“Nice work on the proposal,” fellow leaders had said to me after the meeting was over that day. “The leadership team really loved it.”
I suppose that it was nice to have received the “nice work” praise via email after the meeting. It would have been nicer if I was in the meeting and had been able to present my work. And yet, leadership meeting after leadership meeting, I pulled together deck after deck for a former leader who would never invite me to the meeting, despite my many attempts to ask for a seat at the table. He would present the work on his own, throwing some sprinkles of credit my way (mostly on the days he was in a good mood.)
Like many leaders, throughout the course of my career, I have had my work stolen from me, I have had ideas taken from me. I have also put together countless proposals and recommendations that I have been asked to send up the chain,
only to later see these recommendations be put into action without a single mention of my name as the originator. Sadly, many of us get used to this type of behavior in very large, highly hierarchical, and overly political organizations.
However, what I find the worst, most growing offense, is pretending to give someone credit. You pretend to give someone credit to absolve yourself of the guilt, the shame, that gnawing feeling that yes, you did steal someone else’s idea, and you will throw some credit their way even though the hard work belongs entirely to them and you made no contributions. You offer them a footnote at the very end, after you have taken their words, their thoughts, their images, and presented them as your own.
Like the fake apology, the fake thank you, and the fake how are you. These fake, inauthentic, and pretend gestures seem to be a check the box exercise so we can pretend to do the right thing, forget about it, and move on, rather than taking the time to properly give individuals the credit they deserve.
Like the email that says “thanks for your help on this project” when you in fact did more than help, you in fact did all of the work. You led the project.
Like having your name listed last as a contributor on a research paper, even though you did the majority of the work.
Like your boss chuckling and publicly stating, “sure, this was Mita’s idea, but I made it so much better,” even though he wanted nothing to do with the work until others started taking notice.
Like sitting in a meeting and receiving the standard “thanks for your help with this recommendation,” yet not being able to present it.
And my most recent example of pretending to give credit is the ever-growing phenomenon of stealing other people’s content in social channels, only for you to be tagged and be a footnote at the end.
Recently, I posted on LinkedIn my view on an article I had read. This was a unique post, a few hundred characters of my own thoughts, including signature Brown emojis and hashtags I normally use. A LinkedIn user copied the entire contents of my post, including a one-line personalized opening, and at the very end tagged me. The way in which the content was presented made it seem like their own; they pretended to give me credit” at the end. Copying the brown emojis and all (even though from my scrolling of their content, I don’t believe they had ever recently used a Brown emoji from what I could see.)
So How Do We Properly Give Credit?
So many of us have been taught the famous quote from Charles Caleb Colton, a priest for the Church of England, who once said: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Imitation is only the highest form of flattery when proper credit is given to the individual who inspired you to imitate them in the first place. So please don’t pretend to give us credit. Please just give us the full credit we all deserve.