Giving and taking credit

In my new job, I often host events—meetings, discussion groups and the like. Sometimes I invite folks to events that are more social in nature, like a breakfast or cocktail party.

I recently invited a group of senior women in our company to a cocktail party. They were all attending another meeting and the idea behind the cocktail party was to hold a networking event to take advantage of their presence at the bigger event.

It was so much fun! This was the first time this group had met each other and the energy in the room was spectacular. At one point, I stood to the side and watched the participants talk, laugh and connect with each other—I was happy we organized it. And at the end, each attendee thanked me, genuinely pleased to have been invited.

“Denice, this is such a great idea. Thank you so much for the invitation,” said one participant.

“You’re welcome,” I replied. “But, it wasn’t my idea. It was Rosa’s.” I couldn’t take the credit for this—it would have made me feel terrible. I was getting all the thanks just because I sent out the invitation.

Rosa asked me later why I gave her the credit for the idea; she was really OK with me taking the credit for it. And, I understand this—very often it’s important that the team takes the credit for something and not single out one person on the team. This wasn’t one of those moments; she deserved the credit.

During our work life, we are so often in this position—when a success is attributed to one person, when in fact it may belong to another. This makes me unhappy at work. Not just because it’s unfair, though it is. It makes me unhappy because you miss something really special when you don’t give credit where it is due. And it also causes mistrust between colleagues—how much can you trust someone who deliberately takes credit for something you’ve done?

Rosa was slightly embarrassed as I kept telling everyone who thanked me that it was her idea. I thought about her reaction later and I understood it. Being part of a team is drummed into us; it feels awkward or uncomfortable to take sole credit for something.

But, if you’re the person who deserves the credit, my advice is: take it. You earned it. Be proud that you’ve done something that’s worth getting the credit for—and when it’s your turn to give credit to someone else, remember how good it feels to be recognized for doing something well. It also strengthens the bonds of the team when you support each other in this way. This is a great way to be happy at work!

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