Bragging Without Sounding Like You’re Bragging

Here’s a question from a recent Ask Annie column:

Dear Annie: My boss, who is also a longtime mentor and friend, will be retiring at the end of the year, and he’s trying to help me position myself to take over his job. He’s been telling me that, if I want to keep moving up, I have to do a better job of self-promotion — that is, I have to try harder to make sure that higher-ups in the company are aware of my accomplishments. The trouble is, I was raised not to blow my own horn, and it’s very hard for me to boast about what I’ve done, especially when other team members deserve some of the credit. Do you have any suggestions? — Mr. Modesty

What’s your advice? You can read Annie’s response here.

My thoughts:

I have always had a problem with self-promotion, which does seem like bragging. My parents taught me not to brag. Self-promotion also seems to run counter to my Christian values (read Colossians 3:22-24).

That said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with getting in front of management and showing them your capabilities. I also think there’s nothing wrong with networking and making yourself a resource for when things need to get done.

Overall I agree with Annie’s advice but it doesn’t make me any more comfortable with bragging.

4 thoughts on “Bragging Without Sounding Like You’re Bragging”

  1. Sometimes the easiest way to “brag” is to simply accept credit for accomplishments. While not every boss or coworker is going to lavish you with praise or thank you for a job well done, when it does happen, don’t be so quick to say “oh, it was nothing”. Just smile and say thank you. It’s a powerful way to remind them that yes, you’re responsible for getting this done and you’re comfortable admitting it, but you’re not actually bragging or tooting your own horn in a way that makes people roll their eyes.

    You can also keep a file (hard copy or digital) of your accomplishments. You don’t need to bring these up all the time, but if you have a formal review process, it might not hurt to remind your boss that “I really enjoyed working on the XYZ project and I’m proud of the fact that our team got the fastest, most accurate or highest commission in the history of the department for that.” The review is a process specifically for situations like this–don’t let it be one-sided with all the review coming down from the boss.

  2. I nearly lost my job over this issue once. My boss didn’t realize I was doing my job because I never told him. After a mutual friend mentioned to me that he thought I was slacking, I simply gave him a daily report of what I’d done. He thought I’d turned my whole attitude around, but all I really did was make a phone call every day.

    I learned that managers need information. It’s the one thing they work with, and they need a lot of it. If they are going to do their jobs, they need you to give them stuff with which to work.

    You’re not doing it for you — you’re not bragging or blowing your own horn — you’re helping your manager by giving him what he or she needs to make good decisions. If you really are the best person for the job, you probably care about the work that’s being done and you want to be the one to do it. Help your boss.

  3. It is pretty simple to get around this. Make regular communications a part of your standard project process. Give updates about how projects are going, and give a project summary wrap-up, as well. This communication is a good way to do self-promotion without being boastful. Upper management really appreciates the communication, and if you are doing a good job, then it is automatic self-promotion. Just make sure you do a good job, and focus discussion on the projects themselves. They will understand that they are your projects and make the connection.

    My boss is horrible about these communications, so I just make these communications available to all management (parallel to him, and above him). It really works out since what I do (IT) has a direct impact on everyone.

  4. Three things I’ve learned. Tell your boss when things are done. You don’t have to brag about it. Just provide factual status reports.

    The second is to ask other people at work the simple question, “Can I help you with that?” Nearly everyone I’ve ever worked with likes to work with people who will help them out during a crunch.

    The third is to give credit to other people who have helped you. Yes, there are people out there who will just use you, but there are also a lot of people who will remember to return the favor. And they will also me happy to work with you.

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