Why Do Boneheads Get Bonuses? – How To Share Your Wins Without Looking Smug

Some of us squirm at the idea of letting others know of our achievements.

Others say nothing, thinking that their successes will speak for themselves.  Unfortunately, they often don’t.

As significant as they are to you, they get muffled by other priorities that tumble on people during the course of the day.

Worse, others can snatch your win from under your nose and either claim it as their own or belittle it before you’ve had the chance to give the full context and outcome.

There are ways to achieve visibility, getting the credit you deserve, without coming across as smug and egotistical.

People deserve to know what you bring to your colleagues, your company and your world, and there are many unobjectionable ways to achieve job visibility,

Many of my clients are naturally introverted and squirm at the idea of sharing their successes so I’m going to show you the difference between sharing and being an a-hole.


Being seen means you’re keen

Nikita was seething between slurps of her Americano.

“There’s this guy at work and he got a massive pay rise this year. He’s not heading a department or anything. He’s got a team of two and he’s coding and stuff.”

“He must be damn good then,” I suggested.

“No. He’s a bloody idiot, actually.”

“So how come he’s doing so well, financially speaking, anyway?”

“One thing,” said Nikita, “visibility.”

Visibility is the key. Every time this guy – let’s call him Guy – achieved a milestone, set something up, resolved a problem, he’d send a self-congratulatory email out to managers.

Snatching credit vs. giving credit

Sitting with me was Nikita’s boyfriend, Yann, who voiced something that many of you may share:

“Doesn’t that make you an utter tosser? Announcing every single thing you’ve done? I mean, that’s like the whole social media thing: ‘look at me in a restaurant/on a beach.’ It’s so smug.”

I’d say there’s a thin line between having high visibility and being a total cretin and it appears that Guy was crossing it regularly, for example, appropriating a Wiki initiative that was set up by Nikita, as his ‘own project’.

How to protect your achievements, be visible, and earn respect

Since our conversation, Nikita has created coding for a huge client with Guy regularly hovering over her. He wanted to run to senior management before she did, thereby snatching credit from Nikita.

Nikita acted swiftly but took an open and honest approach with senior management.  She’d kept them in the loop as she was working on the software but didn’t tell Guy.

For example, if there had been a bug, she gave an update about that and what she was doing to overcome it. This is how she built trust with Senior Management, thereby fixing in their minds her association with the success of the project, even if Guy ran in shouting about it first, which he didn’t.

The reason she pipped Guy to the post was because Nikita ditched dithering at the keyboard.

She quickly informed the Leadership Team of the completed milestone, naming and thanking her team, who she copied into the email.  This made her look more like  ‘leadership material’

As a result of this increased visibility, Nikita has since been rewarded with a handsome pay rise.

Getting the word out without sounding like some inflated, egotistic ass

By taking this approach Nikita has shown she is organised, and has great communication skills, has along with the humility to recognise what other people bring. Good leadership is about empowering others and having the confidence to recognise their strengths, which reflects in Nikita’s actions.

Having said that, your employers need to know what you can offer and it’s a disservice to keep this to yourself. To step into your potential, others need to know what you offer; so bring it out and don’t worry about being seen.

As the wonderful Scottish singer, Siobahn Miller, sings:  “It’s not how big your share is but how much you chose to share.”

How to be visible without looking smug

Your Actions:

  1. Write down one achievement from the past 3-6 months.
  2. Write down at least one other person who was involved.
  3. If possible, provide a visual: take a picture of yourself with them or a product photo, for example.  A testimonial from internal or external client is as effective.
  4. Use a social channel / intranet / to thank them for their help.  Remember to tag your company / colleague(s) to get the word around.  If you use email, remember to cc. in management and team leaders: they need to know what you offer.

Using problem-solving techniques like this develops your communication skills and your influence skills and means you will quickly become more respected within your business. So check out my communications skills courses here and be more you #bemoreyou.

This article was originally published in September 2014 and was rewritten in December 2023.

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