Fellow employee using my work! Help!

So, a little background…I am a salaried employee of a national equine association and one of three graphic designers in the marketing department. Recently, after watching a fellow designer struggle for weeks to give the director and governing committees what they were asking for when designing a book cover (minimal at best PS skills, used pieces of other’s work to complete briefs) I mocked up a few that were more like what was being requested and sent them to my supervisor to review. They were then sent to the aforementioned designer who took it upon herself to use them in her mock-ups. She didn’t even bother to mock them to specs so now on top of her doing a hatchet job to my work, some of it will be cut off because of the way she set them up.

I am livid, to say the least, and am wondering if my supervisor is even allowed to do that, and how do I approach her and tell her how upset it makes me and that it could affect my reputation as a designer (I freelance on the side)? I don’t want this “less-skilled” designer’s work being mistaken for mine and it is a very close community that we are work in. I don’t know what to do.

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After it leaves your hands they can do with it as they please. If you wanted to put this piece in your portfolio, set it up properly in your portfolio, don’t be afraid to show a piece that went south if you can tactfully identify the issues of the finished piece.

When I interview candidates, I always ask people what their favorite piece is and what they don’t like about it. I also flip the question to see what they like about a piece they aren’t extremely proud of.


Thank you, I appreciate the input.

I know that according to copyright law since I am not freelance for them, I do not own the rights.

I guess what I am most frustrated about is:

  1. That her mocks could be mistaken for my work thus possibly damaging my reputation as an artist
  2. I don’t know how to tactfully tell my boss that this employee seems to be skating by on the work of others.

or should I just keep my concerns to myself and pray that they see this all the while I am taking on an increased work load to make up for this person’s lack of ability…

Were you asked to do this?
You need to let this person sink.

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^Right. If you did this:

…simply of your own initiative, without being asked to intervene, it could be where you went wrong. That’s not to say the spirit of helpfulness, or earnestly trying to offer viable solutions toward business objectives isn’t admirable and good. Unfortunately, in business, “admirable and good” often equate to “vulnerable and screwed.”

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1, is your name on the piece? Are you the AD or CD? If not, in my experience no one will know, care, or remember, especially if it’s not award winning or so bad it goes viral.

2, if your boss is worth their salt, they’re aware of the situation. If not, you’ll probably damage your own credibility for trying to sink a team member. I’d let it run its course. If you really want to do something about it, talk to your boss about hosting lunch and learns, so you and your team can train each other on topics/skills they are strong in.

IMO a weak team member is a direct reflection of their immediate manager; they probably hired them too which is why I suggest not pointing out their weaknesses to your boss.


Yep, I was asked to do it by the committes taht requested the piece from my department because they were getting frustrated at the quality of work that was being given to them up until that point.

My name is not on the piece but as previously mentioned, our community is very small. More of a niche community and many, many of my clients outside of my day job are also members of this organization and know I am on staff as a designer.

I am going to take your advice and back off of it, frustrating as it is, going back to freelance full time isn’t really a possibility. My boss is completely oblivious.’'Thank you all for your input. It’s nice to gleen outside perspective from others in the busines, I take my work very seriously as we all do and I just hate to see it damamged.

If it’s a small community, they’re most likely aware that you are not the only designer in staff, so they probably won’t associate you directly to that piece. Your reputation is more likely defined by direct interactions with clients, for example, the quality of the experience they had working with you, how happy they are/we’re with the results and the performance of the finished work as they perceive them.

Have you considered this ^ It sounds like your only option. That way if/when people say I’ve seen this before you can say I wasn’t consulted about the outcome of that project but this is what I would’ve done.

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Were you asked to do that or was it of your own initiative? I don’t know the situation, but did the less-than-competent person feel okay about this or might this person have been insulted or felt as though toes were stepped on by you in jumping into a project that wasn’t yours and, in the process, demonstrating his or her inability to complete the work?

I don’t blame you for being upset, but then again, it wasn’t your project to begin with, was it? Being a team player will not hurt your reputation. We’ve all worked on junk that will never make it into our portfolios; it just comes with the territory.

Fortunately, that work will be soon forgoten, doesn’t come with a credit line and doesn’t go in one’s portfolio. If, on the off chance, someone does mention it (which is unlikely), it’s easily explained by saying you were helping a co-worker and the team on a project that was failing and that you helped save. That alone will score you points.

As for whether or not your supervisor can do what she did, when you’re an employee, your work belongs to the company and they can do anything they want with it.

My best recommendation in all this is to lighten up and quit taking yourself, your situation and ownership of your work so seriously. It really doesn’t matter.

Yup! It’s a sad state of affairs, but being good at what one does and going the extra mile is not necessarily the road to success in a company. Being good at one’s job helps, but the best efforts of a hard-working design genius can be eclipsed by a run-of-the-mill conniving manipulator who uses whatever mean are necessary to slither up to the front of the line. It’s especially true and problematic when those further up the ladder are a bit clueless themselves and easily fooled.

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This kind of thing is so common in a workplace, the only way to avoid it is to not be in a workplace at all. This is not to say that your colleague is a “conniving manipulator”. She could perhaps just be insecure and under-confident about her skills, following orders and upset that she couldn’t do the job on her own.

When working in a team, one has to work with all sorts and take on various opinions and decisions on board that one doesn’t agree with. Which is frustrating, but the advantage is that the buck stops with the team leader, who not only gets all the praise when a project is a success but also the brickbats if the project is a failure. Very different from a freelance situation where the entire responsibility is yours. But why am I telling you all this? You know it already since you work in both ways.

Anyway, my point is that no one on the outside is going to say you are the person to blame for the bad design, or your colleague for that matter. It’ll all fall on your boss’s head. So, they need to figure out if they want gather a team that shows them in a good light or one that shows them in a bad light.

I was asked to do this by my supervisor. Ultimately it worked itself out late in the day yesterday so all is well.

I wasn’t there and don’t know the specifics, but I’m glad you got it resolved.

I’ve found it useful to imagine myself in the position of others when things like this happen. It must be extremely frustrating and discouraging for the person you mentioned who couldn’t do the work. And as a supervisor myself, I can understand the possible motivation of your supervisor trying to help a less-able employee get up to speed while also realizing that it’s her job to see that the work gets done, even when it sometimes means making people a bit unhappy.

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