But the reality is that you
need to speak up. Generosity and a humble nature are great attributes to have,
of course. They help you keep a team-first attitude, improve your leadership
abilities, and generally endear people to you as a professional.
However, if you think you
can just let your work speak for itself and never stake out that territory
yourself, then being “the
humble one” is
hurting your career.
1. It Makes You Invisible
Imagine this: Your team just
completed a complex, innovative project, and you feel proud of your
contributions to the group effort. But when the boss stands up at the company
meeting to praise your team’s work, others are singled out for individual
contributions while you seem invisible. If you’re a quieter contributor,
everyone from your own teammates to company leadership may overlook you
Why is this? People tend to
be remembered for those roles rather than the exact things they did. For
instance, the “organizer” will usually get credit for most tasks related to
organization, because people will remember him as inhabiting that role.
If you take on tasks behind
the scenes, your work may go unnoticed. And if you’re used to being humble, you
think: What does it matter so long as the work gets done? Well, consider this:
Just like you have a personal
your online presence, you also have a brand (or lack thereof) within your own
work team. If you’re not known for anything, you’ll be lost in the shuffle when
opportunities for advancement come up and no one can think of your strengths.
Carve Out Your Niche on Your Team
Step one: Pick a role you
like. Step two: Make it known that you’ve mastered that particular skill or
job. Take ownership of what you’d like to be known for on your team and look
for opportunities to pick up projects or tasks involving that thing.
For example, maybe your work
is rarely noticed because you sign up for roles that require execution, rather
than standing up in front of the room and presenting. You can make that work,
so long as your teammates come to depend on you for those tasks. In other
words, make sure everyone knows that you have killer attention to detail, so
for example, drafts always cross your desk before they’re considered final.
Or if you’re great at
mediating different points of view, don’t just tell Tonia what she could say to
Jim, share your solution with the group, so everyone knows you’re a strong
facilitator. This way, when the final project is done, people will know you
played a role.
It Makes You a Doormat
It’s a terrible feeling when
someone else takes
credit for your work. Whether it’s the bully in grade school or your
backstabbing co-worker, this type of betrayal can be shocking and hard to
You’d think it would be less
likely to when you like the people you work with, but it can happen to anyone.
Stolen credit puts you in a sticky spot: At the very least you’re staring down
a highly uncomfortable interpersonal situation. Not to mention, even accidental
cases could harm your career.
But if you’re used to being
modest, you worry that correcting the other person is counter-productive. So
you remind yourself that “there’s no ‘I’ in team” and let someone else get all
Share Credit, But Don't Throw it Away
The first step to ensuring
you get credit is making sure you’re not getting in your way. When someone
compliments you, don’t shy away from it and gush about others. Think about the
difference between deflecting
sharing it. It’s possible to believe strongly in your team and put “we” first
while also mentioning your contributions, which allows you to draw and
distribute attention at the same time.
Instead of: “Oh, thanks, but
I give all the credit for that website to my team.” Try this instead: “Thank
you, I enjoyed working on the UX. The whole team really pulled together to
bring that site to life.”
If you regularly practice
this sort of balance, you’ll be prepared to diplomatically respond to someone
who takes credit for your idea by employing the same technique. You could say,
“I was so thrilled to see John shares my belief that changing directions will
be beneficial. It’s so nice to see we’re all on the same page!” This way,
you’re crediting your team, but making sure you’re not cut out of the picture.
It Makes You Feel Stuck
It’s hard to find a balance
between proudly claiming your due and sounding cocky—especially if you’ve never
been one to talk about yourself. You want to be seen for your accomplishments
and abilities, but without off-putting self-praise that makes people
And if you’ve been in the
background some time, you could feel that that’s what your co-workers expect of
you. You don’t want to change team dynamics or be seen as having flipped a
switch all the way from “humble and quiet” to “arrogant and loud” overnight.
It may even be that others
are even resistant to your newfound desire to carve out a niche for yourself
and speak up for your work.
Establish a Presence Outside Your Team
If your colleagues aren’t
supportive—or at best, are just confused and unhelpful to start—consider
developing a side project or independent work to showcase your talents. This
can make it easier for hiring managers (or your company’s leadership) to see
your contributions within the team’s work based on your individual abilities.
This could mean taking on a
completely independent project or work, or looking for freelancing
opportunities or volunteer work in your field. (Of course, always make sure
your company policies allow freelancing before doing so.)
Once your co-workers see you
accomplish something on your own, they’ll have new information to go off of
when constructing their opinion of you and what you can contribute to the team.
Generous people who practice humility
can get ahead. The key is to make sure you’re in control of how you practice
it. Make it part of your brand within your team—a strength that makes others
want to work with you. If you find you’re overdoing it to the point of being
overlooked try the tips above to move back to middle ground.