3:30 PM EDT, September 27, 2013
Q. When my boss asks for ideas, I find I will often state a good idea, it will get talked over, and then someone says the same thing and takes the credit. Is there a way I diplomatically can point out that I said it first?
A. Yes, you can use your frustration strategically to point out after your teammate restates your idea that you said it first.
Many quiet, introverted people get accustomed at work to being run over verbally by louder colleagues. I have clients who have ended up in self-destructive cycles where the more they withdraw, the more others trample them in meetings.
After a while, the members of your team will simply get used to ignoring you or interrupting you. You are going to need to retrain your coworkers if you want the cycle of getting talked over to stop.
Next time you start to articulate an idea and someone starts to talk, pause and neutrally say, "I know you didn't know I wasn't finished." Carefully watch your body language and tone of voice to be calm. If you say these words in an angry way, your coworkers will respond to feeling criticized and not to your request to finish your statements.
You've been storing up a lot frustration. When people finally speak up after experiencing a mountain of anger, they can easily bury coworkers in all that rage. Most people get scared and then enraged back when others express intense fury. Unfortunately, the point gets lost in all this exchange of emotion.
You'll find that even when you have made sure to finish your statements, your group may still not hear what you said. If you find you're still not getting credit, there are two explanations:
1. You are quite smart and, without knowing it, you are talking over the heads of people on your team. You need to dumb down and simplify your idea so everyone can track what you're saying. When your coworker repeats the idea, people respond because your coworker has simplified it.
2. You are stating your idea without appealing to the needs and agendas of your coworkers. When your coworker repeats the idea he is restating your basic concept while making the idea attractive to everyone.
In your next meeting, pretend you are in an interpersonal lab trying out different approaches to experiment with results. If you try lots of different strategies and find you are still dismissed, then your group is simply accustomed to ignoring your ideas.
There is another powerful option that fixes the problem of losing credit to the coworker who repeats your good idea. After your coworker finishes restating your idea, neutrally tag on, "Yes, I agree with (insert coworker's name). As I said, a few minutes ago (restate what you said in the meeting)." Now expand on your good idea.
You won't come across as huffy. Everyone will stop ignoring you and you'll finally get the credit you are due. Being mad about feeling victimized by people at work can feel gratifying in the short term. Feeling powerful because you changed to get what you want will bring you far more durable satisfaction.
Q. I have a coworker who won't shut up. He has a long opinion about everything under the sun. Is there any good reason some people at work think they must shove their personal judgments at everyone they meet?
A. Yes, as Edward Abbey, American novelist, once said "An empty man is full of himself."
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
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