I'm a first line software development manager in a very large high tech company and I'm appealing to everyone for help in learning how to deal with something that has been bothering me more and more in my career as I work up the ladder. I guess this isn't really a question about management or leadership, but I'm hoping I can get some practical advice from all the other great leaders on these forums and of course Mark and Mike themselves.

My working environment is extremely competitive as is most of high tech these days and I would consider myself a "go-getter" and a very competitive person. What has bothered me a lot in the past is when other competitive go-getters do things that affect me in order to get more visibility for themselves. As an example, I was assigned the development owner of a particular maintenance release and I found out that a peer manager, who obviously knew I was the owner, put together a presentation about the release and gave it to a group of managers in a different area and did not inform me she was doing this. To me, it was a clear attempt on her part to get visibility when that opportunity should have came to me first. Now, the competitiveness in me makes my blood boil when things like this happen, to the point where confronting the person about it is very difficult as it would probably come out all wrong.

Another thing I struggle with is the flip side of the example above - when I do something that someone else feels is "stepping on their toes" or not giving them due credit and they then get their blood boiling over it. I'm always, or at least I think I am, conscious of not stepping on other peoples toes as I know what it feels like, but in some cases I still end up by having peers give me "attitude" out of nowhere to later find out that I didn't include their name on an email that went out to a large group of senior managers and influential people.

At times it makes me want to just throw the white towel in and say to heck with it all.

Can anyone offer me any practical tips or advice with how to deal with this?

Thanks in advance.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Write it all down. Read it. Burn it. (Not throw away, but BURN.) This will help you vent it and then take the high road. Clearly you have started down this path as you're here talking in general instead of on the floor yelling at her. :)

Is it reasonable to assume that your boss knows what projects you're working on? It seems that she is only doing damage to herself for taking credit for a project that is known to be yours. Let's say she did manage to pull the lie off, what does she get? Promoted to a job she can't handle?

What would you gain by engaging in a fight over this? What would you lose?

Keep track the basics. Succeed at your tasks. Keep track of your team. Get your job done well. Absolutely make others aware of your success. Use the DISC model to present yourself in a positive light differently to different people.

If asked, smile indulgently and truthfully say "yes, that's my project. No, I don't know why she sent an update about it." Word will get around.

HMac's picture

I agree with Will (especially the part about BURNING!). I'll add one thought: each of the examples you gave can be opportunities for building your relationships with your peers: Once the emotion has past, you can address your concerns with the peer who presented the work without crediting you. You might find out that it was a genuine oversight by her - or maybe she's just self-centered by nature! But I'd bet she'd think twice before doing it again. And in your other example, you could schedule time to sit down with a peer who's work you'll be presenting (or referencing), to get their input. Sort of like the "prewire" meetings on the recent cast.

These efforts will help you build your peer relations - which are incredibly important to your success in the organization.

- Hugh MacNiven
[email protected]

jhack's picture

It's a sign of dysfunction when the competitive energies of people in a company are turned on one another. You should be competing with, well, your competitors.

No, I'm not naive. But M&M's best advice for seeking the source of a problem is to look in concentric circles around your own desk.

Your challenge is to transform your competitive energy into great customer products and services. The best way to do this is focus on your team's results. You're running the project; bring it in on time and under budget.

The second challenge is communication. Forget the past. Start over. Invite her to lunch, and talk about how the two of you together can achieve more than each working alone. Same with your boss. And other relevant colleagues.

If it turns out that you and they are a truly malignant bunch, more interested in competing with each other than in the marketplace, perhaps you should seek opportunity elsewhere.

I work in high-tech (software) and I can assure you that not all firms are like this. Sure, folks are ambitious and want to get ahead. But collaboration and teamwork are certainly to be found in many firms.

One last thought: when you are successful in the market and your company grows, there is opportunity for everyone. It's not a zero sum game.


juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

Will's burning suggestion is excellent.

In terms of how to avoid it - it comes down the relationship. In general I have found (in that dog-eat-dog-world we live in) you can live and die by those relationships. If you consistently build the relationships, extend the credit wherever it may lie, and push forward, you will start to see people recognizing the value you place on their work. As they do, they will become more consistent in giving the same credit.

When you're no longer mad, speak to your peer. I wouldn't address it in terms of 'credit' but in terms of quality. Let her know you'd be happy to give her any information she needs for this type of presentation in the future. You'd like to have your team's work recognized in that presentation and you may be the only person who can give her that added credibility.

The presentation was her work if she created it. The project is yours. Chances are if you can help her, she will recognize your team (which is a much larger indication of you than many other things).

Don't worry - your boss knows who the project belongs to!

Dan6's picture

Thank you all for your very useful and thoughtful responses - I really appreciate it!


kevdude's picture

While I agree with all of the comments above, there was something that stood out for me: perhaps you are seeing the undesired behavior in your peer that you yourself have done.

Regardless, it is clear you have been undermined. After your emotions settle, it may help to discuss with your manager his/her thoughts on where the project ownership lies, depending on your dynamics with your manager. Your manager should spell it out in no uncertain terms who is responsible for what - that is their job. If s/he prefers to take a back seat and not assist, it may be prudent to start questioning the culture of the company you are working in and act accordingly.

It is unfortunate that there truly are "evil" people who will play any dirty politics and tricks to get ahead. Learning how to deal with them is the secret. Regardless of what happens, I would be cautious about the words you choose with this person and try to understand her political connections and motivations as well. Ultimately though, as the others have said it all comes down to you and your choices in moving forward.

Good luck!

AManagerTool's picture

I just got done reading Martha Stout's "The Sociopath Next Door". Dr. Stout compiled some statistics and claims that 1 in 25 of us are technically classified as sociopaths. That is, we have no consience whatsoever. This does not mean that we are axe murderers. That seems to be the exception to the world of sociopathy. Many times sociopathy manifests itself as "gamesmanship" at work. Perhaps, we need to look at our co-workers with a little bit more of a critical eye when the pull the "dog eat dog" nonsense. Either way, the answers that were given to you in the previous posts are solid.

From an interview with Dr. Stout:

[quote]How do you spot a sociopath?
A sociopath has no conscience, no ability to feel shame, guilt or remorse. Since 1 in 25 ordinary Americans is a sociopath, you almost certainly know one or more than one already. How can you recognize him or her?

Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they live only to dominate others and win.

They have a kind of glow or charisma that makes them more charming or interesting than the other people around them. They are more spontaneous, more intense, complex, or even sexier than everyone else.

They crave stimulation and excitement, often showing brief intense enthusiasms that they later drop.

They are seductive, encouraging others to take risks.

They will tell you that you are just like them. Don't believe it.[/quote]

bflynn's picture

AMT - I don't want this to be callous, but I don't see the takeaway. The definition of a sociopath is mildly interesting and this doctor's belief that the number is 4% is interesting.

But sociopath implies a reason for motivation behind actions and motivation is not relevant. Manager Tools managers focus on behavior without assigning motivation. I really don't care [i]why [/i]you come in late, I care about the [i]action and effect [/i]it has on the work. We purposefully sidestep the question of why. And the beauty of it is that I don't need care if they have a conscience or not.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

First, AManagerTool -couldn't disagree more strongly. 1 in 25 a sociopath, based on that definition (which, by the way, is NOT the definition of a sociopath)? No way. Somebody remind me someday to share the parable of the wanderers in search of a village.

Second, Dan6, thanks for posting your question. I think it's far more common than most would admit, or than you realize.

Now, unfortunately, the problem is ALL YOURS. When YOU get YOUR feelings hurt, YOU own that. Maybe they ARE out to get what? If you're looking for a place without THAT, start your own firm. Be the change you want to see in the world. Do your best, WITHOUT screwing anyone. Tell folks in advance what you're going to do. Apologize when you stop on toes inadvertently. Do NOT screw others to get ahead...or stop bitching about the culture you are helping to create.

Be the change you want to see where you are. Some of the greatest, deepest professional peace in my life has been when I said, NO, that's not me, and I won't be what they want me to be, even though I would be DAMN good at it. I'd rather be average at being ME than GOOD at being them.

Don't fight the conflict. IGNORE it, and take actions to be seen as above it (notifying others in advance, apologizing for misunderstandings, creating, investing in, and maintaining relationships).

There's a book to be written about Zen competitiveness.

It's good to be back!


slymcmosa's picture


My apologies in advance for the length of my post. This topic is something I spent decades of my life working out, so it is near and dear to my heart. And I am windbag even without that extra incentive.

I couldn't agree with Mark more on this. From my personal experience and seeing the results of different behaviours, from myself and other throughout my career "IGNORE it" is the best advice you could be given.

You are going to feel the way you feel, know doubt. I think the "write it, and burn it" suggestions from previous responses are great therapeutic ways to deal with your very natural human feelings.

I watched one of the greatest films in American cinema over the weekend for the umpteenth time. There is great line by the character Mr. Bernstein [quote]"Well, it's no trick to make a lot of money, if all you want to do is make a lot of money."[/quote].

I think it applies in your situation as well except paraphrasing "there is no trick to getting ahead...if all you care about to is getting ahead, at any cost".

I have been in organizations just like the ones you are talking about. And if you have a tough time keeping yourself focused on getting ahead the right way, following a set of guidelines like MT, know that this type of organizational cannibalism isn't good for the organization either. It isn't economical. So by you rising above it, you are serving the good of all whom you work with and for, and not just yourself

Ultimately, I would also say that part of the problem you have to overcome is patience. If a team cheats on a play, they may score or make a big advance. But if the other team is a better team, the better team will ultimately win. And if not that game, then throughtout the season, and if not the season then throughout the history of the game. Have the patience to get "beaten" on a play, even if you think it was an unfair play. And keep playing well, within the guidleines and win the game.

I have gone on too long, so I will wrap it up with one more reference. One of my great heroes is Benjamin Franklin. He had a personal philosophy of never worrying about getting credit for things. Even to the point of giviing any of his associates credit for things he actually did. He believed, and I agree, that people eventually know. You earn the trust and affection of your associates, and they return that favour. The power of your long term reputation will far outshine any short term recognition gained or lost.

Good luck to you Dan. I hope that someday when this happens to you, you will be able to slyly grin and find it amusing, knowing with confidence that your work will prevail.