What to Do When Someone Steals Your Idea

Katie Sweeney

My whole life, I’ve been coming up with ideas that are ignored or overlooked by my parents—but when the same idea is introduced by my little sister, everyone listens and applauds her for being a creative genius! Such is the life of a middle child, right? However, it’s one thing for a sibling to steal an idea; it’s a whole other ballgame when a co-worker takes your idea and calls it their own. This happens all the time at competitive organizations, and a Fast Company story that discusses the topic recently caught my eye. According to Anett Grant, there are three steps you can take when you’ve become a victim of ideajacking. Don’t just sit there in enraged silence! Here’s what you should do.

  1. Stay calm. It’s only natural to get upset, but don’t emotionally blurt out, "I just said that a few minutes ago and nobody listened to me!" "It doesn't help to get confrontational. You want to influence your team members, not alienate them. Plus, the person who stole your idea might have done so unconsciously—give them the benefit of the doubt," Grant explains.
  2. Acknowledge your colleague’s contribution. Don’t get left behind. Join in the conversation and state that you agree with their idea. Keep your tone upbeat and collaborative. Casually say something like, "I agree. As I mentioned earlier..." This will allow you to reclaim your idea and lead the discussion.
  3. Expand on the initial idea. “Show the depth of your thinking by expanding on what you said, adding more insight and analysis,” recommends Grant. Make articulate points and use relevant data to amp up your idea. The goal is to gain support for an idea that leads to action.

To learn more idea-leveraging strategies, read One Simple Idea.

Have you ever had an idea stolen by a co-worker? 

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