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)

taking higher ground

Hikers in mountains, circa 1995 from Flickr via Wylio

“Traveling down the high road can be a lonely experience.” ~ W. Brad Johnson

I started this post when reading for my one of my MA classes. It is almost spooky how life has confirmed much of what I wrote in the months since, even though I had totally forgotten about this post.

No matter how many years go by, I keep learning more about myself and the deeper, ulterior motives that affect my attitudes and actions.

So that we can learn together (I don’t like to do much of anything alone!), I am sharing some of these challenging ideas with you. This list comes from the first chapter of The Elements of Ethics by W. Brad Johnson. He is suggests that these are essential elements of integrity:

(**Fair Warning: This is not an easy list!)

  1. Become congruent – truthful with oneself and consistent at all times and in all relationships (Nothing easy here, but a key to people considering us “safe” and trustworthy.)
  2. Stay transparent – openness, frankness, full disclosure (activities, commitments, relationships) Evasive = Suspicious
  3. Make yourself accountable – No excuses. Take responsibility. Tell the truth.
  4. Invite peer review – Constructive feedback is our friend. Invite others to honestly review and evaluate. Without sugar-coating.
  5. Present your credentials and services accurately – No inflating or misrepresenting achievements, experiences or results.
  6. Ensure emotional and physical fitness – Admit fatigue, burnout, or life circumstances that impair best effort. Be alert of warning signs. Seek help.
  7. Protect confidential information – Think before you speak. Protect others’ privacy with vigilance. Avoid and stop gossip.
  8. Know your moral vulnerabilities – Invincibility is an illusion. Be self-aware of weaknesses. Let others help.
  9. Identify your private agendas – Guard against hidden agendas and wrong motives.
  10. Do not count the cost of integrity – There is a price: inconvenience, self-denial, social isolation, passive-aggressive attacks, persecution. Do the right thing anyway.
  11. Rectify missteps immediately – Don’t aim for perfection. Admit mistakes. Apologize. Laugh at yourself. Give grace to others.
  12. Stand your ground under pressure – Anticipate the pressure to compromise. Practice a response. Find others who can help you.
  13. Do not be a hypocrite – No pretense. No manipulation. No self-serving.

I especially related to #6, #8, and #11. I don’t like weakness. I want perfection. I know in my head it is impossible, but I still want it in my heart. This chapter helped me to recognize that desire for perfection is a stumbling block for me, rather than a help.

#10 is also good. In past jobs, I paid a price for integrity choices that surprised and hurt me. I don’t know why I thought it would be easy. I want to have more realistic expectations in the future and have a team who stands with me in those difficult decisions.

Ok… your turn! Which of these elements challenge you? Which are most important for your integrity? How do you take the high ground?