Though talk of plagiarizing consequences is often focused on the academic world, it has serious repercussions in the professional world as well. Any time you use the words, phrases, images or written ideas of another and present them as your own, it is considered plagiarism, and depending on the circumstances and severity, can be an actionable offense.
Plagiarism, in all its forms, is stealing. It can damage your reputation and your credibility and have a severe negative impact on your career. Plagiarism calls your honesty and professionalism into question, and might result in your exclusion from high-profile projects or advancement opportunities. In severe cases of blatant and intentional plagiarism, you might even get suspended or lose your job.
Fairness to Colleagues
Plagiarism isn’t just about repurposing content from a source outside your company. If you attempt to take credit for a colleague’s idea or concept, this, too, represents a form of plagiarism. Not only does this create ill will between you and co-workers, it also runs the risk of alienating you from colleagues if no one wants to work with you.
Depending on the type of plagiarism committed, there could be severe legal consequences, particularly if copyright violations take place. Plagiarism relates not only to the written word, but to images and online content, including blogs, music and web copy. Repurposing or reusing someone else's content without giving credit for the material is not limited to word-for-word copying; it also applies to paraphrase passages and content in which words and phrases are slightly rearranged.
Plagiarism hurts your company's reputation. Even a hint of impropriety has the potential to cast a bad light on the business. Plagiarism can also be costly to a company if it has to reproduce plagiarized materials. For example, if portions of an annual report include plagiarized information from another source, the company must recall the reports, destroy them, rewrite the plagiarized copy, print and redistribute. This is time-consuming as well as embarrassing.
Why People Plagiarize
Employees who plagiarize don’t necessarily know they are doing anything wrong. In some instances, they might not know how to appropriately conduct research or cite sources. If this is the case, it’s important for management to understand the circumstances so appropriate training can be put in place.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.