Thanks for nothing

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Why we shouldn’t give credit unless credit is due

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. September 16, 2015

Now and then we find ourselves sending praise to someone who doesn’t deserve it. This tends to happen in environments where you have to work as a team or as an ensemble. It seems when bad work is done, blame is passed around and fingers are pointed. That’s a destructive attitude, solving nothing. Alternatively, the reverse problem is as bad. It seems that slackers in a group with success would also join in and receive praise. I believe the second scenario can be as harmful as the first.

Riding on the coattails of others is a survival strategy that should have been eradicated at some point during human evolution. We all know someone who does the bare minimum, or little to nothing, and allows others around him or her to pick up the slack. The same way you would cut out a cancerous tumour, you should do the same for that member of the team.

They might be nice, kind-hearted, or have some positive trait. They might have personal issues that stop them from excellence. Regardless, you want to give them the benefit of the doubt and help them along. Still, nothing is more infuriating than someone getting praise for work they didn’t do.

There is a Douglas Coupland quote from the novel Hey Nostradamus! that has always stuck with me: “[I] was raised to believe that the opposite of labor is theft, not leisure.”

The person who doesn’t perform is essentially stealing from the collective. They might not be stealing anything tangible and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter, but if you allow them to take what isn’t theirs, you are feeding a wild animal, causing them to become dependent on others. You are not helping them. You are not a charity. You are enabling a lazy attitude and that is a benefit to nobody.

One common problem, especially in a professional environment, is when a superior takes credit for work their subordinate had done. While this is indeed a bitch move, I also believe that subordinates allow this to happen by displaying weakness. We need to stand up and defend ourselves without seeming entitled or arrogant.

If you notice someone taking your work and soaking in the praise themselves, you’d need to understand that they might never see their own self-righteousness. They may be a pathological liar or a narcissistic asshole. Don’t call them out immediately, keep a record, and approach their boss. Alternatively, you can try to empathize. Ask: why do they need to lie and steal your efforts? Often it is because of their insecurities and failings. If that is the case, give it time, and be patient. If your work is good and your aim is true, you’ll shine.

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