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How to Give Proper Credit to Your Employees

Recognizing employees for a job well done is important, but it's not always easy to discern which ones are the most deserving.

As a leader, you need to make sure you're crediting the right employees for their hard work. It may sound like an obvious, easy task, but it's not one you should discount. If your employees feel like their recognition is being stolen away from them by a manager, soon your hard workers will not work as hard.

Sachin H. Jain, chief medical information and innovation officer at Merck and a physician at the Boston VA Medical Center, writes in the Harvard Business Review about what happens when leaders give credit accurately and inaccurately.

"If a company reliably assigns credit to deserving individuals and teams, the resulting belief that the system is fair and will honestly reward contributions will encourage employees to give their utmost," Jain writes. "On the other hand, if credit is regularly misassigned, a sort of organizational cancer emerges, and individuals and teams won't feel the drive to deliver their best because they won't trust anyone will recognize it if they do."

Below, read Jain's advice on how to make sure you're giving credit where credit is due.

Double check a job well done.

Some employees are unabashed self-promoters, while others will understate their contributions. It's your job to find out who's poaching others' credit and who's downplaying their own. One thing you can do to make that easier is to set a precedent of honesty in your culture. "It is important to demand that individuals be honest about their true contributions to projects and initiatives. And their claims should be cross-checked," Jain writes. "Individuals whose careers developed in organizations where they had to fend for themselves will often err on the side of overstating their contributions."

Recognize the recognizers.

The employees who take time to recognize their colleagues' contributions should be noted. These types of people are the ones helping you spread the right type of culture through your office. "In addition to verifying individual accomplishments, there is a lot of value in recognizing and highlighting cases when individuals take the time to recognize others. It sends a signal that generous and honest attribution of credit is something that the organization values," Jain writes.

Pay attention to quiet performers.

Jain says that your strongest contributors are usually the quietest. Even if they aren't worried about getting credit, Jain writes, you need to make sure they're recognized. "Taking the time to identify and reward the quiet heroes can generate good will across an organization because it creates the sense that there is real integrity."

There's enough credit for everyone.

Jain writes that one of his mentors once told him that "credit is infinitely divisible," meaning that everyone can be recognized. But you have to be careful: "That said, credit quickly loses meaning when everyone gets it, including people who didn't do anything," he writes. "Highly specific attributions of credit always trump blanket statements of praise. And the value of praise and credit is always higher when leaders and organizations deliver criticism with equal discipline."

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Mar 7, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter,

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported on the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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