Self-Promotion for Normal People: Earn Recognition without Being an Asshole

These days, you can’t simply sit back, do your job well and wait for the praise to roll in.  In today’s tight economy, you’ve got to make others aware of your accomplishments – lest you wind up ahead of your office’s resident ass kisser in line for a lay-off notice.

But with self-promotion – as with so many other things in the current business environment – there’s a right way, and a very wrong way to go about doing it!

Think about it for a second…  How many of you know somebody who just won’t shut up about the amazing things he’s done (even if they aren’t all that awesome in the first place)?  You can call it “managing up” or you can call it “brown nosing” – either way, it’s frustrating for fellow employees to be around and for managers to tolerate.

You don’t have to go down this road.  In fact, it’s very possible to promote your accomplishments and earn the recognition you deserve without coming across like a complete tool.  To see how exactly to do this; give any of the following strategies a try:

Strategy #1 – Phrase updates to mention the work you’ve done

One of the sneakiest ways to let people know that you’re on top of your game is to work your accomplishments into the updates you give to others.

Let’s look at an example…

Suppose you’ve just finished work on a big report that had you working all hours of the night.  When you run into your boss the next morning, which of the two following statements do you think puts you and your achievement in a better light?

“Hey boss!  I had to put in a few 80-hour workweeks to do it, but I just finished that report you wanted.  I can’t wait for you to see what a great job I did!”


“Hey boss.  Now that I’m finished with the report you requested, is there anything else I can help you with?”

One of these two options makes you look like an asshole; the other showcases your efforts without coming across as “braggy.”  Guess which one’s going to come across a hell of a lot better to the person who ultimately makes the decision about your continued employment??  Basically, cut the crap and start finding ways to showcase your accomplishments in a positive, mature way.

Strategy #2 – Give credit where credit is due

Another shortcut that assholes often take when it comes to self-promotion is taking credit for other peoples’ work.  This is especially common when work involves committee or team work, as it’s all too easy for one employee to start making bold proclamations to senior management regarding his involvement in the project, as soon as other team members are out of ear shot.

Obviously, this usually backfires.  Not only does “Captain America” usually alienate his coworkers to the point that it jeopardizes future projects, managers are usually pretty quick to catch on to this type of behavior.  And really, the last thing you want to be is the guy that all the managers laugh at behind closed doors!

Instead of being quick to accept all the praise for group achievements, go out of your way to say good things about your coworkers.  It might seem risky – especially given how much of today’s career opportunities rely on strong performance reviews and demonstrated accomplishments – but trust me.  Managers notice when a single employee repeatedly appears on successful teams, and that recognition will translate into appreciation.

Strategy #3 – Announce achievements quietly

Finally, if you’re lucky enough to be recognized for your hard work in some way, the last thing you want to do is run your mouth off to the entire office.  Again, this type of overly-aggressive behavior is only going to alienate your coworkers and frustrate your manager.

But, at the same time, you don’t want these achievements to go entirely unnoticed, as some level of recognition is a vital part of ensuring that your efforts result in tangible career benefits.  Consider any of the following strategies, should you find yourself in this position:

  • If you complete a training course or receive a small award certificate, ask your manager to have a copy of the documentation placed in your personnel file.
  • If you earn a larger reward or trophy, place it on your desk without calling attention to it.  Believe me; your coworkers will notice!
  • If you earn a promotion, title change or other achievement, update your resume and online business profiles (for example, your career page on LinkedIn).  Pass on new copies to your business acquaintances where appropriate, and trust that these close contacts will notice the changes in your status.

If you’re struggling to find a balance between self-promotion for normal people and coming off like an asshole, get in the habit of asking yourself, “What would I think if my coworkers took the actions I’m considering?”  If your answer is, “I’d think he’s a douche bag,” find a more subtle way to earn recognition for your accomplishments.

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