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Oh no you didn't
January 28, 2013 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Recently in a social situation I was asked my thoughts on a budgeting item and I gave it along with a solution that I had given thought to and was planning on presenting to the budget chair. (We work in different departments but run things past each other on occasion). One of the people at the gathering was a woman with political ambitions for our small town. A few days later she wrote a letter to the editor that gave my exact idea. What would you do? On the plus side it was very well received, OTH it was mine. I realize I should have said nothing and it was my mistake. I figure people that were there would know it wasn't hers and hopefully someone will point that out. Can I address it or should I leave it?
posted by lasamana to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, gross. This has happened to me before too. Could you write her and be like, "I saw your letter to the editor! I am glad you found my solution to that budget issue to be a good fit and that you felt compelled to share it with the editor, but I am a little surprised that you would take credit for an idea that wasn't yours to begin with, particularly since I had already informed others that I would be presenting the idea myself! What gives?"
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:48 PM on January 28, 2013 [28 favorites]


I agree with These Birds of a Feather. Call her on it. It will, at the very least, provide her with a useful lesson for her political career.

Don't count on other people to remember it wasn't hers - people don't have the best memory for who said what in a meeting or social situation.

This happens too often, unfortunately; I've actually stopped talking about my ideas publicly because of it. If I want to run something by someone, I actually do it privately and say "I'd like to run something by you, but I'm not ready to present it so could you consider this to be in confidence?"
posted by Miko at 4:21 PM on January 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


This one is interesting.

I'd just email the budget chair to set up a time to present it, and in the last part of the email say:

"I've been discussing the idea with folks and it's getting some traction - after talking about it with an acquaintance, Jane Smith, recently, she even liked the idea enough to write an op-ed about it which was published (LINK to op-ed). So it's catching on and I think it would have public support."

And then I'd email Jane and say:

"Hey Jane! Saw your op-ed - glad you liked my idea and thought it was worthy of public discussion. I'm presenting it for further consideration soon and I'll be sure to keep you in the loop; I'd love to have your continued support of my efforts."

More flies with sugar than with vinegar : )
posted by amaire at 6:13 PM on January 28, 2013 [23 favorites]


Adding - in the end, if you are the one that drives this idea forward and makes it happen, people will realize that. One op-ed isn't going to change things.

And if you really think it's a good idea, having more people on board is a good thing, not a bad thing! Think of her as an ally and supporter.

I guess if you really want to, you could include a line in your email to Jane that says something like:

"Hey Jane! Saw your op-ed - glad you liked my idea and thought it was worthy of public discussion, although I do have to admit I was a little frustrated that you didn't credit me in the published article. I'm presenting it for further consideration soon and I'll be sure to keep you in the loop; I'd love to have your continued support of my efforts."
posted by amaire at 6:16 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you don't want to be quite as straight-ahead assertive as These Birds of a Feather suggests, you might go the indirect route (some might say "passive aggressive", some might call it "office politics aikido") and phrase it in terms of how pleased you were to see that she likes the idea and wants to help move it forward, but "isn't it awkward that the newspaper seems to have edited your letter and completely dropped the part where you acknowledged the idea was mine! I know you're too ethical to take credit for someone else's idea. It would be terrible if the newspaper's carelessness wound up wrongly giving you a reputation as a plagiarist! I'm sure when you contact them they'll be glad to print a correction."
posted by Lexica at 6:17 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would also write a polite email mentioning the meeting where you presented it and thanking her for her obvious interest in your idea, and cc-ing it to the newspaper that printed the op-ed.
posted by gjc at 7:08 PM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm just stopping in to say that you can't assume that the transgressor will acknowledge it was your idea. I work with someone who steals liberally from the ideas of those working under her, and claims them as her own. She would fight to the death any suggestion that the credit belongs to someone else. Hopefully that's not the case here.
posted by carterk at 7:18 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the ideas. She is very ambitious but I don't know her well at all, more of an acquaintance. I have been in her company to know that she is a little passive aggressive as in pointing out to a group how something someone has done is inappropriate or was done wrongly. It really has bothered me since our local paper only comes out once a week and this happened exactly one week ago. She literally must have gone right home and posted that letter to make the Friday edition.
posted by lasamana at 7:27 PM on January 28, 2013


Do you want the problem to be solved, or would you like to get credit for proposing a solution for the problem? The answer to this question will help you to decide what to do.
posted by monotreme at 10:15 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you want the problem to be solved, or would you like to get credit for proposing a solution for the problem? The answer to this question will help you to decide what to do.

There's nothing wrong with saying 'both'.
posted by rocketpup at 6:12 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Credit is important.
posted by Miko at 7:04 AM on January 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


This seems to happen to me all the time. Depending on the situation, I will either call people on it next time I see them in person (in a friendly way), or let it go.
I've noticed that if I gently confront people, they will remember it for ever, in a positive way.

But as I said, depending on the situation. Because in my view, you can't really own ideas or concepts. They are free, and free-floating. If I have an idea for a product, and I don't work through the design and production, it is nothing. If I have a solution for a service problem, and I don't work through the process of developing it into a working practice, anyone can do that. If I have a theory I believe is key to understanding some research problem, if I don't do the actual research, someone else can and will. (All lived examples). It is irritating, but whatever, there will be new ideas.
The line is not at finished product/service/paper, but somewhere in between the concept and the result.
posted by mumimor at 11:43 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


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