who gets the credit?

copyright symbolHave you ever had a co-worker talk to the boss and take recognition for your idea? Or a friend blame you for something that was not your fault? Have you withheld a deserved compliment out of competition or envy?

I’ve been reading, The Elements of Ethics, by W. Brad Johnson and Charles R. Ridley. They say:

“In applying the principle of ownership,
failing to give credit where credit is due
and taking credit where credit is not due,
in effect, are acts of stealing.”¹

Stealing is taking something that does not belong to you. There are lots of ways people steal: shoplifting, burglary, looting, mugging, bribery, embezzlement, identity theft, kidnapping, and rape are just a few.²

Not long ago, I was looking for a fellow worker’s notes from a talk. When I did a Google search, I found the notes, almost word for word… in someone else’s webpage! My co-worker had copied the post and passed the notes off as their own, giving no credit to the original writer. I was really disappointed. Plagiarism is a form of stealing sadly too common in my area.

Recently, I have spent a lot of time at work trying to give credit correctly for written articles and photographs that we use in our training materials. It is tedious, time-consuming, non-glamorous, in-the-background work. Very few people will notice the work I (and our lawyers) am doing to obtain the permissions and the non-licensed photographs. Someone might notice if we do not make this effort, but not likely… so why do I do it?

I am also learning to not give credit that is not deserved. Have you ever been asked to give a reference for someone and you wanted to “be nice“, so you said only the good things? Or have you written a really positive letter of recommendation that “slightly” exaggerated the person’s good points? Have you complimented someone’s work or appearance to gain favor? Johnson and Ridley say, “It is just as dishonest to make baseless recommendations as it is to steal someone’s idea.”³  Wow. Challenging. I have been “nice” too many times…

Maybe because some of my children are musicians and photographers, I am more sensitive to protecting deserved credit. I don’t know. I do know that this chapter has given more strength to my convictions in this area.

How about you? Do you give too much or too little credit to others? How could you do a better job at giving appropriate credit?


¹Johnson, W.B. & Ridley, C. R. (2008) The Elements of Ethics for Professionals. [Kindle Edition] (Location 2219)

²ibid. (Location 2208)

³ibid. (Location 2235)

6 thoughts on “who gets the credit?

  1. So you really got me with the desire to “be nice”, not being honest with what I know to be true. It is because I want to be liked and find favor–and how lame is that! I find that the more I do this, the less self-esteem I have because it is baseless–lying. And there’s the trap. Thanks for pointing this out, my friend. It’s necessary to be reminded of character and integrity–always.

    • I was also challenged by that flip side of the better known issue. Credit should be appropriate, sincere, and helpful. Sometimes presenting someone with unmerited praise just sets them up for failure. Honesty is the better choice. Thanks for being such a great encourager and “fan”, Dayle! (That is a sincere comment, by the way!) 🙂

  2. Thanks for highlighting this! As I do Birkman assessments for people, I reminded over and over again how many people give the appearance of not needing recognition (usual behavior) while personally needing a way to measure their performance (needs). By taking credit or passing their information on “for the good of the organization,” we are stealing something that is personal to them. In our organization, we don’t get paid more (bonuses) for work done, so the approval/recognition is important. It’s not that we’re seeking praise instead of helping the organization and others move forward. But to have someone else get the praise or feeling that you are being taken for granted is not a good feeling!

    • I totally agree. Credit is not necessarily prideful, it is simply ownership and stewardship… and just as important when monetary reward is not at stake as when it is. Thanks for reminding me of very practical implications of this truth.

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