You’ve Been Bro-Propriated! 5 Ways to Combat Idea Hijacking

March 6, 2018

“Jodi” offers an idea at her staff meeting and finds it met by tepid response.

“Mmm-hmmm,” Jodi’s boss says, distractedly, before moving on. Or maybe he quickly dismisses her idea.

It’s as if she hasn’t been heard.

Some minutes later, “Jimmy” speaks up and offers what is more or less the exact same idea, only to find it enthusiastically greeted and green-lit.

And Jodi silently fumes, “Wait a minute, that was MY idea!”




If you’ve ever been in Jodi’s situation, you’ve just been idea-hijacked.

Someone took what was yours and – intentionally or not – ran away with it.

These are among the ways to piss off a woman at work.

If this someone is a guy, as Jimmy is, he just bro-propriated the idea. Maybe he man-terrupted while doing so. He-peated it. Jodi’s idea became Jimmy’s guy-dea! Her idea was guy-jacked!

What else can we call it?

Former colleagues pointed out this isn’t only a man-on-woman crime but can happen to both genders by both genders. Jill could steal from Jodi or John from Jimmy. Or maybe Jodi is the thief.

As one friend pointed out, no matter the gender, a person who runs off with someone else’s idea is known as… an asshole.

So how do you keep credit where credit is due, like Jodi, without looking like you’re jockeying for it? And how can we stop Jimmys of the corporate world from getting away with it?

Set some boundaries around bad behavior with these 5 tips!

1:  Have a Colleague in Your Corner –

Jodi could use a fair and supportive colleague to amplify her idea. If her boss doesn’t acknowledge the originator, the colleague can support her by speaking up: “I like that idea, Jimmy. It sounds a lot like what Jodi offered at the start of the meeting. Jodi, what do you think of Jimmy’s idea, it is similar to yours….” (but not as good, of course…) Provide support to colleagues who deserve the spotlight.

2. Check Your Delivery – 

Before Jodi cries foul, she should check whether the ideas, if similar, were offered in a comparative manner. Did Jimmy explain his idea in a way that was more understandable or enticing? Was she clear and concise? How could Jodi have done it better? Improve your pitching skills to get the Go-Ahead.

3. Reclaim the Floor –

Jodi doesn’t want to come off as self-centered. After all, there’s no “I” in “team.” (There is, however, a “me” in team.  There’s even an “at me” if you unscramble the letters...) While she might want to yell, “Hey, that was my idea!” a more diplomatic approach might be: “I’m so glad you agree with my earlier proposal, Jimmy. As I mentioned, here’s why I recommend it. You’ve made some valuable adds and have given us more to consider.” Don’t walk away when you should be inserting yourself back into the conversation.

4.  Appeal to the Boss –

If she’s not comfortable speaking up in the meeting, Jodi can follow up with her boss after. This very much depends on her relationship with the boss (as well as Jimmy’s). Rather than expressing anger, she should state the facts: “I introduced this idea at the meeting and didn’t get the buy-in I was hoping for. Can you help me understand how it was viewed with more enthusiasm when Jimmy later offered something similar?”

5. Ask for the Assignment –

Jodi can demonstrate to the boss the genesis of her idea and offer to partner with Jimmy if he’s gotten the go-ahead (ideally requesting to serve as project lead!). If she’s rebuffed again, it might make sense to submit ideas in advance and in writing. Be a positive team member even when you feel you deserve the leading role. And document your participation for review!

Are you a Jodi? Or a Jimmy? When have you seen this happen and what happened next?

Valerie gordon web4 you've been bro-propriated! 5 ways to combat idea hijacking

Valerie Gordon is a speaker, trainer, author, and humorist as well as a former TV producer and recovering workaholic. The founder of The Storytelling Strategist, she speaks at conferences and works with corporations to train high-achievers with the leadership and communication skills necessary to create next-level success. 

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