You may have heard the thought that there is no end to what we could accomplish if we didn’t care who got the credit. (Ironically, that has been credited to President Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, writer Laing Burns, Jr. and several others.) It is sometimes stated with a slightly corrective tone when an employee is frustrated over not receiving recognition for work or when someone else incorrectly receives recognition for it. Then, we wonder why good people lose enthusiasm!
Giving credit or acknowledgement is a form of praise and it should be done correctly. If–as is often the case–raises, bonuses, promotions and perks are given on the basis of contribution, it is critical that credit is given to the right people and in the right way.
Giving credit where credit is due.
* If everyone in a group contributed close to equally on a project, don’t single out individuals for public praise. Supervisors and managers should express appreciation to individuals privately and refer to each person’s contributions when preparing formal commendations and performance evaluations. However, if everyone did their jobs effectively, keep the credit focused on the group and on the value of working together. (Also remember that a manager’s job is to monitor work–including work of ad hoc groups–to see to it that everyone does contribute effectively. )
*If individuals are given credit in public or private for specific work on a group project, make sure it is well-deserved. Especially make sure someone else who rightfully deserves the credit isn’t overlooked. It’s extremely demotivating for the wrong person to get credit for work. What makes it worse is that most good employees don’t want to sound as though they are looking for praise or taking credit, so they’ll keep quiet about it but feel deeply wounded.This is why it is so crucial that supervisors and managers are aware of the quality and quantity of work being done on a daily basis by each employee, as well as what they are contributing to group work.
*Do not give special praise just because someone is perpetually needy or is a squeaky wheel. Especially do not do so at the expense of the real contributors who quietly but effectively do the bulk of the work or who repeatedly save the day in a crisis. All employees have a strong sense of what is fair and what is not. Even those who are not involved can become demotivated over unfairness.
*A group coordinator may not deserve accolades for work the team has done. Often the person put in charge of a project receives most of the credit, whether or not they displayed leadership, made assignments and guided work, or even participated at all. Managers should praise the team as a whole or recognize each person for specific contributions, rather than automatically giving most of the credit to the person who was “in charge”, unless that person clearly was the guiding light for the work.
*The fact that someone says they are outstanding doesn’t make it so. It’s amazing how many otherwise savvy supervisors, managers and executives believe the self-aggrandizing stories of some employees–especially when the employees downplay the work of others who may not habitually seek bragging time with the boss. The next thing you know, the stories are repeated as truth and a positive reputation is built on nothing but self-reporting.
*Letting higher level managers know about the good work of individuals is a way to show loyalty to employees. If an employee works faithfully to make a group, section or project successful, the least the supervisor or manager can do is make sure higher level people know how dependable that person is–and how dependable they are in comparison to others. Otherwise, when it’s time for personnel decisions, the wrong choices are made and injustices are done. This is especially true when the manager with the knowledge is no longer there to report the facts. Documentation in a performance evaluation is good (and necessary), but nothing is as effective as using an employee’s name positively in a discussion about a project. Never make the mistake of thinking an employee doesn’t care who gets the credit–they almost always do!
*Giving credit when it is not deserved encourages mediocrity. Why should someone who is not being effective change their performance or behavior if they get as much or more credit as everyone else? Why should someone give 150% when the person who gave 50% receives the credit for the work?
*Internal motivators have to be nurtured. Much is said in management books about internal motivators being more compelling than external motivators. However, like the thought about not caring who gets credit, it doesn’t always stand up to scrutiny in real life.
External motivators (job titles, increased authority and responsibility, perks, bonuses, pay for performance, commendations, public praise and receiving credit) are important to almost everyone who works. Those are the things that nurture internal motivators in-between the praising. When someone deserves credit for work but they don’t receive it, or someone else receives it instead, internal motivators start drying up.
The bottom line: No doubt about it, if we didn’t care who got credit for our work, we’d probably approach it differently. Roll credits! wouldn’t matter to actors; politicians wouldn’t care whose name was on the legislation; athletes wouldn’t care who got credited with the game-saving play; writers wouldn’t care whose name was on the byline; researchers wouldn’t care who was credited with the lab or library work. As long as something good was being done for society, the team or the organization, it wouldn’t matter.
Life isn’t like that.
Give credit where credit is due and only where it is due.