How To Protect Your Credit

Dear Debra: We agree on roles and responsibilities in our team meetings. Then two people, in cahoots go off, change the rules, put their names on our team’s work, and hog credit. Later, after they’ve already been recognized as project drivers by supervisors, they play dumb when we, their team members, try and call them on it. How can we stop sneaky, passive aggressive credit-stealing behavior without coming across as whiners?

Before any group project begins, get explicit written agreements that specify how responsibilities, financial rewards, and credit will be apportioned.

This doesn’t mean that you make others sign a contract. It doesn’t mean that you have to call in the head of Human Resources or your attorney. It does mean that you are instrumental in getting discussions going about roles that will be played and how the spoils will be shared. You can then get it in writing yourself, through memos or e-mails that YOU write and send.

Here’s how to do it.  After meetings and discussions, be the so-called secretary who writes down what was discussed—focusing on any pertinent information that will protect and credit your contribution. Circulate e-mails to everyone who was there. Send to higher-ups or to clients any relevant big-picture information that you’d like to be sure gets noticed, which will keep them current on what you and your team are up to. Additionally, always—make that always—write down what is said in meetings and date it. Relentlessly document. Write down the time and date of someone’s voice-mail, if it’s an important one. Save all of your documentation where you can easily find it, even if you don’t need it for a year or two.  It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just make sure you keep a record of what you did that worked. 

Facts and dates and numbers are hard to argue with if you find yourself having to play hardball with ethically challenged, go-for-the-throat credit thieves.

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