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When the manager is too busy to micromanage and monitor the progress of the project, he empowers and delegate it to me and my colleagues, who form a small team to work on a project. However, due to the similarity of our backgrounds, sometimes the work done can be indistinguishable, meaning the 'who did what' is quite blur in the eyes of the busy manager.

However, I'm an ambitious person who finds this a bit uncomfortable. I take job ownership very seriously, and I always want to be attributed and credited properly for what I've done. It doesn't mean I'm craving for verbal/face to face praising whatsoever, yet I do expect my boss to be clear which part is from me, and I want to showcase my ability with it too.

How should I distinguish myself and let my manager know I'm shining in the project? Instead of just seeing the results, and sharing the credit with my team, I want to be recognized as the more outstanding one who always steers the project in the right direction.

Sending emails and cc-ing him is probably not my way out - the fact is, he's so busy that our discussions about the projects and the 'who-did-what' is never his concern, as long as the expected delivery is achieved.

What should I do to shine? It seems I'm already running at my max and best capacity but just simply nobody cares.

DISCLAIMER: I noticed many answers and comments calling me on not 'being a team player'. I emphasize want I want is to be noticed and credited appropriately while working in the team. I don't think 'being approved and not playing as a team player' is even a valid argument at all. What I'm asking is how to be approved while working in a team setting. I saw some answer actually address my question appropriately, thank you, and I would keep this question open for a while to gain more different perspectives before concluding the best answer. I thank wholeheartedly for comments and answers. But at the same time I wish to keep the discussion on track on my question and thus I reiterate here once more.

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  • 3
    In your team, how is an individual contributor's performance evaluated? How are promotion decisions made?
    – esqew
    Dec 1, 2022 at 15:57
  • 2
    Ask your boss if he thinks you can step up to team lead or take on other visible duties that distinguish your work from others. Then excel at those -- without letting your base productivity slip more than is absolutely necessary.
    – keshlam
    Dec 1, 2022 at 16:00
  • 19
    Do you think "want[ing] to be recognized as the more outstanding one" is conducive to a healthy team spirit? Because if you form a team, as per your own words, you should be working as a team, no?
    – Flater
    Dec 2, 2022 at 5:26
  • 3
    I think you are way underestimating how aware managers are of the different capabilities and contributions of those who report to them. I don't think you should worry about whether your manager is able to tell who are the best workers on your team. Just worry about being the best worker you can be. Your manager will know. If they really don't know, then they are not a good manager and nothing you do will change them. Better to seek a different team or job with a better manager. Dec 3, 2022 at 6:47
  • 5
    Did you consider that maybe no-one noticed because there is nothing to notice?
    – njzk2
    Dec 3, 2022 at 12:30

5 Answers 5

41

Here are the things I think about when I’m wanting to promote someone:

Someone who consistently delivers on their responsibilities with minimal supervision from their manager.

When one of my team leads, managers, or directors are the kind of person I can hand a project to and KNOW it will be completed successfully – on time, proper communication with relevant stakeholders, etc. - they are the ones I appreciate and keep in mind.

Someone who has successfully completed multiple “stretch” projects – projects that are demanding in ways the person doesn’t normally experience.

As I see someone continue to be successful with their responsibilities, I send certain kinds of projects their way. Projects that are unlike what the person normally does, or that require cooperation/collaboration with other teams the person doesn’t normally work with. Projects that might have a tighter timeline or a higher visibility within the organization. If the person can successfully deliver on a couple of these, they get my notice.

Someone whom others seek out for guidance.

When I walk by a conference room and see a small group of people standing around a whiteboard, obviously brainstorming about something – many times it’s easy to see most members deferring to a single individual. That single individual is someone I want to keep my eye on.

When I’m in a one-on-one with a person and they mention “so-and-so helped me figure out how to…” I keep track of who “so-and-so” is.

Someone who stood out in a multi-team project so much, one or more of the leaders from other teams mention to me how helpful it was to have “Someone” on that project.

In summary, helpful things are: to be consistent; asking for help when you’re faced with a new situation and you really don’t know how to proceed; able to grow and deal with ambiguity; able to win the trust and respect of their peers; and able to win the trust and respect of people from other teams are all significant factors when I’m considering promoting someone. And all of these things take time – which is difficult to accept when we’re young, eager, and ambitious.

Things that are not helpful in getting you a promotion within my hierarchy: working tons of overtime in an effort to “be seen”; poking your head in my office “just to let [me] know…” you did something; unnecessarily CC-ing me on emails (again, in an effort to “be seen”); micro-managing others or dominating a team in an effort to show how much you know; and various other things like these that focus on YOU.

Leadership is about how you elevate others, not how you’re the sharpest knife in the drawer.

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You say:

It doesn't mean I'm craving for praising whatsoever

but then you say:

I want to be recognized as the more outstanding one who always steer the project to the right direction.

These are somewhat at odds, because you're absolutely craving attention for what you do. I've managed people like this and it's, well, it's fricking exhausting. People who always need to be seen to be the outstanding worker, the star of the team rarely actually are - because they're too consumed with making their contribution seen the quality of that contribution inevitably suffers. Even worse the team productivity suffers because they aren't team players.

There's definitely a time and place to advertise your achievements and contributions - but that's in things like 1-1's and evaluations. And "I'm the one who carried that project" really doesn't sound as good as you think it does (see "not a team player" above), you talk about what you did, and what you and the team(s) you were a part of achieved. If you carried the team/project that picture emerges from a combination of what you say, what your teammates say, and their own observations.

If you really are a shining star who stands out from the crowd in terms of ability any halfway decent manager is going to spot that anyway. Just as they'll spot the person who is more bothered about looking better than their co-workers then they are about achieving whatever project or task the team has been given.

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  • 46
    "People who always need to be seen to be the outstanding worker, the star of the team rarely actually are". We've got to put this up on the FAQ.
    – LoremIpsum
    Dec 1, 2022 at 21:08
  • 40
    @Student: Be very aware that if you wish for a dog eat dog world, that the other dogs are going to be coming for you as well. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you're clearly the first dog and not the second. Your achievements may have been possible solely by others' lack of pushing for personal recognition, which will change and most likely disappear when you announce your willingness to separate yourself as "more outstanding" than the others. By and large, not being a team player is not considered a desirable employee trait. Not wanting to be a team player is a screaming red flag.
    – Flater
    Dec 2, 2022 at 5:30
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    @LoremIpsum While we're at it, can we add "Just because you don't like an answer doesn't mean it's wrong"?
    – ThaRobster
    Dec 2, 2022 at 14:25
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    I think that this answer might miss the mark. Sometimes a group project really is carried by a single contributor. Some organizations use the word "champion" or "leader" to talk about this sort of role.
    – Corbin
    Dec 2, 2022 at 14:40
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    @Flater I mean, you're not wrong per se, but I really have to agree with the OP's framing here: no one is going to advocate for you so you need to do it yourself. This isn't necessarily a zero sum game, but keeping your head down and working hard while expecting to be rewarded for it by some other entity maybe someday is usually a losing strategy. Especially if we're talking about software engineers (and since this is a stack we frequently are) they tend to not advocate enough rather than be machiavellian schemers. Dec 2, 2022 at 14:48
26

I agree with Motosubatsu's sentiment that you should let the quality of your work speak for you rather than constantly trying to beat your chest over your own personal accomplishments.

That said, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be noticed. Especially if you are working hard and you are unsure your hard work is being appreciated. We live in the age of overworked middle-management and remote working environments so even with the best of intentions it is absolutely possible to fall through the cracks when a lot going on. You do need to make sure your manager is aware that you are doing your job.

To that end, rather than attempting to regularly brag about your own accomplishments (which is off-putting even those brags may be true), focus on making your boss's life easier:

  • Take it upon yourself to put together a small weekly executive summary of the project status. Consolidate information from the whole team and put the effort on "our" rather than "my" accomplishments. RAG (red, amber, green) statuses work well here and focus should be on brevity.
  • Don't just pull your own weight on the team but show leadership. Help your fellow associates when needed, offer to assist with their tasks if you have free time, focus on building a more cohesive unit rather than as an individual contributor. When you see someone accomplish a task, praise them publicly. If you see someone go above and beyond, go to their boss and make sure they are noticed. You may even find it valuable to ask your team for their opinion on what types of things you can improve upon to become a better team player.
  • Focus on improving yourself and your work. Don't just wait for tasks but identify problems and fix them. Look for ways to improve team processes. Ask your boss what types of things you can do over your current workload in order to show value at the workplace. Express to them your ambition to continue to move up in your job and then act upon the advice that you receive.
  • Even though your daily focus should be on the team and "we", don't forget that there is a time and a place for touting your own accomplishments. Keep track of the things you complete over the year and take advantage of in-built opportunities in your company to celebrate your own wins. One-on-ones, performance reviews... these are perfect times to humbly but confidently make your decision makers aware that you have accomplished the goals you set out for yourself.

Doing the above shows next-level problem solving and leadership which will quickly make you the go-to person in your boss's eyes. You won't have to cc your boss in on communications or brag about that one accomplishment because your boss will know that anything they toss over to you they no longer need to worry about. Moreover, if you can make your focus on self-improvement and helping your team, you will develop a reputation in your company which will take you farther than any brag ever would.

In the end if you still feel unappreciated it may be time to move onto your next opportunity but you will be able to leave confident that you did all that you could and you will have developed skills that will make you valuable anywhere you go.

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    I appreicate you actually pull out concrete actions.
    – Student
    Dec 2, 2022 at 1:33
  • 11
    "...anything they toss over to you they no longer need to worry about." This. From personal experience, this is one of the most important things if you want to make a positive impression on your boss, especially a busy one. Note that this is the exact opposite of "cc-ing him or regularly bragging about your accomplishments". Managers don't hire people because they enjoy managing them (i.e., because they want more things to worry about), they hire people so that they can offload work to them (i.e, because they want less things to worry about).
    – Heinzi
    Dec 2, 2022 at 11:50
  • Noticing the star employees is part of the job of a manager. I understand 100% OP's sentiment. This exact sentiment is what triggers people to justify "quiet quitting". What matters if you are doing an amazing job but you are not recognized and not awarded by it. If your manager is not actually following up with his subordinates he is doing a bad job. My advise would be to start looking for a position elsewhere within or outside the company. You can't do your manager job.
    – Bene
    Dec 2, 2022 at 17:58
  • "put together a small weekly executive summary of the project status" if no-one asked you that, and the manager already has metrics to measure that, it won't do much
    – njzk2
    Dec 3, 2022 at 12:33
  • @njzk2: At least it won't do (much) harm, compared to other things OP might come up with to "gain visibility".
    – Heinzi
    Dec 4, 2022 at 18:03
1

Useful tool, whether your manager is watching carefully or not: Keep a logbook.Each day, or when you change tasks, scribble into it what you've achieved and)or what your working on. You can then go back and summarize this into a (hopefully impressive, but at least organized) document at performance review time.

There are tools which can make this task tracking easier, more accurate, or both. I never bothered with them; I just wrote a short script that added the rest of the text on the command line to a file, preceded by a timestamp. Basic, better than nothing, free.

0

If you are doing as well as you say, you can bet your teammates talk about your performance -- both with each other and with your manager.

If you have reason to suspect your teammates do not give you praise for your performance, then maybe it's not the three standard deviations you seem to think it is.

True outperformance is always fairly obvious. Just over average is not, but also not something to be particularly proud of. That sort of small effect arises from many causes, few of which are within your control.

My advice would be to make sure your teammates feel your high performance. Spend your time making their jobs easier. It will pay off.

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