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Several months ago, I sent a document to two people in another department within the same organisation (via email), asking for their thoughts / feedback on its contents. I did this because it was directly relevant to how our two teams interact and collaborate - and I wanted them to be consulted (we don't share any reporting structure other than the CEO). The context is around the roles and responsibilities within our respective teams - including what we do and how we add value to the organisation.

I never got any response or acknowledgement from either recipient, so I assumed it wasn't something they were immediately concerned about or interested in. However, I've now discovered a very large portion of that document has been duplicated, in a new process document they've created in the last few days - that has now been shared with the rest of the organisation as their own work.

However, the new document happens to be critical of my department (with the overall theme being "we don't need them, look at the great things we do" - using my work as examples of what they do), so my issue goes beyond the plagiarism aspect - which I'd have been happy with if the document had been put to positive use.

My work accounts for around 25% of their document - they've obviously done some minor editing, but it's very clearly my words as whole sentences and several paragraphs remain entirely unaltered. Now, as we all work for the same organisation, I'd imagine the company owns all the content regardless, so its not a copyright or ownership issue. In any case, is it reasonable for me to expect my contribution to at least be acknowledged (really I would have expected them to ask for permission, at least out of courtesy)?

The main aspect I find inappropriate is them using my (unattributed) work to be critical of the role my department plays within the organisation. This seems deliberately underhanded, as they never responded to my request for feedback. At the time, I wondered if this was because they never read it or forgot about it - but now it's obvious that was not the case. How can I professionally highlight their plagiarism, distortion and misrepresentation of my work?

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    Possible duplicate of How to deal with a colleague who is showing off my work as his own? – Dukeling Oct 31 '17 at 10:30
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    @Dukeling that question doesn't really cover the aspect around your own work being used against you - just credit for work done, which I'm less concerned about. – Michael Oct 31 '17 at 10:43
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    What's suggested in the linked post mostly still applies here, albeit for a slightly different reason. It harming your department would be something for your manager to judge and handle. If you want acknowledgement of your contribution, refer to the linked post. – Dukeling Oct 31 '17 at 11:03
  • @JoeStrazzere No - within the department we use collaboration tools (that the manager monitors / reviews), rather than email. – Michael Oct 31 '17 at 13:57
  • @Mikaveli - So why would the solutions not work in your case anyway? It seems like anything that highlights the truth, that it is your work, fixes the problem of your work being used against you natively. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 31 '17 at 14:14
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is it reasonable for me to expect my contribution to at least be acknowledged

In my experience, it not unreasonable to expect some sort of acknowledgement, but it is also not uncommon for a document to be presented as "prepared by the department", without an individuals name as the author.

I would say in this case since you have an email to back up the original document claim along with the straight up copy and paste, the only recourse is for you is to highlight the copied text between both documents and show them to your manager and let them figure out what the appropriate action is.

How can I professionally highlight their plagiarism, distortion and misrepresentation of my work?

In regards to this new document, your manager probably needs to do something as this sounds like some good ole fashioned office politics. This is also up to your manager to handle. By showing the similarities in the documents, you will have done all you can by providing some potential ammunition.

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I'd send out an email congratulating them about the good job they made with the report that you wrote and that they were just supposed to review. Mentioning your major contribution would of course have been appreciated.

However, you are surprised about the strange conclusions they are drawing about the role of your department, after all, without your initial work they would have never been able to produce their report.

Sent to everyone who has received this report.

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Doing anything about it at this point would seem a bit petty. Realistically if you have original work you want recognition for you keep superiors and anyone interested cc'd from the beginning.

Trying to get recognition after the fact is problematic in many ways and does nothing particularly constructive while alienating colleagues and creating a bit of drama.

There may come a time in the future where you can point out your contribution in a positive fashion, but I don't see it here. You can learn from mistakes or you can jump up and down about them, but they're still mistakes.

  • I'm not a downvoter, but are you asserting that you wouldn't ever share an idea / artefact / document for feedback before sharing it more widely, through fear of other colleagues stealing your ideas? – Michael Oct 31 '17 at 15:37
  • I down voted for that exact reason @Mikaveli as that is how this answer rings with me. I don't CC the world when I am looking for input or feedback on a document. – Mister Positive Oct 31 '17 at 15:45
  • @Mikaveli for anything important superiors would be cc'd for a number of reasons including making sure I DO get feedback, I'm not a very trusting person. As you can see the OP was and now has a problem. The OP neither got feedback, nor recognition. Perhaps you see the correlation? – Kilisi Oct 31 '17 at 17:08
  • @Mikaveli Or you work with a bunch of JERKS. I would deal with them more along the lines of CC the world, and do business as usual with the other folks in the organization. – Mister Positive Nov 1 '17 at 17:13

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