11 May 2021 19:27 IST

How to self-promote when you’re not a braggart

The art of conveying your strengths and accomplishments without coming cross as egotistical

Although humility is a trait that people value, just putting your head down and doing good work and expecting to be recognised doesn’t always pay off. Many have suffered negative consequences when self-promotion is needed in a situation, but they don’t know how to. On the other hand, studies show that blatant bragging isn’t effective either. The balance is what we need to get ahead in our careers.

Leslie John, HBS associate professor, suggests ways to convey successes without having to blatantly brag unsolicited:

Follow the conversational norm of reciprocation: If someone reveals something that they’ve accomplished, then you in turn can reciprocate and reveal something that you’ve accomplished. Reciprocation is a strong, conversational norm. We implicitly expect people to reveal something in return after we have shared something. Although, be cautious of it devolving into a battle of the braggarts.

Talking points: Have a sense in your mind of what the key contributions that you’re making to the team are, so when the conversation naturally shifts to something where it’s appropriate to share — you have those at the tip of your tongue.

Positive workplace culture: People think of praise and conveying strength as zero sum, where if you promote someone else, then it’s going to take away from your success. But it’s actually on the contrary. There is amazing research on how, if you promote someone else and talk positively about someone else, then it actually spills over on people’s perceptions of you too.

On an organisational level, formalising this process of sharing your accomplishments can help create a level playing field. For example, some companies have employees fill out forms to describe what their contributions have been at the end of every year.

Listen to the full conversation here.