Speak up when someone ‘takes’ your idea…

Why we don’t always negotiate through an uncomfortable conversation when someone ‘takes’ your idea…

Imagine you’ve had a discussion with a colleague about how you think a problem could be overcome. It’s a positive discussion and you walk away thinking you’ve had a good chat and that Garry or Jenny will back you in the team meeting when this is on the agenda.

However, during the meeting the agenda got moved around and it’s heading to a close and you haven’t had a chance to make your suggestion on how to solve the problem. Then, Garry or Jenny pipes up and delivers your idea eloquently to the whole group and everyone loves it.

You sit, feeling dejected and ripped off…

but you don’t pipe up and say, “Awesome, thanks for raising this Garry or Jenny. I’ve been thinking about this since I first mentioned it to you yesterday, and it looks like you have too. I’m excited with the builds you’ve included, it really feels like our idea now. Thanks. So, [insert words of you leading the discussion from here]”.

If you can imagine yourself in this situation...

…here are a couple of reasons why you may not speak up and some suggestions on what you can do to shift your approach:

        Fear of rejection or conflict

o   If you work in a respectful environment, saying something is unlikely to be met with conflict. Take some time to determine if this is actually how the business operates, or if it’s an unwarranted reason not to take action.


o   If you really think this is a risk, take time to chat to Garry or Jenny about this outside the room. You’ll need to be mindful of your choice of words, for example in the reply noted above I have co-owned the suggested solution with Garry or Jenny. Consider what words work for you.

        Lack of confidence

o   Speaking up in a room of senior people, can be intimidating, but if you have a great idea, you NEED to share it. You’re voice matters, take some time to recognise what you bring to the table, then look for opportunities to speak up more than you have in the past.

o   If you’re not sure when and how to go about this – seek support from your allies or your mentor. Ask them for some words of encouragement and guidance on how to hold the room, or ways to get the attention on you (in ways that aren’t intimidating). The more you do this, the more your confidence will grow.     

Cultural norms

o   You may feel that meetings are the domain for the more senior people to lead the way, to drive decision making, and that you’re simply along for the ride. That’s just not true – diversity of thought is a powerful gift from the most senior, to the least experienced person in any organisation. Be part of the conversation (not a passenger).

o   Calling people out just isn’t ‘the done thing’ in the workplace. But if we don’t highlight to people that their behaviours have affected us, we are perpetuating this. A side bar conversation with Garry or Jenny, may make him/her aware that you feel that he/she took your idea and gave it air, which is great, but as it was originally your idea, you’d like him/her to help it be known that this is now ‘our’ idea. Having this conversation helps everyone, as it’s likely Garry or Jenny was trying to help get the problem solved, and he/she didn’t realise by sharing it, it impacted you. Sometimes we’re all focused more on the problem solving, than where the idea came from, but that matters too.

I’m hoping that the final reason isn’t that you believe that speaking up won’t make a difference, because if that’s the case then you either need to consider if this is the organisation for you, or if you need to adjust your mindset.

Your contribution always matters, and how it is shared can sometimes be through an unexpected route, but speaking up for yourself will lead to positive outcomes. Having an uncomfortable conversation or two will only take a few moments of awkwardness, but it’ll be completely worth it.

By spotting your own barriers to taking action you can build your confidence, become more assertive in expressing ideas and negotiating your way through uncomfortable conversations with ease.


If you need help navigating any situations like this, please reach out and chat with one of the Other Side team, we’re here to help.

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