Personal Work Achievements you have Strangely Withheld

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

You might be generally modest; or you may be a braggart (who cares?) but there are achievements you’re leaving on the table and not giving yourself credit for. When it comes to your Performance Appraisal, or updating your resume, why keep them private?

Probably because you don’t know you have achieved them.

Below are some things you’re probably doing but not claiming the credit for.

  1. Supporting Coworkers to achieve their goals. It’s easy to forget that we work in organizations and each one of us is in support of our coworkers. Sometimes, we directly enable a coworker to achieve their objectives. OK, we don’t necessarily place the capstone on the pyramid, but if we have carried it to the summit, then we have enabled it to happen. What do you do to help your colleagues to achieve their goals? Think of it this way, if you hadn’t have done that specific something, would the goal have been achieved as quick, or at the same cost, or risk? If your contribution has significantly (and positively) made a difference, then claim some of that credit for yourself. Somebody publicly claiming credit for your achievements is enraging. But I am not talking about that. Claiming credit starts with you recognizing your contribution, and giving yourself a pat on the back for it. Claim it inside, first. But then once you have accepted your contribution as a genuine, authentic contribution, consider this: would the person(s) you enabled to achieve their goals agree (even privately)? If so, only then is it reasonable to start claiming it externally, but discreetly, in your Performance Appraisals and also your resume.
  2. Stopping something, resulting in positive achievement. “Throwing Good Money After Bad…”; “The definition of madness is repeating something over and over again and expecting different results” are age-old sayings. It means putting a stop to something if it has no benefit. But then again, we are an action-oriented society. Action means progress; action means productivity; action means business. Doesn’t it? No. Action can mean waste; action can mean lost opportunity; action can mean disaster or loss of life. If you have stopped something (like a project, or selling a product) and it has resulted in a positive outcome, then you should recognize this as an achievement.
  3. Going out of process to increase efficiency or effectiveness. We have all been there… experienced ‘computer says no’ moments. You might NOT have been thanked for doing something out of process at the time. Organizations spend millions or even billions on getting their processes fine tuned and optimized. And then you come along and ignore them – achieving something countless other people couldn’t because you used your common-sense. You also took on a big risk, as going out of process can in some workplaces be a firing offence. But still, you got the job done and enabled a positive outcome. Processes are typically designed to guide sequences of tasks and decisions towards the most common outcomes and from the most common starting points. But they, very rarely, cope with all starting points and eventualities. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta do what’s right, even if it causes you to buck a process. But claiming ‘achievement’ when you have gone out of process should be handled carefully. Being seen to encourage coworkers to go off-process without context can cause chaos. Making a song and dance about it is like a fart in a space suit – not welcome – even if necessary. So it’s something you will have to claim credit for in your resume, and very carefully in a Performance Appraisal: focus on the outcome, not how you got there.
  4. Holding others to account. The most subtle, but perhaps the most important ‘private’ achievement. If a coworker isn’t pulling their weight, or not working to time or quality, then sometimes we just have to intervene. When we hold a coworker to account, we are reminding them why their job, and its product, is important. Their work (or lack of it) directly affects their colleagues, customers, suppliers, and shareholders. More to the point, it directly affects themselves. By the way, it takes courage to hold somebody to account. It is an achievement in itself – a brave one at that. This might not have been obvious to you, but if none of us held others to account, nothing would get done. Taking credit for it, just like the above point, should be done carefully and discreetly. Your ‘victim’ will not enjoy or even accept you taking credit for whooping their ass. No – this isn’t how it’s done! Instead, worded correctly, an accountability check, when done at the right moment, is your achievement, not their lack of it.

Claiming the Credit

The message is simple: don’t be an asshole about it. Credit where credit is due doesn’t have to be somebody else’s detriment, or encourage back-stabbing or chaotic behavior. But claim it you must if it has made a significant difference. And here is how to articulate your achievements.

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