Skip to Main Content
by Rob Porter | January 11, 2024


The modern workplace relies heavily upon collaboration and teamwork, and everyone deserves credit for their hard work and contributions. Unfortunately, we sometimes have to deal with the issue of credit theft in the workplace. Credit theft occurs when one individual unjustly claims credit for the work of another. For the victim, this is not only frustrating, but it can lead to missed opportunities for career growth. Here’s how to deal with credit theft in the workplace.

Keep Your Cool

Let’s say you worked on a major project that was presented to management, and at the end of the presentation, your name was left out. Things like this can happen and more times than not, it’s really just a simple mistake; however, if you have the feeling that something more nefarious is going on, you might be on to something. Take a step back and assess the situation. It can be easy to assume the worst, and there’s a possibility it was a misunderstanding.

The last thing you want to do is lash out in anger. This won’t do anyone any good, and it will only exacerbate the problem while making you look bad. In the worst cases, acting out in such a way can lead to termination, and it’s not worth losing your job over some stolen credit. The bottom line is, if you think someone has taken credit for your hard work, it is extremely important to maintain professionalism and keep your cool.

Speak to Your Coworker

It’s perfectly acceptable to speak to the alleged credit thief about the problem, as long as you don’t come off as confrontational. Using the above example of the presentation, you could simply ask your coworker if they forgot to include your name. Your phrasing is very important, and it’s far better to say something along the lines of “I noticed my name wasn’t included in the presentation,” rather than “You didn’t mention my name during the presentation.”

In the event it was indeed a mistake, your coworker should be happy to inform your boss that your name was accidentally left out. Even if they’ve purposefully taken credit for your work, the thief won’t want any trouble, and it’s very likely they’ll play it off as a mistake, potentially earning you the same outcome. Either way, approach the situation calmly and don’t outwardly place blame on the coworker in question.

Covert Operations

Another common scenario is a coworker using “I” statements when speaking about a group project. For example, they might say “I decided to omit the fifth PowerPoint slide because it isn’t relevant to this discussion.” Again, this could just be a simple mistake, but if you’re unsure, you can correct your coworker by elaborating on their statement. The key here is to make sure you’re adding something to the discussion, rather than calling your coworker out. Here, you might add “We all agreed the financial report could be shown at a later date.”

The trick here is to choose your battles with these situations. If you’re constantly chiming in during discussions to get your name out there, it might put you on your boss’ radar, and not in a good way. It’s important to use your own discernment, and to watch out for patterns. Once you are able to tell the difference between a genuine mistake and a targeted plot to steal credit, you can begin to implement covert tactics so you can reclaim your stolen credit without looking like the bad guy.

Be Proactive

If you’ve read any of our career advice in the past, you might have noticed that we sometimes place emphasis on keeping personal records at work. Your records might include projects you’ve worked on, issues you’ve had at work, and a list of your achievements. In the event a coworker is attempting to steal credit for your work, you’ll have a detailed record of your contributions. In other words, you’ll know which projects you’ve worked on and what you deserve credit for.

Along with keeping personal records, communicate regularly with your boss. When starting a major project, take the time to stop by your boss’ office and confirm which aspects of the project you’re responsible for. In addition to this, provide your boss with regular updates throughout the project. Interactions like these will remind your boss which projects you’re working on, your contributions to them, and what you should receive credit for.

It’s worth mentioning that you have the power to contribute to a healthy workplace environment. When a coworker deserves credit for something, be the person to speak up. If you see someone struggling, ask if they’re alright or offer to help. These types of actions won’t go unnoticed, and positivity and thoughtfulness are infectious. By building stronger bonds with your coworkers, you’ll be less likely to fall victim to credit theft.

In the most egregious situations, you may be tempted to go to your boss, but you must practice caution. You don’t want to come off as a tattle-tale, and you certainly don’t want to run to your boss if you’re in a frenzied state. First, try some of the solutions above, and if at all possible, avoid working with the coworker in question whenever you can. If you feel that going to your boss is your only option, be prepared to provide documentation, and maintain a high degree of professionalism.