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Credit where credit is due - control office envy

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- President Reagan once said, "There's no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit."

It seems most of us sense that this is true. However, we may not see this practiced enough by ourselves or others.

Is this idea a matter of personnel belief that some may practice, or should it be a policy that is actively controlled by leaders within an organization?

Office envy

This may be someone trying to be the envy of others or someone who is envying others.
The first case demonstrates a person who completes a task by manipulating the way it is done to receive all the credit. These actions are eventually noticed by coworkers, who tend to call this scheming and the offender becomes known as a schemer - someone who lacks loyalty to the group and cannot be trusted.

The second case is present in situations such as a group seeing a coworker getting praised for doing a project, thus making them bitter, because they helped in the project but were not recognized. Many feel that their efforts and hard work never get noticed or they just don't like to see someone else getting the attention.

In either case this is an example of office envy.

Our military thrives when each of us strives to do our best. As we race to be the most proficient at our job, the attitude of envy, whether about position, performance awards, people with better skills (especially newcomers), number of subordinates, office size, parking space or other similar situations, leads to behaviors that are akin to tripping a fellow racer or booing at the finish line.

Office envy can be manifested in not-so-secret resentful conversations, marginalizing fellow workers, cutting others out of projects and praise or in ways to advance at another's expense. The result is always a loss of group unity. Trust is broken and morale poisoned. Envy perverts the race, and this is why leaders must try to change an attitude and not just correct bad behavior.

Attitudes toward teammates

To avoid this, address attitudes head-on with actions and words; discuss it directly in the work center. Foremost, we need to check our own attitude. It may be we perceive others as schemers when viewed through the lens of our own envious attitude, but they are actually great performers. People who work for us will notice, and our efforts for change will fail.

Next, foster a climate that defines true success as team success. Sure, there are great individuals we should recognize, but even their success must be framed in the context of a team concept.

Not everyone in the chain of command will recognize team success. Some leaders gravitate to the marquee performers - genuine or phony - and are their biggest promoters. Some office members may get to high positions by scheming. But an honest assessment assures all that we are not naive to the system of getting ahead and affirms a team concept. As leaders, do not perpetuate office envy.

There are many things leaders can do to promote a sense of team. If you have a schemer I recommend addressing the attitude. On performance reports do not use phrases such as great leader or ready for command, even if the person can drive productivity up 600 percent. They may never be ready to lead, and all who will work for them will suffer for it.

Individual awards are a good thing and a fact of life, so promote an environment that genuinely rejoices at the success of others. Most people find this easiest when we ensure the truly deserving and all of the deserving get recognized. Let it be known that behavior consistent with envying the success of another is not tolerated. Even if there is not an attitude change, this may keep the office from being tainted.

Doing the best for the group, letting the credit chips fall where they may and cultivating attitudes that help another become a success are much easier said than done. If practiced, as Reagan said, there may be no limit to how far someone can go. In the end, though, it is far more important that they use these limitless boundaries to empower the whole team.