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BLUF: Let it go? Find a way to mention it to the boss as "not a big deal but ..."? Clearly state dissatisfaction with his tactics?

He and I are at the same level, managing people who do the same job functions. We both report to the same VP. He has been in his role for 4 yrs and our boss makes no attempt to hide his admiration for my counterpart.

(In the Denver office, it's a running joke that he's the boss's Golden Child Who Can Do No Wrong.)

Timeline:

Weds 10:49 am - boss asks us both to attend another team's meeting - my colleague for the North, me for the South.

Weds 11:01 am - ask boss for clarification, did he want all-hands or just leadership on the North/South meetings?

Weds 12:11 pm - boss said all-hands & to check with my colleague for info on the issues we need to address in those meetings.

Weds 1:00 pm - email to colleague to provide my starting points & asking for his input to ensure we're conveying the same message in our separate meetings.

Weds 2:56 pm - colleague provided a concise bullet list of items where the other team members are weak in understanding what's required & when.

Weds 3:12 pm - asked him if we've ever provided this information in cheat-sheet format to the other teams for quick reference before.

Weds 3:23 pm - "We never have, but probably should" was the entire extent of his reply.

At this point, I set forth in working with one of my senior folks to get his bullet list into a cheat-sheet. I hadn't asked him to take any action.

Fri 3:53 pm - colleague emails me & copies our boss with:

"Here is the [cheat-sheet] that my lead person and I put together - thought it might be useful when we talk to the MBIS'during the 'All Hands' meetings."

I know -- I need to let go of the emotion but right now, I want to kick him in the shins. HARD.

I'm half tempted to hit Reply All and say: "Yep, I thought it was a great idea too - which is why I asked you if such a thing existed two days ago."

I'm sure that would look more than a little petulant though.

My colleague is all about the process and documenting the process and following the process. I'm more focused on developing the talent, encouraging, promoting, coaching, etc. and I wanted to use the opportunity to get one of MY folks a chance to flex her skills at creating things like this so that she could build her brag bag for review / merit increase time.

I tasked my DR with it on Weds with a due date of this coming Mon. I can handle telling my DR "Oops, sorry, looks like great minds think alike; I hadn't realized T's group was already working on this but I will still add your results to the brag bag."

I'm just REALLY irritated that my colleague seems to have taken credit for my observation and idea.

If I'm supposed to be working closely with the boss's Golden Child and I can't trust him to communicate with me ("hey, great idea, I'll have my team come up with something since it's process-related"), let alone take credit for things I've noticed & pass it off as if he suddenly saw this opportunity for improvement, we're going to end up going in completely opposite directions with our groups, while still reporting under the same VP - which won't make anyone happy.

[I also recognize *I* could have communicated to him, "hey, this would be a great opportunity for me to get DR #2 to flex her muscles; would you like to review her drafts with me?"]

Argh.

HMac's picture

Ash: Let it go.

By the way:
"(In the Denver office, it's a running joke that he's the boss's Golden Child Who Can Do No Wrong.)"

And I sure-as-heck hope that you're not sanctioning or participating in a running joke that mocks a peer - no matter how well deserved it might be.

I honestly believe this is the type of incident that's best shared with a loved one, a best friend, or pals like us on an anonymous board. You have every right to be frustrated, even angry. Vent it out: outside of work.

Ash, the danger is just too great that you'll say something/do something that, when looked at by someone else out of context, will appear political, petty or insecure.

-Hugh

jhack's picture

...to think of good advice for you here. Hugh's right about not participating in the gossip network. That is at best unproductive, and more likely to erode good relationships all around.

And Hugh is also right about your actions: you'll have to let it go...this time.

Now comes the hard part: what do you do in the future? It seems that you're going to have to be much more active in keeping your boss apprised of your contributions. I loathe having to cc: just to cover my bases, but you might have to start doing this.

(Bonus: if your boss asks you to stop cc:'ing him, you can tell him in person, not email, why you started doing it.)

John

Anandha's picture

I would let it go.

Don't stoop to your peer's level - you are and should be better than that.

I also wouldn't change anything about the way I work. I believe there is a higher power that will take care of this - what goes around comes around...

Anandha

bflynn's picture

 Its too late to deal with this instance now, but I wouldn't recommend letting it go in the future.  It is bad for the firm for people like this to succeed and demoralizing to the other directs when they do.  This person isn't merely pretentious, he is harmful to the shareholders.

One method is to let him hang himself.  Talk with your boss about an idea in private.  Then document it and ask your peer to review this idea that you're developing to send to the boss.  Dollars to donuts, if he is as underhanded as you say, he will forward it to the boss as his idea.  Your boss will begin to suspect  everything this person has ever done and the days of the Golden Child will be numbered.

Is it underhanded and sneaky?  You decide.  There are times when a good manager has to use politics for the good of the company.  Its never pretty when it has to happen, but as long as ITS NOT ABOUT YOU, then you're probably on safe ground.

Brian

US41's picture

The facts:

  1. You had a good idea
  2. You told him your idea
  3. You did not tell him you were going to plan and execute the idea
  4. He did not tell you that he was going to plan and execute the idea
  5. You both planned and executed alone away from each other
  6. He got there first.

Let's not turn this into a question of evil people with poor ethics who destroy organizations. That's all just emotion. The truth is that there is a two-way dysfunction here. Neither of you communicated with the other, and neither of you collaborated or sought the other for input.

Recommendations:

  • Tell him next time that you are going to execute
  • Involve him in it
  • Specifically state up front that you want both your names on the final product
  • You will both present it together
  • It will make you both look like team players
  • Schedule a hot wash after the presentation for both of you to review how it went

You cannot manage your peer nor can you control him. Any plan you have to do anything in the future to change him is doomed to failure. You have to instead create a playing field that contains poor execution with planning and communication.

Here's another thought - why are the two of you climbing over each other to be the ones to give the big boss something like a cheat sheet? Delegate that and let your directs be the ones to cough it up and present it. Surely you don't need the glory of the cheat sheet.

US41

ashdenver's picture

US41, I love what you said about delegrating it to a DR.  That's exactly the path I was on.  I wanted it to be a development opportunity for the most senior person on the team - to give her a chance to start with the raw data, mold it into what she thought would be acceptable presentation material, coach and mentor her throughout the sheet's development process and get her to a place where coming up with these helpful tools is just par for her course. 

You're also right that I didn't tell him what I was executing, nor did he tell me what he was executing.  I don't think I was trying to climb over my colleague to present the big boss the cheat sheet.  In fact, it wouldn't even have come up during a normal conversation with my boss unless he specifically asked how that particular DR was doing, what we were working on, etc.  The fact that my colleague appropriated the concept of the sheet and then presented it to the boss as if it were his big idea just really chafed.

To that end, I have to say I really enjoyed BFlynn's post and perception on the issue.  I ultimately (the day I began this thread) sent the following email with Reply All (my colleague and the boss):

I think it looks great (though I might center the first two title/heading lines of the chart.)
 
I would ask you to hold off on publishing it to the FLT team until Weds of next week.  When I asked last week if something like this had been published or provided to the MBIS's before, I was planning to use it as a development opportunity with one of my team members.  As such, I have someone working on converting your list of items into a "cheat sheet" right now and I would hate to see this published before I have a chance to explain that her efforts were essentially for naught. 
 
I will certainly do a better job next time of communicating my intentions from this side and I hope we can avoid some of this duplication of effort across our teams.

I intended the email to be a "shot across the bow" if you will forgive my appropriation of M&M's phrase - to let my colleague know that I wouldn't sit idly by while he took credit for the idea (providing a much-needed tool to our business partners in other departments) without actually throwing him under the bus.  I didn't ask him to change his behaviour at all; in fact, I indicated (and intend to) change my own behaviour a bit. 

My colleague is very much process oriented - very much an analyzer, technical person, logic-oriented.  If there's a process to be outlined, he's going to document it.  (I swear I sat on a meeting with 20+ people where he dissected a process document down to the level of "I think the font for this statement should be a different size.")  I believe he saw my inquiry as to whether or not the data had been presented to the other departments already as an opportunity for him to do his "process thang" which makes sense.  I don't think he realized that I would want to approach it from a more human perspective and use it as a development opportunity - any more than I paid attention to the idea that he might pounce on the opportunity to address a process issue.

Thanks to everyone for your contributions.  Ya'll have given me some things to think about and work on.

RobRedmond's picture

Ash,

The email was a nice touch. Very slick and well played. You took it back without taking him on directly in front of your boss.

Only one suggestion: "I hope we can avoid..." sounds dangerously close to "I apologize for the confusion." I would suggest you keep this masterpiece stored away for future use, but end it with a solid apology in order to show strength, courage, and a clear taking of responsibility for the whole thing. 

-Rob