This is by far the most common feedback I have gotten as a manager in my career – more or less in those exact words. And I admit that I have used those exact words with my managers in my early days. It is a challenge for both employees and managers to move past this feeling of bitterness. Both parties need some reality checks usually before they move on.
At some point – most people realize that chasing credit is not a good use of their time. But people take their own time to get to that realization. Here are some random thoughts on how to deal with this.
The more you give, the more you get
As long as they really mean it – I would encourage managers to not withhold giving credit. Caveat : Just don’t give empty praise – that will get viewed as an insult at some point.
Over time, everyone will know who deserved the credit for a given result. So if you steal credit – do so knowing that your reputation will take a hit one day soon, and that you almost instantly will lose the loyalty of the employee from whom you stole the credit. So if you are considering taking more than your fair share of credit – do yourself a favor and stop now.
The repetition problem
Credit essentially means someone says “good job”, and the employee can “cash in the good will” some later day. What usually gets missed in the process is that gratitude from managers and others diminish with repetition. If you pull a rabbit out of a hat – people will applaud. Do it again, and you might get another round of applause. But if you are able to do it again and again – even if it involves great skill, your chance of getting a great round of applause will decrease. Corporate world is not fair – and the sooner we get it, the better our chances of staying sane.
If you need credit – you better keep learning new tricks. And teach the old tricks to the next person in line. You need to do both – if you learn new tricks without training someone in the old tricks, you will be stuck with the old and new job. As counter intuitive as it might sound at first – you won’t go very far up the chain if you make yourself irreplaceable. Not everyone wants to move up – but then they should reduce their expectation of seeking explicit gratitude for what they think as exceptional work. Did I say it is a very unfair world ?
Knowing when to say yes and no
Saying yes to everything is a sure shot way of making sure people give you absolutely no credit pretty soon. And then it becomes really hard to cope with the ensuing bitter feeling. This is typically what happens to the “nice” people. I still fail at this more often than I succeed.
You have to learn to say no when you need to – and you need to stand firm.
Being a nice person is not the sole reason to say yes all the time – sometimes it is just fear. Some managers rule by fear. And sometimes the manager will be quite ok, but the employee will be afraid nevertheless (usually a “once bitten , twice shy” case). But you seriously need to get over it – or else people will walk all over you.
I like to say yes most of the time. I will say yes as long as it is reciprocated . But if I see the behavior is one way only – I start evaluating more before I say yes or no. With my managers – I adapt more given I know they have a more complex schedule than my own. But even there – if I see back to back repetitions of one-way behavior, I will start being cautious of what I say yes to. It is not something I have mastered – and a lot of variables are at play in any situation. But I certainly say no to things way more today than I did 10 years ago.
There is always a bull market somewhere
If all your efforts fail and you are miserable – you should remember that there is always another team, another manager or another company that might value you. And you don’t need to wait till you are miserable to start that search.
I always encourage people to know your second line managers well. The very best managers I have had in my career always were happy to introduce me to their bosses. If your second line manager does not have time for you ever, it is usually not a good situation for you. Don’t walk – run 🙂 . If your direct manager does not have time for you – then don’t just run – you should fly !
Pay it forward
The best managers I worked for in my career never hesitated to give me credit when I did something good. They also kicked my butt (sometimes real hard) when needed. And they encouraged me to do the same for the people I managed. It still took me a good while to see the “pay it forward” way of looking at it. I know first hand by now that it works very well over time – and it is very gratifying to have played a small part in someone else’s success and happiness.