Ask for credit when credit is due (at work)?
June 9, 2008 7:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to not get acknowledged for my work on a project I put my heart and soul into for several months (at a junior level). Others working on different aspects of the project at similar levels are thanked. There's still time to change the course of events. Should I approach my boss and bring this to his attention? If so, what's the best way to do this professionally? Suggestions on what to say?

My supervisor hasn't seen the mock-up acknowledgments yet, but he'll be reviewing them in the next few days. Even if nothing comes of it, I think I owe it to myself to let my supervisor to know that it stings not be recognized for my contribution. Both he and I agreed that my work on this project has been successful and a is "professional highlight." It's also at the top of my résumé, but might look a little suspect if my name is nowhere in the project literature. A bit of salt in the wound: my predecessor, who worked in my capacity on last year's project, got recognized for his work. Am I justified, both personally and professionally, for wanting recognition for my part in this project? I'm still learning when and how to make my needs known in the professional sphere.
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posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, speak up, but do so tactfully. You can try to approach your boss and say something along the lines of "I don't mean to come off egotistical here, but I'd like to have my name on the literature so that in the future people can know who to reference, and to get due credit considering the time and energy I put into this." Be short, straightforward, and concise about what you want and why.

No one will notice if you don't bring it up and this might simply be due to an honest mistake instead of any bad intentions. I say if you put energy into it, you deserve credit.
posted by spiderskull at 7:18 PM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I encounter this all the time. First, maybe it was a mistake. Could be as simple as reminding the author. I've left people out before, had them call me on it, and felt terrible... So by all means tell your boss. He/she should be able to work it out with the author if they are on good terms and your work was as valuable as you think it was. Unless the lead on the project has a deep grudge against you, they will almost certainly agree.

Lastly, don't sweat it so long as someone you can list as a reference can substantiate what you've done. When I hire someone, I could care less if someone is listed in an acknowledgments section. I only about what they did far more than how or if they were fully credited somehow.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 7:25 PM on June 9, 2008

Sounds like you're absolutely justified. Focus on the acknowledgment. Go to him in private, and try to make it casual. Ask him why your name isn't on the acknowledgments. If you both agree that it's a professional highlight, then he'll understand your concern. It could be an oversight, or it could be intentional on someone else's part. You won't know until you ask.

Don't be overly dramatic about it - as spiderskull said, you have to be tactful. This will preserve a humble nature, which is sometimes missing from modern workplaces.

As for the bigger picture - i.e., "learning when and how to make my needs known," it's all about choosing your battles. No one likes an attention hog, and people will always respect hard work. If you raise a big stink every time you don't get attention for what you've done, you'll get a bad rep.
posted by producerpod at 7:26 PM on June 9, 2008

Guy Tizzoli, I think, outlined the six phases of project management:

1) enthusiasm
2) disillusionment
3) panic
4) search for the guilty
5) punishment of the innocent
6) praise and honors for the non-participants

The last phase, of course, rankles those who kept a weary eye on the puppy-like enthusiasm (and invariable piddling) of phase one; those who kept on trucking through phase two; those who kept their cool through phase three; those who failed to point fingers in phase four; those who have survived phase five.

I would not raise a stink the first or even the third time this happened. After the fifth time, you might simply invest less energy in it. After all, if you aren't an acknowledged part of the success in previous processes, then you're hardly part of the failure now.
posted by adipocere at 7:41 PM on June 9, 2008 [5 favorites]

Speak up and mention your resume.
posted by mattoxic at 7:45 PM on June 9, 2008

If there have been a lot of people working on the project, it's really easy to forget someone in the acknowledgments - even if that person has been a huge part of the work. It's very likely just an unintentional oversight. (If it was intentional, then that's a whole other issue.)

My big boss gets credit for things I do all the time, but if others at the same level as you are getting thanked (and your predecessor got thanked last year), then yes, it's an issue. Morale and productivity suffers when people feel slighted for the hard work they put in. Not working as hard next time is NOT the right reaction, both from a personal growth perspective and from the company perspective - that's really poor advice, IMO.

Bring it up, casually, with your supervisor. If he is a good manager, he would have noticed that you were left out when he reviewed the acknowledgments. There is nothing wrong, however, with bringing it preemptively to his attention - especially if things are busy, he might not look as closely at it as he otherwise might.

If I was your manager, I would want to know. Bite the bullet and bring it up - it's in everyone's best interest that you do.
posted by gemmy at 8:39 PM on June 9, 2008

If you can practice with a trusted friend, pet, or bathroom mirror, that might help.
My advice is to try and convince yourself that this is an honest oversight, and then go to you boss as though you are honestly curious about why you are not mentioned.

Your current managers might all run away to be groupies with a Christian metal band - and then when you need it most, your "professional highlight" will be at the free clinic in Altoona.

Get documentation if you possibly can.

Good luck. I would rather die than pat myself on the back, but I've done it and lived to enjoy the bonus!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:45 PM on June 9, 2008

Stand up for yourself. I was once in a similar situation and took it for granted that my normally fair boss would do the right thing. However, mostly through an oversight, she didn't and before I could point it out to her, it was too late. Not only was I very upset, so was she. AND to make it worse, someone else (who had done nearly nothing) got most of the credit for my months and months of hard work, got to accept the big award from the First Lady, and the free trip and EVERYTHING! No amount of apologizing could fix it in my case. In your case, it's a matter of your resume, experience, and reputation.
posted by tamitang at 8:52 PM on June 9, 2008

Go to the person who wrote the list of acknowledgments, and treat it as an error. "Hey, I was checking to make sure everyone's names were on this" (actually do that, you might not be the only one) "and mine's missing. Maybe some other people's were too."

Chances are very good, it's an error. If they query it, say "I'm Brian's replacement, and Brian was on last years, here, see?" Failing that ... go talk to your boss. There's some problem.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:03 PM on June 9, 2008

Yes, go to your supervisor. As for how to do it, if you have a co-worker that you trust and who knows the people involved, discuss the approach with them. I've found that talking through issues like this with a trusted co-worker can help me figure out the best way to bring up sensitive issues with a boss.
posted by Mavri at 7:21 AM on June 10, 2008

I would not raise a stink the first or even the third time this happened. After the fifth time, you might simply invest less energy in it.

That kind of passive-aggressive approach is not a good idea. If you want something, please ask for it; people are fallible, and it sounds likely that someone just forgot. Punishing by not doing your job at 100% down the road is a sad, bad situation for everyone - for you, for your employers, and for the people who eventually use your product. You're punishing everyone, and why? Because you were afraid to rock the boat by reminding people that hey, you helped too.

You want tact? And sincerity at the same time? No problemo. aeschenkarnos' approach is really good. I was going to suggest something like:

"Hey, I don't want to be pushy here, but I'd like to understand how things work around here. I was a little surprised not to see my name in the thank-you list - I thought I contributed a lot, but did I miss something? Did I leave something undone, or not put forth the effort I should have? I'd think it was my junior level, but X was included last year and Y and Z this year; What am I missing?"

Answer is in the form of a question -- an approach that's surprisingly useful.
posted by amtho at 7:32 AM on June 10, 2008

People are indeed fallible, that's why I wouldn't do anything about it the first few times it happened. Being left off five times, as in my advice, is not a mistake - it's a pattern of deliberate behavior. The poster has put their "heart and soul" into it - more than 100%, if you're into all that rah-rah team stuff. I'm simply advocating not killing yourself over it if the three seconds it takes to pronounce your name is too much to ask. If they cannot manage a thirty character string in a document, don't take the work home with you over the weekend. That's not passive-aggressive, that's just being fair. Work is a two-way street; if your job wants ulcers out of you, you get to expect some praise.

If you're a junior member, unless you're out to prove something, make a big noise, and so forth, you can certainly haul off your shoe and whack it on the desk a few times. You might get results, you might be thought of as a brat. It depends on the environment. If there was a conscious decision to leave someone off the list, it's worth a bit of subtlety in trying to figure out what is going on before probing people. Perhaps someone in the chain is trying to pass off the work of others as their own and would resent sharing credit. It's worth looking before leaping. In many places, junior members are not credited with anything for a couple of years.
posted by adipocere at 9:29 AM on June 10, 2008

Do what aeschenkarnos suggested. Don't screw around with this. Simple, plain-faced, no mention of résumé (awful suggestion, that one... makes it sound like you're just chalking up merits towards that better job at that other company), no demands. Make sure you know *why* people are listed in the acknowledgments, and be sure you meet *those* qualifications. In the rush to get a project delivered, it's incredibly easy to overlook someone's contribution. Continue to do your part in making it a success by ensuring everyone is properly recognized in it... including yourself.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:37 AM on June 10, 2008

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