Not getting credit for one's contributions to work can be a massive pet peeve, and a morale-draining experience if repeated. Sure, there are tasks we all have to do; and hopefully, those lead to things we want to do. But being acknowledged for executing a difficult or time-consuming project to a high-standard is a great feeling — even if it seems silly.
Complimenting a colleague is one of the best ways to build sense of trust and belonging on teams, while doing the opposite — shutting people out — can eventually lead to an erosion of work. Why perform at Level 10 if that work will only be claimed by someone else, or shrugged at?
Many people related to that sense of resignation in a recent Humans of New York post on Facebook, in which an anonymous man discussed his work metamorphosis.
"I've been at the same company for nine years. I should have moved up by now. But I've just never been good at office politics," he shared. "I assumed my work ethic and performance would be enough. But some people are just better at getting recognized. They ingratiate themselves with the boss. They have no problem taking credit for other people's work. They'll diminish your accomplishments and inflate their own."
"I'd never go that far," he continued, "but I'm not waiting to get noticed anymore. If I beat a deadline, solve a tough problem, or get great feedback from a customer — I'm copying upper management on the email."
Thousands of people liked the post in agreement; many readers recognized themselves in what he shared, saying, "Amen," or "This is almost my exact situation."
The anonymous HONYer might not be totally serious when he mentions copying upper management on every moment of good feedback. (Depending on his work environment, doing so could read as run-of-the-mill ambitious, or remarkably passive aggressive. After all, email warfare is tricky business.) But there's nothing wrong with putting oneself out there for kudos, rather than assuming the praise will come — especially for women.
Several studies have shown that on team projects, women receive far less credit for their contributions than men do. One study from a Harvard economist suggested that in academia, "when women work on a paper exclusively with other women, that penalty disappears. When men and women collaborate, however, men seem to soak up all the credit from the women."
Additionally, researchers have found that women are hesitant to emphasize their talents and contributions for fear of overestimating their abilities. "For decades, women have misunderstood an important law of the professional jungle. It's not enough to keep one's head down and plug away, checking items off a list. Having talent isn't merely about being competent; confidence is a part of that talent. You have to have it to excel," wrote Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, authors of Womenomics.
Compounded with women's tendency to deflect credit — especially when collaborating with men — and the work they do becomes all but invisible. Amy Schumer's skit on women's tendency to diss themselves into oblivion rather than accept a compliment is hilarious for exactly that reason, and it's funny until the aftershock hits our paychecks.
There are certainly myriad reasons many women struggle to accept or claim due praise — including that they are still penalized for asserting themselves. It's clear, though, that resigning oneself to silence doesn't help anyone. Check out Alison Green's tips for getting credit in "Ask A Manager," diplomatically address the scene-stealer head on, or get your forward/CC email finger ready. Just don't play dead.