Frenzied and frantic employees may see borrowing someone else's words, ideas or products and presenting them as their own as the quick and easy path to success. This work "borrowing" is also known as plagiarism and it can lead the company down a path to lawsuits and reputation damage. Plagiarism in the workplace can resemble a chameleon as it changes shades to match the industry.
When you think about plagiarism, you probably think about writers stealing stories from other writers. Beyond literary endeavors, using reports, ad campaigns, brochure content or memos written by others and not giving the creator credit earns you the plagiarist title. Whether you are stealing a stranger's work, a subordinate's or the competition's work, the act is an ethical and legal infringement, whether you use just a few lines written by someone else or an entire document. Plagiarizing a copyrighted work can lead to fines and time in jail.
Behind every program is a detailed list of code that may have taken the creator years to perfect. Even something as innocuous as video game avatar has value to the creator. While a certain amount of code copying is common in cases where there is only one way to program an action, the secrets behind the creation of proprietary software are protected by copyright laws. That cute little avatar may be recognized by millions, but using it to promote your own pet project without permission can lead to game over for your career.
Whether you are an engineer designing a new steel structure, an architect drawing plans for a new commercial building or a graphic designer creating the cover art for a marketing brochure, you are naturally inspired by the work of others. When you use that inspiration to create a design that so closely mimics the original that others question your originality, you may have stepped over the line from influenced to copycat.
Marketing your services and products is tough. You must target your consumer carefully and building a campaign around what speaks to the consumer. At the same time, you have to know your competition, and when you see an idea work for the competition, you may be tempted to use that idea to your advantage. If you fail to tweak the idea into something new, you may be guilty of plagiarizing the idea.