CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I work for an aggressive hi-tech PR agency in Silicon Valley. The culture here is highly competitive. While we all work on accounts as a team, there is a bonus structure in place that is based on your individual contribution - whether it is securing a great media placement, getting a solid lead on new business, or solving a particularly difficult communications issue for the client.

Q: I work for an aggressive hi-tech PR agency in Silicon Valley. The culture here is highly competitive. While we all work on accounts as a team, there is a bonus structure in place that is based on your individual contribution - whether it is securing a great media placement, getting a solid lead on new business, or solving a particularly difficult communications issue for the client.

Frankly, I thrive in this sort of environment.

The problem I have is with one of my colleagues. Let's just say I don't think he is all that hot at his job. I've been waiting for people to catch on to the fact that he's not as good as he seems to be. Well, that never happened.

In the past few weeks, though, I think I have discovered how he is getting by. I'm pretty sure he is stealing my ideas, and probably the ideas of other people too. For example, I saw him hovering around my desk while I was on the phone with one of our New York partners brainstorming about which reporter we should contact about a major announcement a client has coming up. All of a sudden in our next staff meeting my colleague is telling the MD we should tap the exact same reporter that I spoke about on the phone, for the same reasons I had suggested.

There are other examples, but I won't go into them here. Suffice it to say, I am convinced he is stealing my ideas and I'm as mad as hell about it. What should I do?

Mr. T. San Mateo, CA

A: This is a tough one. The example you cited is far from conclusive, but I do believe your self-preservation instincts are picking up something.

Unfortunately, there is little you can do about it other than to make sure you don't let any more great ideas slip out when your colleague is around. At the very least, make sure that you always have a third party present who can validate the intellectual property claim.

You are unlikely to ever have that marvelous Working Girl moment of sweet revenge when the idea thief crumbles and fumbles in front of the CEO, unable to explain the impetus for his idea. But if you starve him of information he'll have to find a new source. Hopefully, his supervisors will eventually spot his fundamental inadequacies. But don't be a tattletale - remember you can't actually prove anything.

Q: I am a fairly junior employee in the public affairs department of a large food company. I love my boss. She is really nurturing and positive.

She always lets me try different things and encourages me to take professional development courses to increase my knowledge base. Unfortunately for me, she is being promoted to a new position and I will report to one of the other division heads from now on. I have never worked with this guy before, but he has a reputation for being really hard on his staff. He demands tons of rewrites on all materials going out of the office. I really don't want to work for someone like that. Should I try and find another job?

Ms. B, Chicago

A: So, you've already made up your mind not to like your new boss? What an unfortunate attitude for a PR person to assume. You will inevitably find yourself working with all kinds of difficult people in the course of your career. Don't let the experience of other people color your expectations.

Try to approach your new boss with a fresh perspective and make up your own mind about how hard it is to work for him. You'd be surprised: you are bound to learn a lot from him.

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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