Boss Never Shares Credit? Ask Madeleine

Young businessman wondering with sketched strong and muscled armDear Madeleine,

My boss never gives anyone else any credit. It’s driving us all crazy.

We recently completed an almost impossible job for him with an absurd deadline and very little direction. He didn’t give us any feedback along the way until swooping in at the last minute with all kinds of changes. A couple of my people and I practically pulled an all-nighter to fix the presentation. He casually wandered in the next morning, picked up the materials, and did the presentation to great acclaim.

He didn’t thank us and didn’t even put in a good word for us to his peers. He just basked in the glory. (I know this for fact because I’m friends with someone who was there.)

I took my team out to lunch to celebrate their hard work and success, but it would have meant so much to them, and to me, if he had said something. How can I give him this feedback?


Dear Resentful,

This is another variation on the extremely common theme of “my boss is a jerk” that I read on a very regular basis from readers. It sounds as if you are really letting this get to you. You know what they say about resentment: it’s like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. So let’s look at some alternatives to that approach.

  • Focus on the positive: It is interesting to me that you don’t mention anything else about your boss such as what other flaws he might have or, for that matter, what his good qualities might be. You sound generally motivated to make him look good (even if this last turn of events has impacted that) so he must be doing something right. Make a list of what your boss does well and be grateful for those things. This will help to reduce your resentment and change your brain chemistry on this topic, which will make it easier to have that difficult conversation with him.
  • Manage up: Essentially, this means communicate with your boss. He really needs to know the effect of his recent behavior—because the next time he needs heroics, he isn’t going to get them. So tell him. Request permission to share an observation, and then share your point of view about what happened. Remind him that you and your people want to do a great job for him and that a little acknowledgement goes a long way. Tell him exactly what you told me: how much a word from him would have meant—to all of you. Make sure to keep things neutral, light, and informative.
  • Learn from it: I really think we learn more from bad bosses than we do from good ones because they give us such insight into what we don’t want to be or do when we become the boss. So put “always give credit to others” on your list for the future.

Who knows why your boss doesn’t give credit? He might be moving too fast and focused on the next thing. Maybe it just never occurs to him. Hopefully this will change if you give him the feedback. Good luck.

Love Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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