The quote, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit,” is often attributed to President Harry S. Truman, but those of us who watch The West Wing know a staff speechwriter probably came up with it.
There’s something else to consider about the quote: is it even true? It seems like an honorable concept, but in reality, it holds significant implications for individual and collective morale, productivity, and the overall organizational culture. When we feel our efforts go unnoticed or are claimed by others, it can lead to frustration, demotivation, and a decline in overall job satisfaction.
We as professional women convince ourselves it doesn’t matter who gets the credit when we’re not being heard or recognized for our work, but how can we change that? Is there a strategy for saying, “Hey, that was my idea!” in a professional setting?
Benjamin Franklin said (or got credit for saying), “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s definitely easier to prevent credit-claiming from happening in the first place. Contribute in meetings. Propose new ideas. Point out holes (bonus points for solutions!). Don’t shy away from these opportunities; get comfortable with being heard.
It can be hard to find the balance between braggadocious colleague and knowing our worth. When we find ourselves in a situation in which we need to claim credit, think of it as less a reactive move to demand recognition for our work, and more of a show of courage in taking ownership of our work.
If you do find yourself in a situation in which a coworker has taken credit for an idea or work you’ve done, take a second to identify whether there is additional information the recipient needs or would appreciate. If so, find an opening in his or her schedule and say, “Great meeting earlier! It got me thinking about these additional points that might be helpful.” It won’t reclaim sole recognition, but it does re-insert you into the conversation about it. This also hopefully leads to you being a contributing partner and also demonstrates your willingness to be assertive and share ideas.
Let’s train ourselves to embrace our accomplishments and feel confident about claiming credit for our work, not only to affirm our professional capabilities but also to promote equality in the workplace. Confidence in claiming credit empowers us to be proactive, fostering a work environment where our talents are celebrated, amplified, and appreciated.