the boss generally don’t work out well.

Should you wait to see if the credit shows up in your next performance review? The answer could depend on the timing of your next review. If the review is a long time from now, no one will remember the late night pizza you endured. Reviews are all about recent events. If you are going to wait, be sure to document all that went in to the project that the boss took the credit for.

Should you tell your boss’s boss that you deserve the credit? Another risky move. Going over the boss’s head could result in you losing your head. The saving grace could be that no one really believed the boss did the work in the first place and that is often the case. This strategy is best implemented when you have another job offer in hand.

Should you not work as hard next time and see what the boss does? No boss likes this strategy and most will sniff it out quickly. When it comes to slacking off, organizations have a long memory. Slackers are easily identified and it is not the label you want.

As is obvious by now, there is no good response to the boss who takes the credit, especially if you don’t want to leave. Take solace in the fact that people know who really did the work and deserves the credit and that the truth will win out. Sometimes it feels too painful to wait for that credit. But, trust me, bad bosses are winnowed out and the solid performers do rise and reap the credit they deserve.  It’s just the process can be excruciating.

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