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Taking Credit for Doing the Right Thing

Have you ever wondered about the pros and cons of taking credit for doing the right thing? How do you know when to promote those actions authentically without coming across as opportunistic or insincere?

First, let’s get on the same page as the types of activities we’re talking about. Here is a—highly subjective—sampling:

  • Offering transgender-inclusive benefits
  • Underwriting public media
  • Taking a stand on political issues like discriminatory laws such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” or Texas’ law that lets enforcement officers arrest people who are suspected of entering the country illegally
  • Offering paternal leave in addition to maternal leave
  • Supporting a smaller nonprofit if your organization is a larger one
  • Reducing your carbon footprint
  • Boycotting X (formerly known as Twitter) after Elon Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory
  • Divesting holdings in gun manufacturers
  • And so forth, and so on…

Deciding if you should be taking credit for doing the right thing is a tricky question. On the one hand, it’s essential to demonstrate your leadership in order to encourage other organizations to do the same. On the other, you risk alienating the public if it looks like you are bragging or doing something just for the attention it can garner. 

Here are some questions to consider when deciding between down low and out loud. 

  1. Are you a leader? If you’re taking a step that your contemporaries are not, then it’s probably a good idea to let people know about it. If you are late to the party, however, it’s probably best to skip the promotion. 
  2. Will it alienate key constituencies? If the answer is yes, work on a public education campaign, one that explains how the decision impacts your bottom line, reinforces your brand strategy, and, of course, improves life for all of us. 
  3. Who decided to do it? If your organization did something altruistic that was a pet project of a board member or senior leader, then it might be better to downplay the work. Why? If there was hesitation to do it before the advocate jumped in, there was probably a good reason for it. Perhaps, for example, it did not align with your brand strategy, or perhaps it’s at odds with your constituents’ priorities. 
  4. Why did you do it? For example, a lot of times, taking public stands improves employee retention efforts. In those situations, you should, at the very least, share what you did internally as well as use it as a way to reinforce your organization as an employer of choice.
  5. Will it open the floodgates for more requests? Sometimes, supporting one cause might send a message to others that you have money to burn. In those situations, before you publicize your good work, make certain you have clear criteria for the types of projects you support or actions you take. 
  6. Are you confident it’s a long-term commitment? Some actions are one-and-done, but others require long-term repetition. If you’re trying out a new policy, such as offering unlimited vacation time, for example, but aren’t certain it will work for your organization, best to wait until you are before you tell the world. 

What else? Have we missed any other reason why you should or should not be taking credit for doing the right thing? Let us know.

RELATED POST: When Should You Take a Stand?

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