00:00 Fay Wallis
Welcome to HR Coffee Time, the free weekly podcast to help you have a successful and fulfilling HR or People career without working yourself into the ground. It's great to have you here. I'm your host, Fay Wallis, a career and executive coach with a background in HR and I'm also the founder of Bright Sky Career Coaching.
If you are a regular listener to the show, I'm sorry, I'm releasing the podcast a bit late today. It's normally published at 6:00 AM every Friday, but today, this Friday, it's going to be coming out later in the day. And I have a bit of a croaky voice because I seem to have caught a horrible cough cold thing this week, which is why I'm a little bit behind and not sounding at my best.
But I really hope it won't stop you from enjoying the episode. So why not pour yourself a cup of coffee, get comfortable and get ready to listen to it? I'll be right alongside you, but today it's going to be a Lemsip I'm drinking instead of a coffee. Originally, I'd planned this episode to cover what to do if someone is taking credit for your ideas in all sorts of different ways at work, but I realized it was way too much to cover in one episode.
So I've zoomed into one area that I've seen come up the most with my coaching clients when it comes to this topic, and that is not being given credit for an idea you've suggested during a group meeting. It can happen in different ways. Perhaps you've started voicing an idea, but find yourself interrupted by someone else before you can finish and then much later in the meeting you hear another person share exactly the idea you had started on, but they're able to finish articulating it and everyone thinks it's brilliant and that they came up with it. Or otherwise, you might manage to share the whole idea in the meeting, but it doesn't get picked up on straightaway.
It doesn't gain traction. The conversation moves on. A couple of other people speak, and it looks as if the idea has just completely sunk, but then suddenly your idea is mentioned again by someone else in the room, but they might have phrased it ever so slightly differently, and everyone loves it this time it's been mentioned and they're happy to move forward with it, but they seem to have completely forgotten that you were the person who brought the idea up in the first place.
As with every challenge at work or in life, there isn't a one size fits all solution that works for everyone when it comes to this. Instead, I'm going to share three different options in the hope that at least one of them is helpful or resonates with you or sparks your thinking to come up with an idea that does feel right for you to try.
Let's get started with the first suggestion, and that is to politely draw attention to the fact that someone has reiterated or built on your idea. You can use phrases like, "It's great to hear you liked what I suggested earlier". Or you could say something like, "Oh, I love how you built upon the idea I mentioned a few minutes earlier", and it feels like a fairly gentle, but still assertive way of getting the credit back where it's due.
I know that this often feels a much more comfortable approach for people to try, rather than calling someone out directly in a more accusatory way with something like, "I think you'll find I said that five minutes ago, and you are just acting like the idea is your own". We all know that saying something like that is unlikely to go well.
Instead, it's going to get people's backs up, make other people in the room feel deeply uncomfortable and not necessarily have the impact that you want. Now I'll move along to the second suggestion, and this is the one that
I feel the most excited about sharing with you because I know that as an HR or People professional, you care about the people in the organization you work in. You want the environment everyone works in to be fair and for each person to have their opportunity to shine. So this suggestion is one that can help everyone, not just you. In fact, when I say I feel excited about it, I may have gone a little bit overboard with my research on this one. You know what it's like when you find something really interesting that you want to read everything you can about it? Well, that's what's happened here. And if you already know about this or you have got different sources, articles, or case studies that you'd like to share with me about it, please do send them over to me.
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Now I'll just quickly mention that I will put links to everything that I'm going to talk about here. So all of the sources and articles that I refer to, I'll put the links to them in the show notes so that if you want to dive in and learn even more, you can, and it also gives you the resources that might be helpful to back you up if you decide that you'd like to introduce amplification in your workplace.
So what is amplification? Well, the Washington Post article explains that when Barack Obama became presidents, two thirds of his top aides were men and women found it could be really hard to get their way into important meetings. And when they were in meetings, their voices were often ignored. So the women together came up with a strategy that they called amplification. If one of them made a point in a meeting, other women in the room would repeat it and make sure that they gave credit to the original person who had voiced it, which meant that other people couldn't claim credit for the idea themselves. And apparently Barack Obama noticed what was happening and started calling on women more in the meetings.
Looking into the research behind this idea, it originally showed that being interrupted or having your ideas taken by others was a gender issue with women much more likely to experience it than men.
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Astronomer and Professor Nicole Gallucci tweeted the term saying, "My friends coined a word: hepeated. For when a woman suggests an idea and it's ignored, but then a guy says the same thing and everyone loves it. Usage: 'Ugh, I got hepeated in that meeting again', or 'He totally, hepeated me.' This phrase clearly resonated with a lot of people.
I looked up the tweet today, and so far it's had 55.6k retweets and 174.9k likes. The reasons for this behaviour seems to be down to unconscious bias, which means people honestly don't realize they're behaving in this way. Subconsciously they think they have higher status in the group, which is why they speak up, or they feel that they'll gain higher status by voicing and claiming or building on ideas.
But of course the fact that I've just been talking about this being a gender issue doesn't mean it doesn't happen to other people. So if you are listening to this and you are not a woman and thinking, oh, is this just about how we can help women, well, don't worry, I'm going to mention some more recent research that shines a much broader light on this issue. More recent research points out that amplification can help voices of all groups in organizations, particularly underrepresented groups, so not just women, which means that from an equity, diversity, and inclusion perspective, if you introduce the idea of amplification in meetings as good practice for your whole organization.
You won't just be helping make sure your ideas are heard and credited. Instead, you'll be helping everyone. This research is summarized in a Harvard Business Review article called "Amplifying Your Colleagues' Voices Benefits Everyone", and that summary is of a journal article that the same authors produced called 'Amplifying Voices in Organizations'.
What I loved about both the Harvard Business Review article and the journal article when I read them, is the fact that not only does amplification help people whose voices are traditionally ignored or not heard, but it shows that amplification helps in other ways too. They tested to see what happens if one person puts an idea forward, a second person ignores that idea and moves past it onto something else. But a third person brings up the first person's idea again, endorsing it and giving the original person credit. So they are doing amplification.
They're amplifying. But you might be thinking, well, what does endorsing actually mean, Fay? In the journal article, they explain that endorsing can be explicit. So it could be praising the idea, saying they think it's a really good idea. Or the endorsement can be what they call, 'implicit'.
So if it's implicit, that third person who's doing the amplification might be clarifying the idea or asking for it to be considered. And they give an example of this to explain what they mean by implicit endorsement.
So the example that they give is, "Didn't Bria's solution address this problem? Maybe we should consider her idea." And when the researchers asked everyone involved what they thought of the voicer's idea after it had been endorsed,
so what they thought of that original idea, the feedback was that they thought the voicer's idea was better when it had been amplified. They even thought the voicer, so the person who came up with the idea in the first place was more influential and high status in the group. But what's maybe even more interesting or just as interesting is that they also thought the third group member, so the person who did the amplification, the person who says, Hey, wait a minute, let's listen to this idea, or, I thought that idea was really good.
They thought that that person was more high status when they did the amplification. So taking a step back for a minute and thinking a bit about this word of 'high status' people who are seen as having higher status in a group. This is all very subtle stuff. It's not often talked about openly, who you think the people with high status are in a group.
People who are seen as having a higher status. They get more attention and their ideas are more respected and it's easier often for them to get buy-in or to impose their ideas on the rest of the group. If you are interested in learning more about status in groups, I've linked to an article about it in the show notes.
There are so many articles in the show notes this week. I really hope I haven't gone overboard with this. The article's called "In a Teamwork Economy Status among Group Members is crucial". So what does this all mean? It means that when you put the idea of amplification forward, if you decide to do that, you will be helping everyone, not just you.
And you can show that it even helps the people who easily have a voice in that room and who easily get their ideas listened to it, makes them look even better. They're regarded even more highly by the group when they do it. Now I'll move us on from focusing on amplification to the very final solution that I have as a suggestion for you today.
And in the spirit of making sure that I am being true to this idea of giving credit to the person who has come up with an idea in the first place, I have to give full credit to one of my very good friends, Henrietta Blackmore. I've known Henrietta for 27 years, which I can't quite believe - we met at university.
We were on the same course together and have been good friends ever since, and I've been in the really lucky position of seeing her do incredibly well in her career, very deservedly so. She doesn't work in HR, but she has experience of working across a whole range of senior leadership roles, and excitingly is going to be stepping into her first c e o role soon.
A few years ago, I noticed that Henrietta seemed to be brilliant at delivering feedback effectively and confronting situations that would feel challenging for most people. So my final suggestion for today is going to be to give the person who took credit for your idea, feedback after the meeting so that you can make them aware of what they've done and how it has impacted you.
I phoned Henrietta earlier on today to talk to her about the episode, and I said that I would love to share the model she had used for giving difficult feedback. That I had been trying to research the topic and figure out exactly which framework it is that she uses because although I'd found some different frameworks that seemed to fit her approach, I thought it was probably better to just ask her.
And she explained it isn't one particular framework. It's a blend of different things that she's encountered and learned over the years. She'd noticed how helpful it is to try to take the emotion out of a situation, state factually what's happened, and then talk about the impact that the person's behavior has had.
One of the models I'd come across when I was doing research for the episode is called the S B I framework, which has been created by the Center for Creative Leadership, and I think it fits fairly well with what Henrietta had been describing to me. It's not exactly the same, but I wanted to give you something to try and bring this to life and something that you could go away and use.
S stands for situation B stands for behavior, and I stands for impact. For the S, the situation, you start off by describing the situation, so you might say something like, "When we had our meeting this morning and we were asked to share our ideas about the new People strategy". For the B - behaviour, you describe their behavior in a factual way.
So that's why I thought this one aligns quite well with Henrietta because she's so good at taking all the emotion and judgment out of a situation. You don't judge their behavior, you just describe it. So as an example, you might follow on with what you just said with, "I mentioned an idea and then a few minutes later you stated the same idea, but you didn't give me credit for it.
So everyone thought it was your idea as the meeting came to a close." This means by not judging the behavior, you are not saying anything like, "I can't believe you did that", or "you were completely out of line suggesting an idea that I had shared and not giving me credit", or, "what did you think you were doing?" none of that is going to get included.
Instead, you finish off with I - impact. So that means telling them the impact that their behaviour had. And you would normally start that with an I statement. So perhaps you'd say something like, "I felt disappointed and disempowered". I spoke to Henrietta about the framework and asked her what else she would add to it.
She mentioned quite a few things, well, lots of things that I hadn't thought of, and I wish I'd been making notes because I'm sure I haven't captured all of them. But hopefully the ones that I'm going to share that she shared with me are going to be helpful for you. And they were all a really good reminder that we never need to stick to a framework rigidly, but we can take the principles behind that framework and then adapt them and fit them into the situation that we are in, in a way that works for us and that we think is going to work best with the person involved. She pointed out how important the context is and how that's going to affect how you want to approach the person. Has this only happened once or is it a persistent offender?
Is it someone who you feel is actually doing this to you a lot? Depending on those situations is probably going to play quite a big role into how you talk to them about it. And for example, if it's clear, the person doesn't realize they're behaving this way. Thinking back to what we were talking about with amplification and the fact that so much of this behaviour that goes on is happening subconsciously and is all down to unconscious bias, the person may have no idea that they've done it.
So you may even want to add in something like, "I'm not sure if you realize this is what you did", or "I know you won't have done this intentionally". The other advice Henrietta gave was to act quickly. One of the big things that's known about feedback is that it's far more effective if it's delivered straight away.
So if this has happened to you in the morning, in a meeting, do try to speak to that person on the same day or as soon as possible. She also pointed out that you might want to let them know in advance that you want to talk to them about this. So you could send them an email asking for some time to speak to them about what happened in the meeting, and then that way they know what to expect and they're not completely taken by surprise when you talk to them about it.
So it's more likely you can have a productive conversation with them. Henrietta, if you're listening to this, a huge thank you for sharing your experience and advice. I really appreciate it, and I'm sure that so many people listening to this episode are going to appreciate having heard from someone who is so good at this.
That brings us to the end of today's episode. I really hope that you found it helpful. As a very quick recap, there were three different solutions that we looked at for stopping other people from taking credit for your ideas in meetings. The first solution was to politely draw attention to the fact that you were the person who first brought the idea to the group.
The second solution was to encourage everyone to start using amplification. And the final solution was to give feedback to the person who has taken credit for your idea after the meeting has ended. If you decide to go ahead and put any of these ideas into action, I would love to hear how you get on.
Please do let me know. You can always reach me on LinkedIn. And before I go, can I possibly ask you for a favour? I would be hugely grateful if you could rate and review HR Coffee Time for me on whichever podcast app you listen to the show through. It makes a huge difference in encouraging the podcasting platforms to suggest the show to people who might not have heard of it before.
Thank you so much and I look forward to being back again next Friday for the next episode.