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Is someone trivializing your accomplishments?

When someone gets up laughing after a fall, he or she is trivializing the incident. That is a common tactic and is acceptable. However, when someone, say, calls Holocaust just an event in history, such trivializing is perceived as an attack or a deliberate agenda to make light of something significant.

In the corporate world, trivializing is common. Bosses use it to postpone the promotion you've been asking for. Subordinates use it against their boss/employer -- for example, when a lower performance rating hurts them. Peers use it to gain a "competitive edge" over you.

I'm an innovator and Change leader based in India and I experience this "attack" every day. Now, I recognize them instantly. How can you figure out if someone is trivializing, say, your accomplishment? There are many behaviors that give away the hidden motive.
1. They may say something like ...
  • "It is not new. Probably there are many other ..." OR "I know that some of the bigger companies already use ..."
  • "Perhaps there are other aspects that are more important ..."
  • "I'm sure there are better ways to ..."
  • "Today, the world actually is moving toward something else ..."
Sure, such responses actually might be genuine and useful feedback. The test therefore starts only when you ask them for data/references. If they had wanted to trivialize, they know they've been trapped and you probably won't hear from them again!

2. Your "attackers" also reveal their true motive when they ignore all the good things you have done and divert attention to that one bad thing.

3. Or they switch to an item of far lesser importance. For example, rather than comment on the content of your presentation, they will talk about your terrific graphic skills as seen in your choice of colors.

4. They most likely start with a praise -- a phrase, a sentence, or even a whole "paragraph" of praise.

Possible reasons for trivializing are: Jealousy ... perception of you as a threat ... arrogance ... genuine ignorance! ... (Feel free to add your own items using the Comments link you'll find at the end of this article).

What can you do about it? Just recognize it and ignore it. Recognizing is important so you don't get misled. Pretty soon -- hopefully -- your "attackers" will realize how immature they have been.


  1. I agree this happens quite frequently especially in Indian IT services industry professional circles. I agree one must confront and fight back, ask for data and so on. If the other person's opinion is worth attacking, as in if he/she is impacting your work or deal or whatever. If not, we should self-confidently move on, since one life is not enough to fix the idiocy and ignorance that flourishes everywhere.

    Having said that, the opposite problem is bigger in India in my opinion. Most people are claiming sole credit for team achievements, even when it was not even an achievement. For example, on a given day, at least 3-4 times, I hear 'I built this account from nothing'...'THere was nothing when I joined...'...'I got the deal for so and so'...and so on. There are so many such people around who are constantly bragging about small achievements and someone else's achievements that people have lost the ability to separate the chaff and the wheat. Many people are on this self-promotion trip that people's antennas are up the moment you shake hands and say hello...This bragging culture has penetrated the topmost echelons of Indian IT for example that it is becoming the management culture in many companies. So, you will be thrown out in an interview for a sales management position if you care to be honest and talk about how 50 people had to work hard to pull in that $50 million deal...just saying that there is a flip side to the coin.

    Your best post recently, keep writing.

  2. SKV, I'm happy you like it ... thanks for continuing to share your experiences/insights here.

    Back to the post ... As you say, individuals do seem to claim all the credit. A related observation ... Bragging (in India) appears to happen 1-on-1 between subordinate and boss. Do you think this might be true in most cases?

  3. I guess this bragging is for a certain purpose, i.e. career advancement and benefits etc. As such, it is mostly directed at the boss who has the power. I have seen many cases where your peer would in private thank you prufusely and even say without you he could not won a deal or something, but publicly (for example in the email announcing the deal) words would be carefully selected to give the impression that it was a one man show with token mention of the rest of the team. Of course, the boss gets a nuanced version (especially bosses who are not aware of what is going on at a detail level) which is again having the same message.

    Why would bosses brag to their subs? They do perhaps because of a lack of self-esteem (to show why i am your boss), to show ones contribution (you cant do what you are doing without my work in the background), to put pressure (I am doing so much and you are doing not nearly enough) and perhaps out of a culture that has developed over the years (i.e. fill every conversation with a list of one's achievements).

    Perhaps there is something cultural in this. We Indians love to share our experience as soon someone opens a topic. Before the client has finished even half a sentence ('We have weak governance...') our friend has statred ('In fact, I have seen governance issues with many fact, it can be adressed easily. I have personally done it many times...etc.' . Of course, the client never gets to say what kind of governance problem he has. So, perhaps it is not bragging, but something cultural which makes people full of 'I'ness.

  4. Interesting insights from both Pradeep and SKV. As President Reagan once said "We could accomplish more if we don't care about who gets the credit". Since Indian IT Industry is pretty new when compared to other Traditional industries. So there is more growth opportunity, and so people are deemed as failure if they don't get promoted quickly. So they had to resort to self promotion. But in other traditional sectors like Government or Manufacturing where the growth is slow, people tend to be more humble about their achievements.

  5. Interestingly, announcing one's accomplishment publicly (thru company newsletter or email) is actually an excellent practice. I'm not talking about self-promo, which tries to take ALL the credit via 1-on-1 conversations/relationships with boss. The kind of announcement I'm talking about is the act of celebrating good work. Assuming the individual or his/her group has really done significant work, such celebrations and accomplishments can have a positive rub-off on others and their groups. Here's a personal case:

    Generally in India, while self-promo (as I defined it above) appears to be common, public celebration of GOOD work is often missing.

    We may have slightly moved away from our original topic (TRIVIALIZING), but this has been a good discussion overall.

  6. It's awful isn't it!!

    Once I presented to an IT Division with regards to how a new strategic department, that I was establishing internally, would operate using a hybrid of service (ITIL), product (bespoke package) and solution delivery (SDLC) methodologies.

    After the session had closed I was approached and congratulated by four General Managers when an onlooker chirped "He didn't come up with any of that you know".

    I was taken aback, particularly given that he was the IT Director. Besides the jealousy and/or perceived threat - the interesting aspect for me was how he ignorantly discredited himself in front of his own direct reports.

    Needless to say I have since sought (good) leadership practices from elsewhere.


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