On the Job With Ken Lloyd: What to Do When a Manager Takes Credit for Your Idea
Q: During a department meeting a few months ago, I presented an idea that made a lot of sense to me. We discussed it as a group, and it was shot down. Then, about a month ago, my manager decided to implement it. It turned out that it worked, but no one has said thanks or given me any credit. How can I get the word out without sounding like I'm bragging?
A: In the first place, congratulations for coming up with an excellent idea. This is a real tribute to your tenacity and drive, as well as to your creative insights. It would have been nice if you received this type of feedback from your manager, too.
You should not write a boastful email, as doing so will make you look needy and insecure, while simultaneously cheapening your accomplishment. A better approach is to follow up on the progress, developments, and outcomes associated with your idea. In doing so, any reference to your role in creating this idea would be made in passing by saying something like, "When I first presented this idea to the group a few months ago, my thinking was that by this time, we would be seeing certain measurable outcomes, such as. ..." This type of communication clearly reminds others of your early creative role, and it does so without reeking of self-adulation.
It would not be surprising to find that some of your associates toss a compliment your way after this type of messaging. While it would be satisfying to work in an organization where your achievements are appropriately recognized, there still is a good deal of inherent satisfaction associated with seeing your ideas come to fruition. Hopefully, you will not let the present lack of recognition prevent you from stepping up to the plate again.
Q: I fully delegated a very minor project to my employees, and the person in charge did a terrible job. She went to the wrong vendor, failed to follow up as the project continued, and then she got defensive with other employees after it failed. The project was not a big deal, but my manager wants to know how I let this happen. How should I handle this?
A: Today's better managers vary their leadership style based upon such factors as a given project's required resources, time constraints, personnel available, and potential impact on the department and company at large. In some instances, these managers will take total control over all aspects of a project. In other situations, they may simply participate in the decision-making process or just be informed of it. And finally, for far less demanding projects, they may turn everything over to selected employees.
The fact that you fully delegated a relatively minor project to one of your subordinates is not really a problem. However, there are very, very few cases in which a manager can turn his or her back 100% after a project has been delegated. Such projects must be extremely minor in every sense. When there is a hint of significance in the project, it is important to at least be informed as to what is going on.