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Do bosses steal ideas from workers and take credit for them?

Unfortunately yes, and this is a constant in any work environment.  Everyone wants to get noticed (and promoted) at work – even your Team Leader, Supervisor or Manager.  So if you have identified a better way of doing a task or have an idea for a new process that would improve operational efficiencies or enhance customer service deliverables , map-it-out!  Don’t ask for assistance or suggestions from anyone on your idea/recommendation (particularly your boss) – because everyone recognises a great idea, even in the development stages, and everyone wants to be noticed and promoted.

How to map out a work improvement idea

Write your idea/recommendation down (map-it-out) and work out what would need to be done to achieve this.  What, if any, risk factors need to be considered that could impact on the idea (and don’t discard the idea just because there are, or may be, associated risks).

Simplify your idea/recommendation including detailing the benefits to your work team and the broader organisation, i.e. saves money, saves time – and quantify this.  If you are going to state that the idea/recommendation will save time, identify how much time you think it could save, and how this will be achieved.  Get the calculator out or create a spreadsheet and work out how much time and labour resources are required to perform the task at the moment – then do a comparison on your proposed idea and identify the difference.

Gather supporting information – if you have identified that there is a new technology (i.e. a software program) or a new equipment/machine that could save time and labour resources, gather all this information – what it does, what it costs – and if there are online reviews available.  If you have identified that operational or administrative efficiencies are hampered by double- or triple-handling of a task by multiple personnel or multiple departmental areas – work out how this could be improved – gather the information to identify what would need to be done at each stage of the process to eliminate repetitive handling of the task.  Once you have gathered all supporting information, you can begin to map-out the idea/recommendation process.

How and where to present your idea/recommendation

Team Meetings: Every work environment has regular ‘team meetings’ – supposedly, this is where the Team Leader, Supervisor or Manager presents updates on business and/or departmental performance and upcoming job/activities – and, importantly, where each team member has the opportunity to ‘be heard’ and encouraged to ‘contribute’. 

This is a great venue to present your idea/recommendation as it is being shared in a group setting, and, if it is mapped-out well, will achieve support from your work colleagues.  Of course, there are always ‘knockers’ of new ideas and you may hear comments such as ‘oh, we tried that once, didn’t work’ – don’t let this discourage you – whoever is making that comment may have been with the organisation for 20-years and the idea (or some form of it), may have been ‘tried’ 20-years ago. If you have done your homework well, have all the facts, worked out/measured/quantified the benefits of adopting your idea/recommendation, you should be able to readily respond to statements such as these and are more likely to achieve support than not.

Formal notification to two key stakeholders: This should include your immediate Team Leader, Supervisor or Manager, but not just to him/her – include the person that they report to also – after all, they will both have a vested interest in your idea/proposal. Don’t extend the formal notification to other parties external to your department or area of operations, i.e. every Manager in the organisation – it’s not a good look to go beyond your immediate area with ideas and recommendations.  Make sure you include all the facts and data as previously mentioned so that the idea/recommendation is fully ‘fleshed out’.  This shows that it’s not just something that came into your head – well, yes it did – but you have taken the time and effort to map-it-out.

What happens if your idea is accepted by management?

Now is the time you will lose ownership of your idea/proposal – but for all the right reasons.  Obviously, once it is accepted – other stakeholders in the organisation take over.  This could include the Accounting/Finance area who may cost-out the idea/recommendation/proposal; Human Resources (HR) may analyse what the impact on labour resources could or will be; WHS may analyse if there are any health and safety issues to be considered; Sales and Marketing may have input also as may Production/Manufacturing areas.  Whenever a new way of doing things’ is introduced into an organisation, it generally impacts on the whole organisation – but ‘new ways of doing things’ are the drivers to overall business success.

What happens if your idea is rejected by management?

That’s unlikely to happen if you have done your homework, identified and quantified the benefits that could be achieved, and importantly, mapped-out the idea/recommendation process.  If you have done all that, and it is rejected, it would no doubt have been carefully considered as obviously, there was merit in the idea.

Even if it is rejected – you have made a statement and you’ve achieved a couple of things:
, you have shown that you have leadership abilities, initiative, and a genuine interest in the organisation – this can only lead to better things for you within the organisation.
Secondly, you have made the organisation aware (if they don’t already know), that the best ideas often come from the ground-floor and that these need to both encouraged and considered.

The Final Word

If you don’t contribute ideas/proposals/recommendation to improve business efficiencies, your opportunities for advancement with the organisation will be very limited.

If you just tell your boss, there’s a fair chance that you could lose ownership.

If organisations don’t consider and encourage ideas and recommendations from the ground-floor, they will eventually be overtaken by their competitors – innovate or die!  

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