The Power of Credit

by Tracy Keck

I have to be honest—the idea of “getting credit” immediately conjures in my mind the image of a somewhat whiny, self-important, perhaps not-quite-adult. Someone who doesn’t want to put effort into something if she’s not going to get recognized for it; doesn’t want to attend an enriching event if it’s not going to score her some bonus points. But I recently had an experience that enlightened me on just how much power there is in giving credit where credit is due.

I was in a meeting with the director of my department, the vice president over our area, and our company’s CEO—basically my direct chain of command. I was definitely at the bottom of this meeting’s totem pole.

We were there to get direction from the CEO about a large problem one of our projects was facing. She hadn’t been involved in prior discussions on the problem, so our vice president brought her up to speed, presenting the issue and the various consequences it could have. And then our vice president said, “Tracy thought of a great possible solution to this—Tracy, why don’t you explain it?” I explained my suggestion, the CEO agreed it was our best course of action, and we’re proceeding in that way.

The rest of the day I felt like a million bucks—not because I had had a good idea, but because our vice president had made a concerted effort to help the CEO recognize the contributions of the person with the least authority in the room. The VP could have just as easily—and justifiably—said something like, “Our suggestion is to . . .” or “One idea we’ve had is . . .” and presented the solution herself. I probably wouldn’t have thought anything of it. But I was surprised just how much of an impact it made on my own feelings of worth and value to get called out as the one with the idea and to be invited to present it.

This point of this long, rambling story is to share the lesson I learned: it is so easy to give a little bit of credit and recognition when somebody has contributed something, and that tiny bit of effort from you can make a big difference to somebody else.

At first I wondered if I was a bit silly or juvenile to be SO excited about getting credit in front of three professionals I admire. But then last week at a company awards ceremony, I saw colleagues with decades of experience and career advancement moved to tears when they were publicly recognized and applauded for their contributions, and I realized that getting recognition beyond a paycheck is something we all need from time to time. When it comes down to it, getting credit is a small and simple form of getting validation of your worth, and if Abraham Maslow knew anything about anything, that is essential.

I want to remember this experience when I am the one higher up on the totem pole or trying to find ways for my team to feel more valued and needed. It took only a few words from our vice president to teach a powerful example of helping those below us on their way up the ladder rather than keeping ourselves a safe distance above them.

How do you strive to incorporate credit and praise of other employees into your professional interactions in a natural way? What experiences have you had with getting credit—positive or negative?

2 Comments on “The Power of Credit

  1. I think that’s fantastic. I worked for a boss I really liked, but she tended not to give credit, or notice me much. I was glad of the job so it wasn’t a huge issue, but once I took care of two big company events in a row. She wasn’t there and except for signing the expense report she didn’t do anything. When it was done, she said “We did a good job” and honestly it hurt a little. I got over it because I realized she had done all of those things for years before I was hired and it was hard for her to give them up, even though she had lots more to do and was far above me in seniority. It would have felt great to have her say something, even if she didn’t tell anyone else. But I do think that if you work hard and don’t try to get credit, eventually you will be noticed without having to call attention to yourself. It’s happening for me now and I think it’s okay it took so long.

  2. I have been in situations where I wasn’t given credit for my hard work/contribution/ideas, and situations where I was. In fact, when asked how I like to be recognized, I now know to say that I like to receive credit for my work. It is very powerful, and it is FREE. I hope that I can recognize others and give them credit, the way that my leaders have done that for me.

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