Giving Credit Even When It Isn’t Due

Giving Credit Even When It Isn’t Due

Giving others credit when it isn’t due may sound counterintuitive, but it is what skilled managers and leaders do. The principle applies to people who work for us as much as it does to persons for whom we work. 


Just as only misinformed people think they have all the answers, only the desperate attempt to grab all the credit. Confident and competent people know that hoarding credit, or waiting until a job is fully finished before providing some, often results in reduced motivation and/or heightened resentment. Worse, when fear of public ridicule exists, people don’t speak up until problems are too large to fix.

We’re not speaking of praise for its own sake. When people sincerely try to do good work, spotlighting their mistakes can be demoralizing. Rather than say “You’re completely wrong,” or “That’s one of the dumbest comments I’ve heard this month,” astute communicators link some aspect of the other person’s performance to the attainment of the overall goal. Here are a few examples:

“I think I see what you’re saying. I’m not sure it works that way, but your reasoning makes me think we could take another direction.”

“Let’s consider making an alteration in the plan that fits better with what you said earlier about...”

Aside from the obvious benefit of avoiding open conflict, phrases that include even a slight amount of credit have persuasive advantages. Such comments as, “I’d like to hear more about that, Alex,” “You’re the go-to person in this area, Ellen, what do you think?” and “Jason, you’ve handled a delicate situation like this one. Why don’t you give us the benefit of your experience?” reward competence while discouraging defensiveness.

Giving credit during the course of a project — or, say, with one’s children whose grades aren’t yet where they should be — creates a culture of learning rather than anticipated punishment. “You’ve done some very good things here,” said before introducing remedial or next steps, is the kind of positive nudging all of us need at one time or another.

Reciprocity is a communication constant. Defensiveness often elicits defensiveness. Insult can evoke thoughts of revenge. In short, we tend to give back what we get. This is another reason to give credit on progress or good intentions. “I see now where you were going with that,” and “I understand better why you took that route,” are phrases that allow advice or criticism to follow without bruising another person’s ego.

People have reasons for doing what they do, even when it’s a mistake in your eyes. The best managers and leaders determine what those reasons are. Where others chastise, they more often try to find a way forward without bloodletting. As a result, they make fewer enemies and form more enduring, constructive relationships with the people on whom their success depends.

Kathleen also blogs on communication, negotiation, and politics here.

Photo:  shuttertakan/Shutterstock.com

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This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

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