Opinion | Credit hoggers only get smaller in stature
Sharing the credit makes you a respected rival, and a trusted colleague
I am licking my chops in anticipation of The Wife’s release on Indian screens. Tipped to be the film that will finally get Glenn Close her Oscar, it is based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer and tells the story of the repressed wife of a superstar author who is flying to Helsinki to receive the Nobel prize for literature. The wife has mixed feelings about this development, and it isn’t a spoiler at all to tell you that this is because her husband is less than noble, a cheater in more ways than one and that basically she has written all his books.
Credit theft is a tricky beast, and one that flourishes in the modern workplace. We have all been “The Wife” in some situation or the other, and we have all been “The Husband” too, and we know that (just like in the film) these are grey, nebulous areas. Sometimes somebody prepares the presentation deck, while somebody else makes the actual presentation. Sometimes somebody has an idea and not the time/energy/resources/brand to push it through, and so somebody else is charged with executing it. Sometimes somebody draws out the broad strokes and somebody else fills in the little details. And, of course, sometimes it is a clear case of blatant, open, credit theft which goes unchallenged because the people doing the stealing just happen to be the people with the most power, who can have closed-door meetings with people that the person whose idea it actually is, is not in a position to access.
That’s why we must always take the trouble to ask, when a great idea is presented to us, as to who actually came up with it. No matter how pressed for time we are, this, if not specifically mentioned by the presenters, must always be something we demand clarity on.
Personally, I believe credit theft is on a par with embezzlement or sexual harassment at the workplace and should be investigated as zealously. Because there’s usually a whole bunch of stuff going down at any given moment, we sometimes tend to get a little blasé and eyeroll-ish about it, and treat the person complaining of it (if they have the agency to complain at all) as whiners. This is dangerous, because then the “whiners” go away and grumble in closed group and corridors. People pick sides and demotivation, paranoia and negativity spreads like a wild rash and after that you might as well just print some Aam Aadmi party caps and resign yourself to open, raging politics.
What complicates things is that usually, an idea is like Meryl Streep’s daughter Sophie in Mamma Mia!. There are several people who could claim (very legitimately!) to be her father. Output is always a function of input, and it is usually because a bunch of people were holed up in a conference room together and somebody said something, which lead to somebody else adding something, which somebody else built on, that, bam, leads to somebody coming up with something. And so this birthing must be celebrated, with all players named and credited. This parable must be told and retold as lovingly as we tell the story of the birth of Jesus, or Janmashtami, or Father Of The Bride II.
I think the best way to do it is to always be lavish. Include everybody. Be like the drunk, happy, first-time winner at the Oscars who pulls out a list as long as his arm and, with blissful disregard to how much he’s boring the audience, thanks everybody who had even a remote role in bringing him to this moment of glory.
Sharing the credit never makes anybody smaller. In fact it makes you a bigger person, a loved boss, a respected rival and a trusted colleague. Credit really is like one of those mythical wonder foods that they keep going on about on those shady, miracle weight-loss internet sites. The more you hog of it, the smaller you get.
Wine to five is a weekly column featuring the random musings of a well-irrigated, middle management mind. Anuja Chauhan is an author and advertising consultant.