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Getting credit where credit is due

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Question: I recently worked on a "team project" that included giving a presentation to an entire department (think "The Apprentice Lite"). We didn't have a project manager, but three out of the four team members worked night and day for three weeks on this project.

The three of us did literally 99.9 percent of the work. The fourth team member (we call her "The Albatross") came up with the "concept" but when asked to complete her portion of the presentation, she would regurgitate what we had already done in a completely unusable format.

When we gave the presentation, she chimed in during our portions, making it look as though we had overlooked something and that she had "saved the day."

Unfortunately, the Donald wasn't there to ask us who should have been fired. What is your advice on handling future projects such as this, with a deadbeat project member who happily lets you do all her work and takes all the credit? -- Migraine Millie


Comments

If you end up in a similar situation, you need to document all the meetings that are held and include a list of who attended the meeting and what was accomplished. It needn't be anything formal, but it should clearly demonstrate to your manager who did all the work. You may also want to tell your manager about your recent experience. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the form of a complaint against the albatross but instead could be worded as praise for the 2 people who put in all the time with you. By omitting any reference to the 4th person, hopefully it will cause your manager to question why.

I've worked on several large projects in the past and we were required to track all time spent on the project (part of our regulations is tracking time/costs associated with each work function anyway), but possibly you and the other two team members that worked so hard also kept track of your time some how? Since it was a 3-week span it might be easy to go back and look at the hours spent. I agree with CJ, you should send a nice note to the two productive team members thanking them for their hard work and dedication and cc: your/their manager in it. Mention the two by name and omit the 4th party. I'm sure those two will reciprocate your email with a big THANKS back to you and cc: the managers. Even if you think your managers didn't see what was going on during this project, I can imagine they do know who worked hard and who didn't. Good Luck!

Utilize subliminal messaging. The next time the Albatross' name comes up in conversation with your boss just say softly and quickly "slacker". Sure, its not professional, but it may be satisfying.

Unfortualtly there are a lot of these types of people in the workforce. You should elect a "Project Manager", someone to asign tasks and collect all information for each project. They should also be the person that reports back to the powers that be with all comments (good or bad relating to the task at hand). This way there will be no mistake on who did the work and who didn't. Good Luck with your next project.

I don't believe you can belabor this point, without looking like a complainer, but get in the habit of verbally thanking ANYONE who's helpful when you talk to a boss or committee, especially if that person is present. It makes you look good, it makes them look good, and it lets your boss know you're a team player who doesn't alwasy try to grab all the credit. It also allows you to control, somewhat, the message your boss is getting. In your case, perhaps the 3 of you could have arranged in advance to praise each other and mention specific individual contributions, as the three of you made your verbal report. Believe me, after 3 people specifically exclude the 4th, the listeners would have figured out who did the work and had the ideas. If the Albatross chimed in, there's no need to contradict, you could have just calmly repeated your statement: "As I said, Jack was especially helpful to me in coming up with a solution to Problem #7, especially since no one had put any ideas on the table yet. I was really struggling with a possible solution and you pointed me in the right directioin. Thanks, Jack." You don't have to be unprofessional or rude, just be firm and as Miss Manners says, keep repeating your statement over and over til "they" get it.

Next the Albatross is brough up by your boss, a roll of the eyes says volumes without actually "saying" anything that can kick you in the back-side later.

I don't think there is anyway to bring this up, unless they ask for your feed back. If you say something, it may appear to people that you are the problem, not the person that didn't do anywork. If you are asked for your opinion or if you really fell it necessary to say something, try and put a positive spin on it. Such as mentioning your other co-workers contributions or "I was trying to find ways to motivate xyz to work on the project - what has worked for you?". I hope that helps.

You should be proud of the success of the project. There will always be someone who doesn't contribute but tries to take credit. Just stay true to your own values and know that your consistent hard work will be recognized by it's own merits. At some point, that person will be in a position to prove his/her self and the truth will be known. Your reaction and attitude about the situation will speak volumes for you so don't forget your professional manners. Good luck.

Just one more thing, which I feel compelled to point out. Denise seems like a very nice, professional person, with whom it would be a pleasure to work, but I can't let her statement go by: "Just stay true to your own values and know that your consistent hard work will be recognized by it's own merits." NOT ALWAYS TRUE. Time and again, in real life, as well as in books, magazine articles, and professional seminars, women have been getting the same hard, but practical advice, which is: You must blow your own horn. Everyone is so preoccupied with their own lives, they are not usually keeping tabs on your life. With taste and professionalism, you must gently but firmly make sure your bosses are made aware of your accomplishments, contributions, good habits, team playing, and anything else that contributes to raises and promotions. You MUST promote yourself, and that includes protecting your flank from malicious, lazy people who do not have the same performance standards you have. IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO JUST ADHERE TO YOUR OWN STANDARDS AND TRUST THAT THE GOOD PEOPLE WILL BE REWARDED IN THE END. You must be your own agent and advocate and keep yourself and the good you do constantly in front of management. There is nothing wrong with this. It's not egotistcal, calculating or un-Christian. It is how you move up the ladder, get the money you deserve, and become a leader in your company. Only you can control the trajectory of your career and make sure you come to the attention of management. It's not realistic to expect some other person to ferret out your great deeds and reward you for them. (That's what happens in romantic movies.) Men have no problem keeping their faces in front of their bosses and their accomplishments under the boss's nose, and neither should women.

It seems to me that Miss Albatross did contribute something - a summary of what the other 3 members contributed. Next time each member should have very specific assignments for each section of the outline.

I have been fortunate not to have any of these types of people at work, but I did have a couple of them on teams while working on my MBA. It is extremely frustrating when you put in so much time and effort and someone else coasts along and you all get the same result. I think the reason we avoid this at work is because when we have these group projects, each person is assigned specific tasks, and it is put in writing regarding who does what. That way, if someone doesn't step up to the plate, we know exactly who didn't do what they were supposed to do.

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