Ask Someone Else's Mom by Susan Writer

Coworker Steals Ideas and Peddles Them as His Own

DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: I share a small office with a guy I’ll call “Joe.” There is no doubt he is a hard worker. There is also no doubt he is an idea thief. Being in the same office as him I have more than once heard him admiring a concept shared with one of us by a coworker. Next thing you know, Joe is pitching it as his own to the boss. He hasn’t tried it with me yet, but I figure it’s just a matter of time.

People are beginning to catch on, but because the boss thinks Joe is some kind of business genius with all these profitable ideas, everyone keeps their mouths shut. Besides, no one wants to look like a crybaby or a whistle-blower in front of our boss, who makes no secret of how great he thinks Joe is. The only thing I can think to do is warn as many people as I can to keep their ideas to themselves to avoid having Joe claim them as his own. Is that wrong? I hate the idea of backstabbing someone, but Joe has no problem doing it. --- MY OFFICEMATE IS A THIEF

DEAR MY OFFICEMATE IS A THIEF: Going behind Joe’s back probably won’t help the situation, and sounds like something you’re not particularly comfortable doing anyway.

A more diplomatic alternative is, each time a pilfered idea is openly presented by Joe, immediately and publicly mention, “Hey, that’s the same idea ________ had.” Do it without accusation, but rather as another example of how great minds think alike. It not only discretely calls Joe out, but it gives the real originator a chance to claim due credit.

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