My Boss Takes Credit for My Work

Last Updated Apr 9, 2010 8:00 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady, I was acting as department head until the CEO brought in someone from his own country, with much less experience for me to report to. She uses my work to present it in her name and she said my salary was too high. I am searching badly for work but with the recession and all that, it is not easy. She's using my ideas and whatever work she requests to present it in her name. On an assistant Manager level, she requests secretarial work out of me, for example, to book her meetings, sometimes take notes. What is your advice? Well, you've already taken my basic advice which is to start looking for a new job. Too many people stay put, out of some warped sense of loyalty. Your company would have no qualms about laying you off, so feel free to lay them off.

But, what to do until then? Well, you have two choices. Choice one is to do what she says, keep your head down and your mouth shut and work on surviving. Choice two is to make the place an acceptable place to work.

Your mention that she is from the same country as your CEO. It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of national origin, but it would be difficult to prove that the reason he gave you a new boss was because you weren't from his country. Which means, if you try to fight this you may win, but most likely the only people who win things like this are the lawyers themselves. They get paid no matter what, while your life gets ripped apart.

Now, for dealing with your direct boss, first ignore her statement about you making too much money. Unless she actually cuts your pay it will only make things worse. I do have to say, though, I've seen a lot of over paid people, so it's not out of the realm of possibility.

Next, ask her for clarification on your roles and responsibilities. If she says that part of your job is to book meetings and take minutes, then you can show that your skills are better suited to other things. Suggest that it would make her look better if you focused your efforts elsewhere.

However, you may want to rethink that. Honestly. Being the meeting scheduler can bring you some visibility that you might not get otherwise. Even with central electronic calendars, some meetings are going to require speaking to people to figure out the best time. It's at this point that you can present some of the information about the meeting and emphasize that you've been working on X and this meeting is to discuss it.

Likewise, the person who takes the minutes has a lot more power than you might think. You get to be in the meeting. Even if your role is to simply take notes, you can ask clarification questions that can bring you into the conversation. If you can sound intelligent and present good ideas in this meeting, your boss taking credit for your work won't matter. The other people in the company will know the ideas are coming from you.

Yes, it can be a big pain. Yes, it might seem like a slap in the face to be told to take notes. Yes, at the end of the day when you write it all up and send it out, you get involved in the e-mail conversation, people remember the ideas as having come from you, even if you only typed them up, and your name gets better known. I've worked for two different high level people who always volunteered to write up the meeting notes. They felt it was beneficial to them, and it was.

My point in all this is that it depends on how you look at things. You're in a tense situation because your boss has been behaving like a bullying jerk. That makes it difficult to take advantage of the situation handed to you. That's the point of bullying--to make you unable to function fully. Don't let her do that to you.

People will figure out pretty quickly where the good work is coming from.
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    Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate Human Resources. She's hired, fired, and analyzed the numbers for several major companies. She founded the Carnival of HR, a bi-weekly gathering of HR blogs, and her writings have been used in HR certification and management training courses across the country.

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