Who Gets the Credit?

I’m working on that document project I mentioned back in Do You Want Feedback? We, the writing team, explained how we would pair-review and rewrite where necessary to use more of the tone and less casual language. And, more importantly, we would correct the problems the original editing created.

We did that last week. We all worked in pairs and resolved the tracked changes. I integrated the entire document. It took me maybe an extra couple of hours to integrate because not everyone had resolved all the tracked changes. I asked some questions, integrated the answers and created the entire document. (In Word, you copy one doc, paste it into the integrated doc. That’s it. Not a lot of work.)

On our meeting, our partners wanted to give me the credit.

No! That’s not right. I performed the role of DevOps or the people who push the product to the platform. I was the release person. I did not do all the hard work by myself.

I see this in organizations all the time. We give credit to the person who touched the work last. Or, the manager. Or someone other than the people who did the work.

We work with other people. If we want to acknowledge an accomplishment—a great idea—we need to acknowledge the entire team.

I do want recognition for my work. I bet you do, too. And, I don’t want to take credit for work I didn’t do.

Even on my book projects, I acknowledge all the people who helped me review and edit my book. I acknowledge the people who do the covers, indexing, and layout.

Very few projects are single-person projects. Why, then, are we so concerned with who gets the credit?

Credit and it’s first cousin, “accountability” reinforce our desire to work as individuals, so we can prove our value.

We had to prove our value in school, working alone. When we have individual objectives at work, we supposedly prove our value. I don’t buy it. When you measure an individual, you lose the value in the overall deliverable. Since much of the work is I see is inter-related, team-based work, that doesn’t make sense for me.

I want recognition from my peers about my contribution(s) to our work. I want recognition from my managers about our deliverables and how those deliverables make a difference.

When we insist on giving individuals credit (or blame), we reinforce the idea that “I did my job.” We decrease our ability to work as a team, delivering what the organization needs.

I prefer to think about, “What do we need now?” and adapt as we proceed. I don’t want to hear, “I did my job,” as if that job never changes. I don’t know about you, but my role is flexible on many projects and my deliverables change all the time.

Let’s consider the difference between credit and recognition, and who provides what kind of recognition. (If I write about this on my Managing Product Development blog, I’ll cross-link to this post.)

That is the question this week: Who gets the credit?

7 thoughts on “Who Gets the Credit?

  1. Tomas

    What I have observed was that giving credit at the end was a substitute for doing meaningful work. In other words, the less real value was in the work, the more credit giving at the end from the management. Probably they (who would have guessed that!) have at least small little bits of conscience and see it as a way how to “apologize” for meaningless work (or how to reaffirm that the work had some tremendous value for them).

    Other that that I don’t believe we should be giving credit to individuals (unless we are really talking about individual achievements, which is extremely improbbable in anything knowledge-related), we should give recognition to them based on contributions they’ve made towards the success of the whole team. And yes, the best recognitions come from one’s teammates :).

    1. johanna Post author

      Hi Tomas, I’m glad I wasn’t drinking my water when I read your remarks. I would have snorted the water through my nose!

      For me, too often, this business of credit is much more CYA (Cover Your Tush).

  2. Jim Grey

    I’ve wanted to make sure credit was shared — to a fault, to the point where my own significant contributions were not noticed or understood.

    You know you’re not taking enough credit when your HR person comes by your office to have a conversation with you about how you would do well to claim your own accomplishments more.

    I genuinely do care more that the work get done and we do it as a team than whether I get credit for anything. But what I’ve learned is that there really are times when I do well to make some spotlight shine on myself. So much of what I do — making processes work, making teams better — is like air. When you don’t have it, it’s an emergency. But five minutes after you get it back, you adapt to it and forget it even exists.

    1. johanna Post author

      Jim, oh boy. Yes, you do need to get credit for your work and not take credit for other people’s work. Our orgs can make that challenging, as you explained.

  3. Sascha Demarmels

    Thank you for this post. I know this sort of thing from publishing papers at the university: There were professors (not mine though) that didn’t do anything (about the subject in the paper) but their names magically appeared in first place while the hard working research associate was last in line. Lately my name appeared on a paper I haven’t even known about. I was very astonished. They said, I worked in the project, so they put my name on it. The list of names could get very long.

    Now the discussion is whether there should be a restriction on how many people can be mentioned as authors on a paper. Imagine what happens if there really are involved eight people in writing it and only four get credit for it. I think it is a really sad thing that recognition has become a quantitative means of work rather than a qualitative one of engagement (in a team). Most people probably don’t get work done just to get the credit but what if you have to get the credit to get the salary or keep your job?

    1. johanna Post author

      Sascha, what a challenge. I’m the technical editor for agileconnection.com, and I see this kind of thing all the time. I like the way you explained this:

      credit is a qualitative means of work rather than a qualitative one of engagement in a team

      My opinion: MBOs (Management By Objectives) are to blame for a lot of this. Guess I’d better write that post on my other blog…

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