Is It More Important To Promote Myself or Promote the Team?

This week, The Simple Dollar attempts to address challenging questions in personal finance by looking at both sides of the story and figuring out some of the factors you need to look at to make a decision.

Reading a lot of career advice gives a person some strongly mixed messages. In one book or article, it will suggest putting the team first when handing out credit in all instances because it builds team spirit and loyalty. Other articles and books will suggest just the opposite – take as much credit as you can for good work.

The benefits of each are pretty obvious. Giving lots of credit to your team will make everyone involved feel better about the work – everyone likes getting credit for their achievements. On the other hand, taking credit yourself will often do more to bolster a career and get you in place for a promotion – or for a great resume. Let’s look carefully at both sides of the coin.

Give Credit to the Team

Have you ever worked with a person who tried very hard to take credit for as much work as possible, regardless of how much effort he or she contributed to the tasks? Usually, before long, that person was seen for what he or she is and was ostracized for it (unless they had exceptional social skills, I should note).

This ostracizing occurs because others don’t like to be treated as pawns in your game, and they will resent you for it. It’s simply the right thing to do to assign credit where credit is due, and to take some of that credit for yourself might bolster you in the short run, but it will eat you alive in the long run.

Not only that, giving credit to your team gives a strong positive impression of your character. A person who has the strength of character to stand up and say that this wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of others, and enumerating their efforts, almost always comes out on top.

Giving credit to others is always the right thing to do, so why would you choose otherwise?

Take Credit Yourself

In today’s competitive environment, where the average person works at eight jobs before they’re 32 years old, you need to maximize what you can get out of each job. Points for your resume, contacts, and letters of recommendation are all essential things to build at any job, and the best way to do that is to work hard and make sure you get credit for that work.

The average organization shows little loyalty to you, so why should you show loyalty in return? Essentially, we’re all contracted employees, and if we fulfill the terms of that contract well, we should get credit for that work.

Even more important, if you don’t stand up and take credit for the work, someone else assuredly will. If you allow that to happen, you might spend months and months working on a project and watch someone else get a promotion or a new contract because of your hard work. It’s your obligation to stand up and take credit for your work.

My Take

I, like most people, prefer to work in an environment where credit is shared among the entire team. Luckily, most places where I’ve worked have been that way, where the team members each credit the other members of the team for their success. It does nothing but bolster everyone when you do that, and it’s that philosophy that has led me to doing morning roundups on The Simple Dollar. Obviously, it’s fine to take credit for the work you do during performance reviews, but in other environments, you usually don’t gain much by taking too much credit without passing some credit off to others.

However, there are work environments where everyone is cutthroat and seeking to get ahead. I worked in such an environment once and couldn’t wait to escape, but while I was there, I gladly took credit for everything I possibly could with my supervisor. I wound up walking out the door with some impressive things on my resume and some letters of reference that were stunning.

In a nutshell, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. If you work in a cutthroat office and don’t stand up for the work you’re doing, rest assured someone else will take credit for it. However, if you start taking credit for the work of others in a non-cutthroat environment, you will be ostracized. For me, I find it’s much better to work in a collaborative environment where we all give each other a lot of credit for the roles we all play.

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