Catching up on my reader feed, I caught this article on Harvard Business Review about Stopping Theft at Work.  At first I thought we were talking pens and paper, but the article focuses on a much more troubling (and more common) type of work theft: stealing credit from others.

Stealing recognition from your co-workers might tempt the narrow-sighted and selfish.  It elevates one’s importance in the eyes of management.  You may come across as the “person who can bring people together and get things done.”  And from a project manager’s position, it’s easy to do because it’s our job to finish problems.  So why not say “I did this” instead of “the team did this?”

The answer to most, I hope, is obvious.  Stealing credit through false puffery has a positive short-term effect, but harmful long-term effect.  It destroys collaboration and cooperation – why work together if someone else is just going to claim everything as her work?  It decreases motivation – I’m not recognized for what I do, so why bother?  Finally, it makes the thief look bad – I never want to work with that glory-hogging boss again.

I know there are employees out there who routinely steal credit and have climbed the corporate ladder.  I also know that these individuals have little to no respect from the people they’ve worked with before.  Their names are whispered at conferences and informal get togethers as a joke.  And in the end, I have never seen these people produce anything of value of their own.  Any pride they feel in their work is simply the pride of someone who knows how to take away something from someone else.

So my advice – don’t be a recognition thief.  Pass credit where it is due, and also, take credit for the things you do actually accomplish.  When you focus on what you’re doing and then see what your team has accomplished together, it will be more than enough to advance your career and boost your self-worth.

-Deborah Fike

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