Not Getting Credit: Consultant’s Dilemma

    Not Getting Credit
    Not Getting Credit

    In the 1990s, I rarely missed an episode of Seinfeld. I still watch repeats when I find one while I’m channel surfing. I remember one episode where the consummate loser George Costanza gives a tip at the counter of a fast food restaurant. The server didn’t see him put the money in the jar. When he realizes that his good gesture was not witnessed, he reaches in to get the money back so he could put it in for the server to see him tip.

    Unfortunately – and predictably – for George, the server sees him taking money out of the tip jar and thinks he’s stealing from it.

    For George, it wasn’t enough to tip the server to enhance his earnings. George needed the server to see that he was tipping so he could get the recognition of appreciation.

    Seeking recognition for our hard work

    In the business world, we thrive on getting credit. Sure, we all get that paycheck every 15 days, but we also seek recognition for our accomplishments. Managers are taught to give recognition in kind words of praise and in monetary terms.

    We learn early in life with our siblings and classmates how unfair it is to see someone get recognition and praise for something you did. If I had washed all of the dishes and my mother had praised my sister for it, I would have raised some serious hell.

    In high school or college, you may have worked on group projects in which the entire group received the same assignment. Even if that one guy in the group did little to nothing to contribute.

    We expect recognition to be fair. And we rarely deal well with someone taking credit for our own hard work. A consultant, however, must sometimes deal with not getting credit for his or her hard work.

    Getting the job done, but not getting credit

    Clients hire consultants to get a job done. The consultant is paid for his or her expertise. Come in and make the client successful. If you did what you were paid to do, you get paid. If you did well enough, you might even get additional business.

    The client manager will usually take the work you did, present it to the boss, and boast about his or her accomplishments on the project. The boss usually knows there was a team involved. But the boss hired the manager to get things done. And that’s what the manager is evaluated on.

    If the manager is good, he or she will make sure the executives know that there was a hard working team that was a big part of the success. A good leader deserves a lot of credit for directing the team the right way and motivating them to get the most productivity out of them.

    Payment for expertise

    Consultants are often brought in for their expertise in a certain area. Sometimes that expertise is that they just know how to get things done. The client team is so bogged down in politics that they can’t get anything done. While they deal with the back-stabbing, positioning, and CYA emails, the consultants are busy doing the work.

    Related post: How Conflicting Objectives Cause Office Politics

    The client manager gets praise from the executives for a “job well done.” The praise the consultants get is another contract. That may come from the client manager, or other managers who see how effective the firm can be.

    Internally, the consulting firm should be giving the consultants the praise they deserve. Firm management should also train the consultants not to expect that praise from the client. It may come, but it should not be expected.

    We can claim that we don’t need to get credit for everything, but deep down we all want the love. We certainly like to see that direct deposit notification whenever we get paid. But nothing beats that pat on the back and an “atta boy” from the boss. Consultants just need to realize that the client may claim all the credit for the work. And that’s just how the game is played.

    It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
    – Harry S. Truman

    How much credit do you demand?

    As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

    If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at

    Image courtesy of Pixtawan at

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