Take Credit Where Credit is Due

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I wrote a post a while back - 5 Things HR Hopes You Don't Know - suggesting that my readers take credit for results they believe their work played a substantial part in creating whether they could prove it or not. I took some grief for that in the comment section of the post. Many people saw taking credit for results that can't be proven as lying.

I'm a litigator and trial attorney so I'm as acquainted with evidence-based results as any scientist is. Lawyers and scientists both have theories supported both by direct and by circumstantial evidence. Law students are often told the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence is the difference between seeing your child's hand in the cookie jar (direct evidence) or seeing cookie crumbs on his lips and the jar open in the kitchen (circumstantial evidence).

What leads me to return to this topic is the 35% raise Disney's CEO received for Disney's 2013 financial results. As the New York Times reported last week,

Net income for [Disney's] last fiscal year rose 22 percent, to $7.5 billion, the result of blockbuster movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” strong sales of “Star Wars” and “Frozen” merchandise, and record theme park attendance. Financial highlights of the last year also include a stock price that increased about 23 percent, to roughly $94. Disney’s total shareholder return was 38 percent, compared with 20 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

Hand in cookie jar or cookie crumbs. There's little difference when you accuse your child of purloining an Oreo.

The same can be said for revenues driven, profits made, or market share increased. Disney CEO Robert Iger was handsomely rewarded in 2014 for his company's 2013 performance. Instead of 2013's $34.3 million, he was granted a 35% increase to $46.5 million because "his pay is determined by Disney’s financial results, which reached record heights in 2014 for the fourth consecutive year."

Was Iger Any More Responsible for Disney's Results than Others?

The Disney company has 166,000 employees and cast members around the world, many of whom vet the screenplays, actors, directors, cinematographers and the hundreds of other people whose names you see scrolling down the screen when you're picking up your things, leaving the popcorn tub for the theater's employees to clean up and heading out the door. Those employees (and hundreds if not thousands or tens of thousands of partners and independent contractors) also brain storm, plan, create and implement the rides and entertainment at Disney theme parks around the world.

Surely all these people also had a hand in Disney's 2013 profits, as did the economy in the countries where Disney does business. If Disney had a theme park in Switzerland or investments in Europe, it might be heading for a bigger disaster than the financial loss from Moms Meet Mars, a 2011 flop that cost the company $138.8 million (number 5 on the list of the 8 Biggest Film Box Office Disasters of All Time).

Yet Iger is given credit for 100% of 2013's financial success. No matter how important the CEO is to driving revenue, cutting costs, and managing a business, no one could possibly be solely responsible for its annual financial results.

And notice that no one mentioned Disney's probable $200 million loss on The Lone Ranger in 2013 when approving Iger's 35% raise. Did you have some losses as well as successes in 2013? If the total is in the plus column, tell your superiors that the loss is irrelevant except to the extent that it diminishes your total positive record.

So Please, Take Credit When You Believe Credit is Due

No one required Iger to swear on a stack of Bibles that he was solely responsible for Disney's 2013 performance. No one cross-examined him about those decisions he played no part in or losses sustained by Disney in 2013 that could be directly traced to his vision, leadership or management of the company.

You deserve no less recognition. Did your company penetrate new markets and expand old ones in 2014? Are you the head of its marketing department. Do you believe your department and your leadership must have had a substantial hand in that success? Claim it! Did your company slash costs in 2013, trim the workforce, negotiate lower prices for necessary products or services, avoid costly lawsuits, manage risk, create profitable joint ventures? Did you or your team, your department or division play some part in that? Claim it!

If you'd like to be modest as so many of my readers do, give props to your staff for their substantial contribution to 2013's financial success. Everyone will know your leadership of your staff is crucial to the excellent performance they achieved. Don't take credit for all of the company's success. Say, "I know we weren't solely responsible for driving profits up 20% in 2013, but I'm certain my staff, my department, or division substantially contributed to the result.”

Then You Have to Ask

This is the hardest task to get right and many people feel they just can't do it. But you will rarely be rewarded without asking to be rewarded. "You know, I believe our contribution to this year's success was substantial. That being the case, I'd like to see my staff (division or department) share in the success in the form of increased compensation for 2014."

You can say that, right?

If you want to add the magic potion of reciprocal benefit to your request, say something like, "you know, you ought to be rewarded too. After all, it was your leadership that helped me motivate my team to produce the results it did (or drive revenues, cut costs, open new markets or expand old ones).

You owe it to yourself and to your family to be justly rewarded for the hard work you do. Please exchange a minute or two of discomfort for a lifetime of just rewards.

May this year be the best year since the Great Unpleasantness of 2008. You can do it. Go get 'em champ.