I have a confession to make. I usually write my stories about how I get unstuck in work and life. But today is different. Today I have an unresolved story and I would like to hear your advice on how to get unstuck.
This is a very old story which bubbled to the surface as I was listening to this Fizzle podcast about the difference between stealing and borrowing ideas. Essentially, stealing is replicating something and pretending it’s yours. Borrowing, on the other hand, is building on a concept whilst crediting the original author.
The brand I was working on had gone stale. We treated each product line as a separate entity, which was confusing for consumers and inefficient to manage internally. We needed a new mindset altogether, not executional tweaks. I proposed a portfolio strategy to manage the brand as one entity, leveraging the different product lines in a way that linked together and made sense to consumers.
I shared my portfolio strategy with my manager who appreciated the fresh thinking and said she would discuss it with our director. Many drafts and iterations later, I presented it to the regional team and they were impressed. I was proud and excited…
…until the regional deployment day. Connected via video conference, the local teams (mine included) watched eagerly as the regional team deployed their new strategy.
It was pretty much a copy of mine. The same table. The same words.
At first I was glowing – my work had become the new regional standard! I impatiently awaited the moment when they would mention this thinking came from me and my team. But this moment never came. My team shook their heads in dismay. But not a single one of them, not even my manager, said a word during the meeting.
When I shared my frustration with my manager, her response was vague: “the right people know the work you’ve done.” When I asked for her support to rectify the situation and get me the recognition I deserved, she labeled me ungrateful and immature:
“You should be happy that your work will make an impact on the whole of Europe. So what if your name isn’t on it?”
I was sure that the lack of acknowledgement did not come from bad intentions. As people contributed to the idea, everyone felt involved. This was the kind of project that created reputations and that led to career advancement. After months of hard work and mind-stretching, I watched the promised rewards evaporate into thin air.
I was stuck between the pride of standing up for myself and the fear of being judged… Should I politely ask the regional team to acknowledge the work came from me? What if I air my frustration with our director? Would it be childish to send an email telling everyone this was my idea?
In the end I did nothing.
As a result, I got no credit for my work. I didn’t become famous and my career certainly didn’t advance on the back of it. Instead, I cultivated a regret which still consumes me today. So I reach out for your advice:
How should I have gotten unstuck in this situation?