Have 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)