How to respond when your boss steals credit for your work

Question:

For the last month, my employer has been locked into a huge battle with another company. Over the weekend, I spent all day Saturday and most of Sunday researching public records and uncovered a critical document that will dramatically change the scope of the negotiation in my employer’s favor.

I brought what I’d found to my supervisor’s attention, and she sent me out to scan the document and send it to her. Before I left the room, she called her manager. Apparently not realizing I was still in the room, she said: “Guess what I found this weekend. I’ve been working my a– off and I got what we need.” She then took credit for what I’d uncovered.

This isn’t the first time my supervisor’s taken credit for my efforts, but it’s the last time.

I went out to my desk, typed my resignation letter, placed all three incoming phone lines on hold and left.

Since my supervisor doesn’t know what records I researched, but simply that I found this document, I’m not sure what to do with it. There’s no way I’m letting her have it, but she’s vengeful and I’m afraid she’s going to come after me. I’m tempted to take it to the other company, knowing they’ll pay for it.

How do I protect myself from a horrible job reference? Do I need an attorney and is the document I found mine?

Answer:

Your supervisor deserves your anger. However, your employer doesn’t.

If you’re an exempt employee, they paid you for your time and potentially for any “work product” you created on that time. If you’re an hourly employee, they didn’t, and two schools of thought govern your last weekend. Either you worked unauthorized overtime and deserve pay for it or you launched a private detective business and have a document for which you can charge a fee.

In either case, the document you found appears to be a public record and someone else can also look for it — and potentially find it more quickly because you shone a light on its existence.

Equally as important, for both your career and fairness, you can also shine a light on your initiative and your supervisor’s lack of ethics. A fair supervisor highlights her employee’s successes to those above her and doesn’t claim credit for their work.

Here’s what you can do. Give your supervisor’s manager a call and explain what just happened. Tell him about the document you found and also the facts concerning the past occasions when your supervisor claimed credit for your efforts. Given that your supervisor’s lies should still be in this manager’s immediate memory, he may feel as angry as you.

You deserve a huge thank you from your employer for your initiative and the time you spent locating the document. Let your ethics shine during this discussion.

Here’s what you might say: “I’m the kind of employee who goes above and beyond for my employer. I’ve been held down by a supervisor who’s claimed credit for my efforts. Here’s the document I discovered. I’d like to know how you view this situation and me.”

By acting ethically, you may get more than the money you could get from the other company by providing them the document you found. If you still want to quit, you may get a glowing reference letter. More likely, however, your supervisor’s manager may ask you to stay with your employer — after giving you a bonus or a promotion.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as Regional Director of Training and Business Consulting for The Growth Company, an Avitus Group Company. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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