I had worked hard on a new sales prospect; I had chased this customer for over 3 months relentlessly, including weekend visits which had become the norm to build relationships with stake holders. Finally, this Fortune 10 ranked customer signed on the dotted line signalling a major win for me/us. I was thrilled with this as my first sales win with my new employer. The company’s product head who had worked alongside me for this deal called me and instructed me to send out a communication to all my colleagues announcing the good news, which I promptly did to all the key people in the organisation. Soon enough the responses started pouring in. Even the CEO wrote back copying few others not included in the first communication.
I was elated with the ‘arrived’ feeling until my boss came into the office and called me aside. He was upset, and asked why due credit wasn’t given to two others who were part of a different business group but had played a significant role in the deal. He claimed the lead was initiated and passed on by one team member and the first meeting with the customer was handled by the other. Yes, I had built all the compelling reasons for the customer to buy, but a few subtle movements had occurred before I took over and it seemed they deserved mention 🙂 My initial reaction was “Oh c’mon’ nobody has even met the customer in the last 3 months except me”. But as a newcomer in the company I did not realise the impact of acknowledging others who played a part in the deal. My boss ensured that I “replied all” to mention the two other staff members acknowledging their contribution. The product manager who was aware of the series of events sent a smiley back. I felt embarrassed and needless to say the relationship with my new boss did not begin well.
Couple of years later, I had moved onto a new assignment. There was a big client win announced by my successor. A prospect which I had invested a lot of time in had been handed over and was converted. My colleague did not even in passing acknowledge my contribution. I sent him a smiley back and this time he replied to me acknowledging that I had initiated the work. I can’t remember if he thanked me and nor did he communicate to others who were congratulating him, my role in the deal. I was on the receiving end of this behaviour and that day I realised how difficult it is to acknowledge the contribution of others and what it felt like. What goes around, comes around!
This has been a life lesson and I now never fail to acknowledge other colleagues’ achievements and contribution to my successes. I fear that in every achievement there must be someone who was not given due credit. Sometimes when I dig deep and ponder, the revelations only reinforce this belief.
So why is it so hard to give credit where it is due? I can understand the challenges sales folk have as sometimes incentives may be impacted if you share the credit. But we see people shying away from giving credit to others even when there is no monetary impact to them. I don’t think it is an individual’s fault but rather the fault of societal norms. The blame lies in the society we have grown up in, our school, our upbringing, the leaders we work with, past employers, organisation culture and even our parents for this chronic behaviour.
There are many ways in which we are less than generous when recognising our colleagues.
- Selectively mentioning people (so that if it goes out of hand we can retrieve it as a miss)
- Leaders talking about themselves rather than the soldiers who worked hard (you have probably heard this before)
- Only recognising the task accomplished, with no acknowledgment to specific individuals – no names basis recognition (we need to remember people achieve – not products or processes)
- Some of us just don’t remember to give credit when it is due and we rationalise saying that we are tough to please or habitually forgetful. (I take shelter here sometimes)
So how do we make our work world a place where we are liberal when giving ‘credit’ to others? I doubt if there is a perfect script or an organisation where due credit is given to all in collective wins or project completions. It is always hard to please everyone all the time and there is every possibility that someone will be forgotten or a few who will feel left out. But it is possible to create an organisation where people share the credit in healthy manners. Some ideas are below:
- The leaders of the organisation are oriented constantly on the need to recognise people and a culture of celebration; of course without having to create a diabetes like atmosphere where they appreciate everything
- There is an atmosphere of trust and respect which is harnessed amongst leaders and managers so that they feel less threatened and insecure. Let’s hope they will pass on the same to all of us.
- If all of us have the guts to ask our supervisor every month on ‘one’ thing which they would like to appreciate us for. This will ensure our appreciation comes from the most important source and we don’t crave for too much credit from others
Personally I too struggle on giving credit to others. It has always been a huge personal/cultural challenge for me to acknowledge others contribution in my world