Your ESC Colleagues: Copycats

When a co-worker is your copycat it is more than just annoying…it can jeopardize your own career!

The Eurovision Song Contest will be presented on May 10th, 12th and 14th of 2016. For those of us outside Europe, you can stream the contest in real time or watch it again after its conclusion via the Eurovision website and their WebTV page.

The country whose act wins the Eurovision Song Contest has the honor of hosting the competition in their own country the following year. Not only is this a huge publicity tool, it can be very lucrative for the countries who host. Because of this, it never fails that every year there are several acts submitted who are copycats of the prior year’s winner.

For example, the 2008 winner of the ESC was Russia, whose entry Believe featured not only featured Olympic Gold Medalist Evengi Plushenko on stage providing skating entertainment, but also Hungarian violinist Edvird Marton playing a Stradivarius.

In 2009 the violin was also featured in two different acts that made it to the semi-final; Estonia and Norway.  While Estonia stayed with the ballad format, the winning entry turned out to be Norway, although the song format changed from ballad to pop in Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale.

A similar dynamic is taking place this year.  The 2015 winner, Mans Zelmerlow’s Hero, was a strong song entry; but it also featured an impressive interactive tech component where the singer appears to conjure smoke, rain and interact with digital cartoon characters on stage.

The 2016 entry from Austria, Zoe with her song Loin d’ici (Far from Here) appears to be taking a queue from Zelmerlow’s playbook.

The old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery is a bit hard to swallow when you are dealing with a copycat colleague. When a co-worker takes your ideas and passes them off as their own, or attempts to take credit for an idea you came up with, it is more than just annoying…it can jeopardize your own career! A simple google search for ways to advance your career will quickly turn up the advice that you need to build a brand for yourself and proudly show the value you bring to your organization and your position. If someone else is stealing that value you added and claiming it for themselves, it can be career-limiting for you.

So how do you handle a situation like this? Going to the copycat and directly addressing the issue is one of the best ways. You don’t need to be aggressive or angry  when you speak with them, but you do need to have resolve and stand firm in your stance that this is an issue for you and you don’t want to see it repeated. Sometimes copycat colleagues just need to know that you are on to them; once they know someone else has seen them with their hands in the cookie jar, they may decide you are no longer a good target for their antics.

If you have approached your colleague and put them on notice, but they still continue to damage your career by stealing your ideas, then it is time to go to your boss. You want to make them aware of the situation without coming across like a whiner, so it is advisable to go to them with proof of your accusations. Tell your boss about what is happening, give concrete examples and let your boss know that you’ve already addressed the situation with the copycat, to no avail.  Then, rather than asking your boss to do something about it, frame it as a request for guidance; you will look much more professional if you frame the message as “I have this situation going on, and I’d like to ask your guidance on how to proceed” rather than “This coworker is copying my work, it’s not fair and I want you to handle it!”

To learn more about the ESC and Workplace Culture, click here.
To measure your level of commitment to larger goals as demonstrated by ESC, click here.
To see tips for dealing with flash-based colleagues, click here.

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