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Boss presents employee’s ideas as his to higher-ups

DEAR J.T. & DALE: I have been with an amazing company for almost two years and have learned so much. My issue is with my Senior, who started with the company just three months before I did. When I have an idea, he rejects it but then repeats it to the higher-ups and takes credit. I feel like I’m the only one producing. I love the company but do not see myself growing, with him above me. I speak with the vice president frequently, and she always praises me. Should I say something to her? – Daniel

J.T.: Before you decide there’s no place left for you to go in the organization, I think you need to meet with the Senior to clear the air regarding ideas. It’s important that you let him know that you are disappointed in his treatment of your suggestions.

Dale: Hold on. There’s an art to selling ideas, and it starts with embracing that word, “selling.” Blaming the buyer is not a helpful sales strategy; what’s needed is to turn an idea into an experiment. Do informal testing. Show the team – not just your boss – that the idea has potential to help customers or save money or whatever. Then, remember that it’s not “your idea;” it belongs to the team, and if you talk about it that way, you’ll be the one others want to share ideas with.

J.T.: I doubt that will resolve the bigger issue here: being able to see career growth. So, Daniel, tell your boss that you, too, would like to get promoted, and seek his input on a strategy that will result in a promotion. After that dialogue, I would encourage you to reach out to the VP. Share what you were told regarding getting promoted. Then, ask the VP if she could share any other insights or tasks that you should pursue to achieve your goal. This way, the VP will now be aware of your intentions … and you didn’t go around your Senior’s back to discuss it.

Dale: I’m guessing the Senior definitely would consider his back to have been gone around. So, instead, try volunteering for a task force or some other group that includes employees outside your department. Let the VP see you in action while you meet people elsewhere in the company. If it is indeed an “amazing” place, management will spot your skills and be looking for new ways to use your talents.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I got too drunk at an office happy hour and don’t remember what happened. My co-workers say it was pretty bad. My boss was there, and he put me in a cab home. What should I do? – Lily

Dale: Yeah, bad. How bad depends a lot on your boss’s relationship to drinking. You’ll find that out when you do your confession/apology – something you have to do, and soon.

J.T.: Don’t make excuses. Don’t try to explain away what happened. Be fully accountable: “I drank too much and made a fool of myself,” is all you need to say. Then, stress how sorry you are, and ask if there is anything he wants you to do.

Dale: If you’re lucky, your boss will shrug, smile, then recount some story of making a fool of himself. But odds are, he’ll make that face you’ll remember from your vice principal in high school, and lecture you about not doing it again.

J.T.: And you must not. This blunder has cost you the ability to drink at workplace functions with this company in the future. You need to show that you can restrain yourself. From this point on, you need to remember that every time you call in sick or show up late, they will assume it’s a hangover. So, focus not just on doing your job well, but on being timely and reliable, too. Even if you get lucky and the boss is understanding, you still will be watched, and repeat behavior will hurt your career. You’ll need to prove to everyone that this truly was an isolated incident and that you have learned a valuable lesson from the experience.

Send questions for Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell and Dale Dauten via email to jtanddale.com.

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