“11 years ago today, Me & Britney invented the selfie!” Paris Hilton tweeted Sunday
Al Gore invented the internet. President Trump coined the phrase “fake news.” And now Paris Hilton, bless her heart, can lay claim to the ubiquitous selfie. “11 years ago today, Me & Britney invented the selfie!” the early-aughts reality star captioned two snaps Sunday of herself and Britney Spears.
Hilton previously tried to claim credit for the craft of taking a picture of oneself in a May interview with W magazine. The selfie, for what it’s worth, is believed to have been pioneered by photographer Robert Cornelius in 1839. The first known use of the term was on an Australian site in 2002, four years before Hilton claims she and Spears dreamt it up.
Cornelius, who was laid to rest nearly 125 years ago, can never challenge Hilton for ownership of his brainchild. But plenty of workers run up against idea thieves at work — a problem compounded by the fact that women take less credit for co-ed group work unless their roles appear concretely clear, according to one 2013 study. Here’s what to do if it happens to you:
11 years ago today, Me & Britney invented the selfie! pic.twitter.com/1byOU5Gp8J
— Paris Hilton (@ParisHilton) November 19, 2017
Enlist someone else to speak on your behalf. “If you are raising your voice and saying, ‘Hey, no, that was my idea,’ then you risk getting into a he-said, she-said situation,” marketing strategy consultant Dorie Clark told Moneyish. “Even if you did legitimately come up with the idea, it may look like sour grapes or like you’re trying to take credit for someone else’s idea.” Having a neutral, third-party ally to defend your idea ownership puts you in “a much stronger position.”
Give subtle pushback. If someone takes credit for your work during a meeting, issuing a “flagrant” rebuttal in front of others is akin to “declaring war publicly,” said Clark. But you might attempt to “put your stake in the ground” later on, she added, perhaps saying, “When (this person) and I were discussing this, and I first suggested that we launch the project…” That way, Clark said, “you’re essentially saying, ‘I invented it’ without contradicting the other person” — and preventing their assertion from going unchecked.
Talk in private, and don’t assume ill intent, Clark said: “It’s possible that they’re a Machiavellian schemer looking to steal your limelight, but it’s (also) possible there actually was a misunderstanding — or maybe you were brainstorming together and they forgot who came up with the idea.” Start out saying something to the effect of “I’m just a little bit confused … can you help me?”
In some cases, the person will acknowledge the mistake, apologize and agree to set the record straight during the next meeting. If the person digs in their heels, however, you should gather emails, voicemails and testimony from colleagues to “marshal as much evidence in your favor.” Also consider the magnitude of the situation — is this a trivial idea or a new strategic direction for your company? — and pick your battles accordingly.
If the idea thief is your boss — and this is a first-time offense, you have an overall good relationship or you think this was a mistake or instance of overeagerness — you can try confronting them, Clark said. Try something like: “I noticed in the meeting that when you talked about the new project, you said, ‘When I came up with the idea.’ That was a little hurtful and confusing to me because, while you were a key part of enabling the project to happen, I originally came up with the idea, and it made me feel like my contribution wasn’t being recognized. I’d love to hear your thoughts.”
If the boss gets angry and defensive, Clark said, you should realize they’re not looking out for your best interest. “You need to be looking for a transfer within the company or perhaps another job, because that’s a person you need to get away from.”
While it’s never a good move to appropriate credit for someone else’s idea, Clark said, it’s fine to “claim credit up to the point where it is legitimate.” “(Hilton) didn’t invent the selfie, but did she help popularize the selfie? Absolutely,” she said. “People would not be making fun of her if she’d said, ‘This is where Britney and I helped kick off the selfie craze.’ That is perfectly appropriate language.”
When in doubt, Clark added, “adding the word ‘help’ to almost any verb is a useful rule of thumb,” as is being generous in sharing credit. “You can strike a good balance where you are touting your achievements but also raising people up, saying ‘we’ instead of ‘I.’”
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