You're doing all the work and someone else is taking all the credit. It's not only unfair, but it could impact your career. Handling the situation requires tact, diplomacy and a plan.
By Leslie Stevens-Huffman | December 2007
Among the first things to consider: Who's grabbing the credit and how can you stop them - or at least mitigate any adverse impact.
"It matters a great deal whether the person grabbing the credit is a boss or a co-worker, because it's much easier to deal with a co-worker on this issue than it is a boss," points out Marie G. McIntyre, an Atlanta-based organizational psychologist, author, consultant and owner of the firm Your Office Coach. "It's harder not only because they're your boss and they can determine whether you work for the company, but because workers are hired to make their bosses look good." However, she notes, "good bosses should always pass along credit to others."
Here are some tactics to help you gain both the recognition and credit you deserve.
Dealing With Co-Workers
1. Control the Information Flow
Give your boss regular updates about your work and examples of how you're contributing to team results. Your actions won't be completely viewed as self-serving. Because bosses want to know what's going on, you'll be considered helpful when you pass along informative tidbits. Also, request to review drafts of any correspondence or reports being produced with others, and be certain to add your name if it's been left off.
2. Play 'Keep Away'
If you know you're working with a credit hog, don't feed him any ideas or give him access to your work product. Protecting yourself, especially in dog-eat-dog corporate cultures, is a must-have workplace survival technique.
3. The Gentle Correction
So you're in a meeting, and your co-worker makes a presentation highlighting team results and leaves out your name. Find a way to comment and casually toss your name into the credit ring. For example: "You know Bob brings up a great point. When I was conducting project research, I also came to the same conclusion."
4. The Direct Approach
With credit grabbing co-workers, you may have to ask for your fair share of recognition in a private meeting. Citing examples will help focus the discussion on real situations, instead of emotion or perception. Says McIntyre: "Have your emotions under control during the meeting and simply ask to be recognized for your efforts."
Dealing with Bosses
1. Manage Up - Subtly
Find opportunities to get exposure to your boss' superiors. Volunteer for assignments or participate in a task force - anything to gain visibility and let the bigwigs know about your contributions.
2. Ask to Tag Along
If you know your boss will be speaking about project results at a meeting, ask if you can attend or make a brief presentation highlighting your contributions. At the very least, ask that your name be included on reports or in presentations as a member of the contributing team.
3. Request Recognition
This might be the last approach you should consider: If more subtle attempts to gain recognition fail, ask your boss directly for credit. Don't say that he's hogging the glory, instead ask if he thinks you're contributing, then ask to be recognized. If you frame your request for recognition in a way that seems fair, it will be harder for your boss to refuse.
"IT professionals in particular have to learn the art of self-promotion and make certain that they don't stay locked in their cubicles," says McIntyre. "The more visibility you have and the more you let people know about your contributions, the harder it will be for anyone to grab credit from you."
Although credit grabbers can exist in any type of culture, there are some environments where their behavior seems to flourish. Before laying out your strategy, it helps to understand why these folks can sometimes become pervasive in a workplace.
"Have people been 'set up' or even sanctioned to tear each other down, to try to win at the other person's expense, or otherwise act disrespectfully?" asks Daniel Robin, principal and founder of Daniel Robin and Associates, a workplace consulting firm in Santa Cruz, Calif. "Though this is often accepted as part of a 'tough' culture, it isn't as productive in the long run as structuring around all-win teamwork and collaboration."
Robin adds that a lack of workplace accountability will cause people to grab credit from each other because the structure that identifies and tracks performance isn't working. In these types of cultures, Robin recommends establishing win-win partnerships and more boundaries around work agreements to help reign in credit grabbers.
"Create better job definitions and agreements so that proper credit is endemic to doing a good job," says Robin. "Everyone needs clear boundaries and a sense of ownership to do their job well.
Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a freelance writer based in Irvine, Calif. who has more than 20 years experience in the staffing industry.