Reclaiming Credit for Your Success

Most of my entries in this space are all about how to be more productive and successful in your work and your life. And I’m a strong proponent of the notion that productivity and success come more readily when nobody much cares who gets the credit.

But there are times when it’s appropriate to make sure people know how much you helped complete a task or project successfully. This is the case most often when someone else steps in and claims some or all of the credit that rightfully belongs to you.

Of course, you might be willing to let this kind of greedy behavior slide once or twice. But if and when you feel someone is taking too much advantage of you – and perhaps even positioning themselves for a reward that ought to be yours – there are some tactful ways you can speak out.

Here are a few of the better ones:

I Enjoyed the Work

One of the simplest ways to assert your role in a successful task or project is to directly let people know you enjoyed doing the work.

Your options include the following:

  • Openly drop your feeling of enjoyment into one or more conversations.
  • Respond to praise of the task or project as a personal “thank you” for work you did.
  • Offer a public “disclaimer,” along the lines of: “I’m not looking for praise or even a thank you for all the hours I put into that effort.”
  • Publicly share something you learned from the work you performed on the task or project.

I’m Ready for the Next Challenge

Another approach to letting people know about your contribution to a task’s or project’s success is to take a forward-looking stance. Instead of focusing on what you’ve already accomplished, simply behave as though you’ve already been given the credit you deserve and start framing the work you’ve done as a springboard for whatever comes next.

For example, you can point to:

  • Specific skills you can apply to new work, now that you’ve polished them on the completed task or project.
  • Contacts you made while working on the completed effort that will help you succeed on tasks and projects to come.
  • Recognition you’ve received from others for your work that enhances your reputation and credibility going forward.

You can also project an attitude that conveys: “the work I did on the XYZ project was really instructive for me, so next time around I’ll know better how to proceed.”

Success Is a Team Effort

Here’s an approach that might fit particularly well when one person is claiming too much credit for the success of what was actually a team task or project. You can explicitly say something like: “I want to make clear I recognize and appreciate that our whole group contributed to the results we obtained.”

There are many other subtle and not-so-subtle ways to emphasize the importance of the teamwork that occurred, including such statements as:

  • “It’s the same as your favorite band; they wouldn’t make such good music unless everyone involved contributed something important.”
  • “Succeeding as we did requires both specialization and division of labor.”
  • “Succeeding as we did can happen only when everyone is pulling in the same direction.”
  • “None of us alone is as smart or capable as all of us working together.”  

I Want to Share

One additional strategy makes perhaps the strongest demand for rightful credit, because it openly acknowledges you have made important contributions that are not being properly valued.

To put this idea into words, you can say something like: “I worked really hard toward this result, and I would love the opportunity to share what I personally experienced along the way.”

Of course, when others try to steal your credit or downplay your contribution to a specific task or project, you may feel tempted to loudly complain or say something confrontational. And in some sense, you’d be justified.

But experience shows the best way to convey the truth of the situation is, rather than play the victim, to make a straightforward and heartfelt statement that accurately reflects what really happened.

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