my coworker is getting the credit for my work

A reader writes:

I work for a medium sized company on a very small team. For all intents and purposes, it is just me and my colleague, “Joe.” Joe and I both started at the same time and work on the same types of projects. The similarities end there, as Joe is the type to take 2-3 hour lunches and surf the internet, while I am working hard only a few feet away.

About six months ago, Joe was assigned a very large, very visible project. He struggled to handle it, and I was quickly pulled in to help by management. As Joe would freely admit, I ended up doing a majority of the project myself. It was extremely important for the company, and a month or so later we both received employee of the month for our contributions.

Fast forward to today, when Joe revealed that he has been selected as company wide MVP based, in significant part, on this project. I congratulated him, but I can’t help but feel betrayed and disheartened by this turn of events. I worked day, night, and weekend on that project to make it successful after he all but gave up on it. Since then, he has turned down several large projects while I have taken on significantly more responsibility, yet he is the one receiving awards.

Part of me wants to speak with my manager and ask why someone received an award based on my project, but part of me thinks maybe that would be viewed as petty. I am already looking for another job, mostly due to the fact that I often feel I am being overlooked and under appreciated, but this was still a big shock. Do you have any suggestions? Is there even any point in trying anymore?

Hell, yes, you should talk to your manager. This is a reasonable thing to ask about, and any halfway decent manager would want to know that you’re feeling this way.

The key is in how you approach it. You don’t want it to be a complaint about your coworker being recognized, but rather an inquiry into what’s going on with how the company rewards you.

Here’s what I would say if I were in your shoes: “I want to ask you about something I feel a little awkward about bringing up. I don’t want to question whether Joe deserves the company-wide MVP award because that’s none of my business, but my understanding is that it’s based in significant part on the X project. As Joe himself would tell you, I did probably 90% of that project — working nights and weekends on it and fixing a lot of the obstacles he wasn’t able to resolve. I’ve also been taking on work like X and Y. I’m getting the sense that I’m not getting the same recognition as him, despite making what I think are significant contributions, and I wondered if we could talk about why, and whether there are things I need to be doing differently.”

The tone you use here is one of concern — not complaining. The tone is “I’m trying to figure out what I’m missing, and whether I have deficits I don’t know about, since otherwise this befuddles me.” It’s similar to tone you might use if you were having this conversation about someone else (“Jane did such a good job on the X project — why aren’t we recognizing her for it?”). It’s collaborative problem-solving, and it’s information-seeking rather than grievance-airing. (Also, because tone matters so much here, this must be done in person, not over email.)

Now, this may or may not get you results, depending on your manager and the rest of the landscape there. But it will certainly get you information — it will tell you how your manager perceives your work, what she thinks is appropriate recognition for your work, and perhaps what your prospects are for future recognition. You might discover that you’re not as under-appreciated as you think, or that your manager genuinely didn’t realize the role you played in that project, or that she did know and is annoyed with the person who made the award decision. You might learn other things too — for instance, you might discover that Joe’s award isn’t based on your project at all but on some other, more legitimate basis. Or you might get confirmation of your feelings that you’re being overlooked.

But regardless, you should leave the conversation with a much better idea of where things stand and why, and that should help you figure out where to go from here.

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. Simonthegrey*

    Definitely the tone is important! It may be that the recognition that Joe’s name was on that project originally, regardless of who actually did the work, and that’s why he is getting recognized.

    1. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

      That sounds likely to me as well. Very easy for a clueless senior manager to recognize the titular lead of a successful project rather than the one who actually made it work. If that’s the case, a good manager would quickly start working to ensure that you also receive some kind of recognition–they can’t very well retract MVP without horribly embarrassing themselves and Joe, but perhaps they could give you a different award or a bonus.

      But do say something, tactfully, just in case your manager is also clueless and it didn’t even occur to her that Joe was not the appropriate person to recognize. When your review rolls around, you will need her and those above her to remember how valuable you were.

  2. Joey*

    To me it is pretty pointless. I see only two possible scenarios. Either your manager is clueless or your company sucks. That is, if in fact its true the award was in large part the reason he got it.

    1. BCW*

      I tend to agree because I feel that MOST people won’t be able to bring this up without sounding whiny. Plus, as we have noted on here, what a co-worker sees and what management sees can be different. Maybe this project was a bit thing, but maybe he does other things you don’t know about. Maybe there are lots of reasons. But my initial point is that even with your best efforts to have the correct tone and verbiage, you still risk coming off as whining that you didn’t get something that someone else got.

      1. Joey*

        I just couldn’t swallow any of the answers. It’s either the manager had no clue who was doing what on a big project, didn’t speak up, or the company didn’t care what she had to say. So either I’d either have a problem with my manager or with the company. The result is the same- Id leave.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Though I think it’s worth noting that there could always be explanations you didn’t think of, and if you’re leaving, it’s courteous to give the company a chance to tell the real story.

          Obviously not required… but it’s hard to make arguments about companies treating employees better if said companies are never told that there was an issue!

          1. Joey*

            Oh I don’t disagree the op should ask, but it would just be for the satisfaction of hearing it directly from their mouths.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Personally, I think you can get away with it once or twice, and it’s ok if you sound a little whiny. As a manager, I understand that you’re human and you deserve to be recognized for your work.

        BUT, if you complain frequently or point out every single time your name doesn’t appear on something you supported, you will definitely come across as petty and whiny. I have a guy who does this all the time. I’ll send out an email to the team saying “great job Janet for leading up that project!” and I’ll get a note back from Erik saying “just so you know, I also helped on that.” It’s really annoying.

    2. tesyaa*

      Someone reporting to me got an award for a project. He also got a small cash bonus. I got nothing, not money, not recognition. (It didn’t help that I took an internal transfer around the time the project was completed). Those are the breaks. He did a good job, but honestly, he was no self-starter and if I hadn’t initiated and managed the project, he wouldn’t have done a single thing beyond his day-in, day-out responsibilities. I didn’t complain to anyone except a few close friends.

  3. BadPlanning*

    I was given a handy piece of advice (at least out our company). You will often be given an award when you don’t really think you deserve one (you didn’t really do anything above and behind, you were on a team and weren’t the star player, etc). And then you will not be given an award when you think you really did (went above and beyond, was the star player). Accept the award you get and don’t get disgruntled about the one that you didn’t — mentally swap the awards around.

    Of course, if you never get awarded and are doing work that others get awards for….then that’s another story.

    1. Joey*

      That sounds ridiculous if your company is essentially telling you it really doesn’t matter who gets the award.

      1. BadPlanning*

        It wasn’t meant to say the company gives out awards without thought, like some sort of Round Robin procedure — just that what you think is visible and award worthy is not necessarily what the people giving the awards think is visible and award worthy. Especially when at a bigger company and it’s not just your manager deciding on an award.

        1. Jamie*

          Right – and this applys to the informal kind of kudos, too.

          Sometimes people will think you’re awesome when you knock it out of the park…and sometimes they’ll think you’re a genius for something so basic and simple a trained monkey could do it. I used to feel guilty about that, but then I realized it balances out with the times you kill yourself on something very complex and no one gets it was a big deal because they don’t understand what went into it.

          Those are the times I really wish I had someone else in IT – not for kudos but just for someone to get how tough something was and how cool that it’s complete. A virtual high five from someone who understood the task would go a long way, sometimes.

          1. Ruffingit*

            A virtual high five from someone who understood the task would go a long way, sometimes.

            God, that’s the truth!! I can remember when I was taking the bar exam and people kept telling me “Oh, you always do well on tests, you’ll pass…” I wanted to throat punch people for that because the bar exam was not like any other exam I’d ever taken. It was fu**ing hard and though people understand that as a general concept, they didn’t REALLY get it.

            1. Simonthegrey*

              It always drove me nuts, at my last job, how averse the managers were to ever telling anyone they did something right. A “good job” was a rare thing; I can clearly remember the one time it happened to me, and I was a good employee who received good reviews.

              Where I am now, I get more positive feedback (and more feedback in general).

          2. Joey*

            You know Ive often failed to realize how much work goes into jobs I don’t understand all that well. When I worked in local govt I never realized how much gets done to keep the city from falling apart. It never dawned on me that crews worked sometimes 18-20 hours straight to ensure roads were drive able and basic absolutely necessary services continued. I never noticed how much work went into maintaining our IT infrastructure (except the occasional network maint heads up) until I got a glimpse. Its amazing to me how so so many jobs work behind the scenes and you don’t notice 90% of the work they do.

            1. Colette*

              That’s true.

              And that can be true on specific projects, as well. It’s easy to recognize the person who comes in and saves the day when a project isn’t going well. It’s harder to recognize the work that goes in to not getting the project into trouble in the first place.

              1. Hunny*

                Good point. I started a new job and got a tons of credit for cleaning up a chaotic system. But my predecessor laid the groundwork for my own project and had already done the hard work of identifying what core problems led to the chaos. I just implemented the changes and reaped the benefits.

            2. the gold digger*

              how much gets done to keep the city from falling apart.

              Which is why I tip the trash guys with a 12-pack of beer every Christmas – they are the ones dealing with the used kitty litter in our trash cans. Honestly, they can’t be paid too much.

          3. Anonymous*

            I’m so with you on the virtual high five. I did something REALLY AWESOME that required a bunch of really tedious fiddling and failed about 150 times before I got it right. But it was such a “small” thing that no one else even noticed and even if I tried to explain it…

            1. Hunny*

              I promised someone I could make a simple, nice little change to a spreadsheet. Turned out, it wasn’t so simple. But I had already set it up as an easy, no problem task do they never found out =(

              Sometimes my desire to seem effortless interferes with my desire for acknowledgement.

          4. Camellia*

            “…the times you kill yourself on something very complex and no one gets it was a big deal because they don’t understand.”

            Y2K!!! I still occasionally hear people say what was the big deal, nothing happened, IT people were making a mountain out of a molehill. Non-IT people never saw the thousands of hours that IT people around the globe put in to make sure that nothing did happen.

            1. TychaBrahe*

              THANK YOU

              I spent 1998-99 on the road. I spent Independence Day ’99, the last day of our fiscal year, sitting in a warehouse handling phone calls from confused sales people who had been migrated to compliant software that weekend. I spent New Year’s Eve pushing test orders through the system. Y2K was double-plus ungood, and almost no one believes me.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Ha, I was coming here to post something very similar. When I think of the awards I’ve gotten, they’ve been for the projects or teams I felt kind of “meh” about. Like, decent work but no big deal, but it was the right topic at the right time and some senior decided it sounded really good. Meanwhile. other amazing work I’ve done has been largely unrecognized. I figure it evens out.

  4. Celeste*

    I guess it’s worth a try, because there may be some valuable information in the answer. Mostly I think you have a clueless boss if he doesn’t know who’s working and who isn’t. It should be interesting for him when you’re gone and he tries to get some work product out of Joe.

    What I’m guessing happened is, Joe is more liked there. Maybe he’s more personable and outgoing, maybe in his internet time he finds all the good jokes and people like that, who knows. Some people are really great at “running for mayor” and getting themselves noticed by higher-ups.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      “What I’m guessing happened is, Joe is more liked there.”

      Or he promotes himself and his accomplishments a lot better than the OP does.

    2. Chriama*

      I think it’s highly likely that Joe is just better at playing the workplace game. He promotes himself better, he socializes with the right people, he makes a point to get external whenever he does well, whatever. This MVP award sounds like the straw that broke the camel’s back, but if you are feeling overworked and underappreciated it is highly likely that you don’t do a good job of blowing your own trumpet. It may not be fair that your work doesn’t speak for itself, but the truth is that even a relatively small corporation probably has too many employees for information about who did what to disseminate effectively through all layers of the organization.

      TL;DR management may be deliberately ignoring your contributions, but it’s more likely you need to learn the art of self-promotion.

      1. April*

        “you need to learn the art of self-promotion”

        That may be pragmatically true, but it isn’t right. It indicates a deeply flawed system/culture. If the system is set up to reward people who brag rather than people who are humble, those who schmooze rather than those who focus on getting the work done – something is wrong.

        It’s management’s job to actively – and accurately! – notice who is performing well, pulling their weight, etc. It may happen that management isn’t doing their job and you end up having to draw attention to your performance yourself, but when it comes down to it – that is you doing their job. And it isn’t right.

        1. Anonymous*

          Here here!

          *I’d say the only time I disagree with this is if your job is actually in marketing specifically in promoting people. And even then spend those skills doing your job not talking about how awesome you are at doing your job.

        2. Chriama*

          I disagree. It isn’t a system/cultural flaw so much as a flaw in human nature. I remember reading a study that showed that people tend to underestimate a person’s contribution unless presented with specific examples of work they did which contributed to the success of the project. Like I said above, even a relatively small company will have so many people that leadership won’t be personally acquainted with everyone. You are your own best advocate.

          1. Emily K*

            I think you’re both right. It’s very difficult for people outside the work to truly see what’s going on inside it, which means it’s up to the employee to make sure they’re promoting their work and accomplishments. But the company, in turn, should be creating appropriate and formal opportunities to do so, e.g. tying awards and compensation to a performance review process that includes self-evaluation with open-ended questions.

            At my job, every year I have to write a couple pages about my goals for the past year and how I did with them, what my challenges were and how I overcame them, and what my goals for the upcoming year are (which informs the first section of next year’s self-evaluation). No games or politics – everyone gets the same opportunity to make the best case for their accomplishments.

            1. Chriama*

              I agree to an extent. I know the importance of performance reviews and I’d hope that a company that has an MVP award is taking the time to actually review everyone’s achievements, but informal culture wins out over formal procedure. If I’m a senior manager looking for a lower level employee to take on an advanced project, I’m not going to dig up their performance reviews. I’m going to ask my colleagues who they recommend or reach out to people I’ve heard good things about. If you aren’t speaking up abiut what you’ve done, I won’t even know to consider you.

              1. April*

                Just because something is “human nature” doesn’t mean we have to be satisfied with it or let ourselves do it that way. It’s human nature apparently for majority of people to be biased against names on resumes that sound “minority” – but that doesn’t mean that once we know about that tendency we have to say, “oh well, I have that tendency and that’s just life.” No, a proper response is try to have a heightened awareness of our reactions and consciously correct for them. Either notice the different name and deliberately give that person’s credentials a more positive look than naturally inclined to – or redact names entirely before comparing/considering the resumes, or something else to try and correct for the natural bias.

                I think that sort of conscious correction is the right thing for managers to do here, too. Sure managers may be unconsciously biased by human nature to favor those who, shall we say, “promote themselves” regardless of whether those are in actuality the people who are taking three hour lunches and wasting a significant portion of the remaining five hours surfing the net. But that doesn’t mean managers have to say, “oh well, that’s life.” They can and should consciously correct for that bias in all sorts of ways.

                1. Fucshia*

                  But, the manager isn’t the one writing in and people aren’t posting advice to the manager. People are giving advice to the OP to work with how things are, not how they should be.

                2. Chriama*

                  I’m assuming a good manager will have an accurate understanding of the relative accomplishments of their employees. However, while it may be the manager’s job to know your performance, it certainly isn’t their job to promote your performance to people who haven’t solicited their opinion.

                  Your manager isn’t the only person who influences your career or provides new opportunities, and it’s not their job to manage your reputation.

            2. Anon*

              We get to do the same sort of thing at my company. I am bad at that sort of thing and hate doing it. But I am fortunate that my company also solicits feedback from others in the company. When performance review time came there was tons of positive recognition. I work for a big company, with a huge HR department, so there are people who can dedicate time to this sort of stuff – the effort to keep this organized is large.

          2. April*

            Sure, higher ups might not be personally acquainted with those a level or two removed from them. But a manager should absolutely know – accurately! – the individual strengths, weaknesses, and specific verifiable accomplishments of his/her direct reports. And higher ups should insist on this from their managers and spot check to be sure that the managers aren’t fudging or taking the easy road but really do know their subordinates, just as the managers should actively spot check and fact check and verify the work itself and who is doing it. I totally agree that in actuality this might not happen and so you do have to be your own advocate, not because that is rightfully your role, but because someone else is inadequately performing theirs.

          3. Hunny*

            My office has great managers. They are very observant. However, my boss had to advise me to show off my work more at staff meetings. Not for her sake, but because I was representing our department to the entire agency. It was still talking about my personal projects, but the real goal was to accurately show the scope and importance of our department’s role in the agency.

    3. Mephyle*

      Why did it happen? Because Joe may be better at getting noticed and playing the game? Maybe. But maybe because, as OP told us, “Joe was assigned the project.” So even if OP did most of the work, it went out under Joe’s name as lead. Not fair perhaps, but that would make it understandable.

      1. MaggietheCat*

        That’s what I was thinking. I would re-consider going above and beyond for “Joe” again!

  5. NylaW*

    This sucks, OP, and I’ve been there. Hopefully you get some answers from your boss and/or move on to a company that appreciates you.

    Incidentally, this story seemed very familiar. Is it a repost or was it posted on another site?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm. I didn’t realize that and wish I had, since I try not to post stuff it was also sent somewhere else. (Sometimes people send the same letter to me and Evil HR Lady, for instance.)

        1. louise*

          I realize it’s probably bad form to purposely answer questions sent to another columnist, but I often read letters (and the respondent’s advice) elsewhere and think “I’d rather hear Alison’s opinion on this.”

  6. Peredur*

    As a follow up to that question, what would you do if you are the manager and you didn’t agree with the MVP to Joe? I’m a firm believer of owning a management decision even if I didn’t agree with it so I wouldn’t dream of saying that to the OP that them upstairs don’t know what they are doing so what to say to the OP to encourage the OP to continue to perform well despite what looks like a snub.

    1. Joey*

      The key is you have to gain an understanding of what Joe did that was more valuable (whether you agree or not that it was more valuable) so you could provide some feedback to the op.

    2. Ruffingit*

      I can’t agree with this in its entirety. I’m sure politics at the management level suggest having to protect the higher ups, but sometimes there’s just no excuse when the decision is so blatantly wrong and if you can’t have enough respect for your subordinates to let them know you went to bat for them and were overruled, then you don’t deserve good employees.

      1. Joey*

        The problem with doing that is it creates an us vs them environment. Its a way to deflect blame when as a manager you should be owning company decisions instead of trying to shirk them.

        1. Chriama*

          I would also go so far as to say that if you vehemently oppose a company decision, you can’t get them to consider your perspective, and you can’t defend the decision to your subordinates, you may need to find a different job.
          You need to find a way to align yourself with company decisions while letting your employees know you understand their concerns and mitigating whatever negative effects that you can.

          1. Joey*

            Yeah, not being able to support a decision you disagree with is tough. Fwiw, this is usually one of my interview questions my managers : tell me about a time you disagreed with the direction of your boss and how you communicated it to your reports.

            There are very few circumstances where if you didn’t own it see you later.

      2. Emily K*

        I think there’s a tactful way to balance this: “I did everything I could to do X, but my bosses were firm that they needed us to do Y. I realize this is really inconvenient/annoying to deal with, and I’m sorry. My bosses, as you know, have another perspective on things that we don’t always see, and their decision has to stand here.”

        Essentially, you’re modeling appropriate behavior: it’s OK to disagree with something, but not to be disrespectful (by trash-talking someone you disagree with) or insubordinate (by refusing to go along with the company’s official decisions).

        1. Joey*

          See I even have a problem with that. It’s acknowledging that the decision doesn’t seem like a good one, but just trust the bosses. I would rather not get into my opinion at all and just state something like “here’s what we’re happened and here are the factors that were/will be given the most weight for the MVP award. Let’s recap where you did well and how we can better position you next time.”

    3. Chriama*

      1) Deliberately acknowledge their contribution to let them know you were aware of it
      2) Find a different way to reward them for their work (e.g. more perks, take them out for a meal, go to bat for a promotion/raise for them
      3) Actively promote their work to management, let them know you’re doing it, and show them how to point out their own accomplishments to the right people

  7. Yup*

    “Since then, he has turned down several large projects while I have taken on significantly more responsibility, yet he is the one receiving awards.”

    For whatever reason, Joe has decided to turn down opportunities. You’ve decided to take them on. This is a separate point from your question about the MVP award (which is about getting credit for the work which you completed and he didn’t), but I’d like to suggest that you not worry about this part. Regardless of whether the company recognizes your efforts in taking on new challenges, your reward is already in play — you’ll get that experience and take those extra skills with you wherever you go, and Joe won’t. His loss. Thinking about this piece with a different lens might help you feel less under-appreciated. Mentally frame taking on these additional responsibilities as your long-term investments in yourself, regardless of whether or not the company recognizes them.

      1. Yup*

        Not the MVP award piece — I can see both sides of that. I’m suggesting the OP let go of (or at least, think differently about) the part where OP is taking on more new stuff and Joe isn’t, and remove that element from the awards & recognition stuff.

        1. HR lady*

          I agree with Yup. It’s a nice way for the OP to re-frame this for him/herself. You are learning things and developing skills and getting experience. That’s important for you in your career, and Joe and the MVP thing will just be a blip in your decades-long career.

          (And I also agree with Yup that you can still address the MVP stuff with your manager like AAM suggested.)

  8. Ruffingit*

    Another overlooked piece here, though it doesn’t matter so much in terms of the OP looking for management advice, is the co-worker. The OP said that Fast forward to today, when Joe revealed that he has been selected as company wide MVP based, in significant part, on this project.

    So Joe revealed that he’d been selected MVP based in large part on the project that Joe knows the OP completed nearly in its entirety. Joe obviously has no shame at all and I’m going to go ahead and say he’s an asshat for not telling the awarders that it was, in fact, the OP who did most of the work on that project and should, at a MINIMUM, be getting the MVP award with Joe (and really, OP should get it instead of Joe).

    Glad to hear OP is looking for another job because not only does management apparently overlook him, but his co-worker is a jerk too. Move on ASAP.

    1. tesyaa*

      Yes, I wonder about the part in the letter where the OP writes that Joe would freely admit the OP did most of the work. If he would freely admit it, why hasn’t he? That’s why I think talking to management wouldn’t be helpful – Joe would probably not back her up, and it becomes a he said, (s)he said. (OP is probably a she since this first appeared in a Corporette comment).

    2. Chriama*

      I don’t think that’s fair. Depending on the nature of the award or the selection process, there are times I wouldn’t recommend speaking up because it would just make you look too bad.
      If someone comes up to you and offers you a raise, promotion or bonus then yes, speak up and at least push for joint recognition. But assuming the award consists of company-wide accolades and nothing else, saying you don’t deserve the reward and they should give it to your coworker will make you look weirdly overly modest.

      Also, maybe Joe just hasn’t thought about the OP at all. OP says Joe would “freely admit” the work she did, but that doesn’t mean it ever occurred to him that the award should go to him. I don’t want to use the word “selfish” since it sort of implies deliberate malicious intent, but there are certain people who are more comfortable accepting things for themselves where other people stop and think about whether or not they deserve it. For example, consider someone who goes out with a friend for a meal and the friend offers to pay. Some people will firmly refuse, some will offer 1 or 2 cursory refusals before accepting, and some will immediately accept.

      I think you could call Joe inconsiderate, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have championed her if it had occurred to him to to do.

      1. Elysian*

        I agree about looking overly modest. Unless it was an obvious error, I wouldn’t speak up if I were Joe. I’m sure that Joe doesn’t have the same slacker-perception of himself that the OP appears to, and he might think that he did something that deserves an award, either on that project or on another that the OP wasn’t on.

        Even if it had occurred to him, I’m not sure it would be Joe’s place to champion the OP. It’s her responsibility to champion herself, unless of course it was clear when they were giving him the award that it was undeserved. I’m not convinced that that was the case. Maybe OP deserved it more, but that doesn’t mean that Joe doesn’t deserve it or think he deserves it.

  9. Jamie*

    I worked with Joe once, although he went by a different name, and it was funny because as soon as I started being a lot more transparent about my contributions and super busy when he needed to tweak something that anyone who had completed what he said he had completed would easily know how to do.

    I am a very helpful person – but I won’t carry someone and I won’t whatever the equivalent is of ghostwriting someone’s project.

    Same person when he left the company for which we worked happened to send a ton of my work (cbas, breakdowns, procedural documentation, etc.) to his personal email address before he left the company. I have zero doubt he was going to try to pass it off as his, but I had even less doubt that he could answer even the most superficial questions about it so I didn’t lose sleep.

    The OP should keep in mind that people like Joe (and I hate that it’s his name because every Joe I’ve ever known is universally awesome – it’s like an indicator of being a stand up guy) may get away with stuff on occasion, but a career is a marathon and in the long run…luck doesn’t hold out. If they don’t have the skill to back up their hype they will crash and burn – it may not happen immediately but it will happen.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Yes that’s the danger of riding someone else’s coattails. Eventually, they take the coat off.

  10. AnaMaria Sonrisa*

    Ouch, this stinks!! I’m in the camp that thinks you ought to do what AAM suggests. This would eat away at me. At least if it was brought up as discussed above, you would have some sort of response. It’s what you do with that response that will be tricky…

  11. EngineerGirl*

    Definitely have the talk in a fact finding way. It’s also possible that Joe has the ear of someone several levels up and your manager had nothing to do with it. Funny that he’s turning down new projects – is it because he knows that he won’t be successful with them? Hard to tell.

    In the future:
    Send out a weekly activity report to your manager detailing what went on that week – challenges overcome, etc. Don’t let Joe know about it. You may want to cc your manager’s manager too (talk to your manager first). That ensures that the actual work is recognized.
    Schedule one-on-ones with your manager once a month (these should be short sessions) just as a way of letting him know what’s going on. Give your manager the opportunity to ask questions. This lets manager know it is actually you with the knowledge.
    Stay away from Joe. He knows you did the work but is willing to accept the accolades anyway. As Jamie said, always be too busy (ohh, so sorry). No need to lie, as I’m sure you are busy.
    If it continues, get a new job.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      Oh, and it’s possible he is getting the award for being such a good manager – that is, he’s managing the project not doing the work.

      1. Judy*

        “Resource Creation” was a buzzword here for a while. That meant finding other people to do the work that weren’t assigned to your project.

      2. Hunny*

        I was worrying about that. He could have been rewarded for leadership, pulling together the necessary resources, etc.

    2. AB Normal*

      Hah! Perhaps because I’m also a female engineer, and always get late to the party, often when I’m about to write something, EngineerGirl has beat me to it :-).

      It’s important to realize that you can’t assume that “if you’re good at what you do, your work will speak for itself”. This was true for me for many years, then things changed when I got a busier manager. You can’t assume your manager has time to monitor every project, or get visibility into what’s going on in multiple initiatives. Even though such things should come up in one-on-ones, I’ve had many managers who were too busy and kept canceling them.

      Sending a weekly update for my manager (after confirming with her it’s something she’d welcome) worked for me. In addition to that, I’d recommend developing a “script” you can use when you meet your boss’s boss or a colleague from another department, and they ask how you are:

      “Oh, I’m fine! It’s been great working on project X ; I’ve spent the last 3 days sizing up our competition from every angle, and I can’t wait to tell Joe that I’ve found a great argument we can use to convince prospects why our product is better! How about you?”

  12. OP- Joe's Colleague*

    Joe’s colleague here. Thanks to Ask a Manager and everyone who responded to my query. It seems like the vote is pretty divided on whether or not I should ask, and that result coupled with my company’s culture lead to me to believe I am better off keeping my mouth shut and moving on.

    1. Chriama*

      I think most people were divided on the effectiveness of speaking up, not whether or not you should ask. Only you can speak to your culture but it seems like you have significant evidence that your company isn’t the right fit for you, so it might be worth it to not rock the boat just long enough to secure a good reference for another job.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I would vote for speaking with your manager about it, but being very careful in your wording. But you know your manager and company culture better than we do.

      1. looking forward*

        Since you are both fairly new, it makes sense to speak up now. Often opinions on work ethics and abilities are formed early and difficult to change. As a manager, I would want to know if I misunderstood who did the majority of the work.

  13. Jeanne*

    Why am I convinced OP is a woman? Men are still more likely to be recognized in many companies. They don’t have to work as hard and then are given awards, raises, and promotions. My cynicism comes from experience.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      While you raise an issue that some women struggle with, it’s worth remembering that this happens to men too. It’s not a given that only women find themselves in this situation.

    2. Kerry*

      Yeah, I definitely don’t think it’s a coincidence that the OP reads to me as a woman and Joe is a man. Not that it never happens the other way around, but this is such a classic pattern of “woman does the difficult work, guy receives the accolades for it”.

      1. Chriama*

        Like I mentioned above, this phenomenon can be counteracted when people are presented with specific examples of how the woman contributed. Unfortunately women are also socialized to not “brag”, so if you don’t have a manager who will champion you to tptb you need to learn how to make sure the right people know what you’ve accomplished.

    3. Joey*

      You’re convinced the op is female because your point of view is colored by your experiences and your trying to confirm your biases. Not saying it’s not a woman, but I don’t see any evidence that could reasonably lead you to conclude either way. I find it interesting actually to see the responses this way. I’m not so sure we’d see similar comments if the sex was known either way.

  14. Feed Fido*

    While it’d would be nice to be recognized, often others take the glory and leave you looking like a whiner..If it happens enough, I’d look elsewhere for work AND make your resume showcase all you have done. All of my promotions, except one, have been earned by quitting. Sad to say if they don’t acknowledge you regularly it’s probably culture.

  15. Cassie*

    This would drive me nuts – there have been times where I’ve done a significant portion of work on a project but the recognition goes primarily to the person higher on the totem pole, even though that person had minimal contributions. At the same time, though, that person is much more vocal about the minor contributions than I would ever be about what I contributed. In our office, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

  16. another anonymo*

    Good luck moving on OP! Another company will value your work more.

    Sadly we will never know if this is because the OP is female, and “Joe” is male. But that’s where my money is. Possible other reasons:
    – Joe has the same breed of dog as the manager/higher ups
    – Joe went to the same college or country club as manager
    – Joe totally reminds the manager of their go-getter son/buddy/HS crush

    Also, this talk about “you just need to promote yourself more!” smacks of all this “Lean in” bullshit. Yes self-promotion is key, but c’mon.

  17. anon*

    This a good example of why it is better for your career to be “seen” working at work (i.e., be the face of a project) than to work nonstop behind closed doors. Messed up but true.


    You know what this really happens , others being credited out of your work. Truth is sometimes it’s because of favoritism or maybe you’re just too unlucky that your work was not recognized. If it happened once then accept it, but if it happens for the second time then you have to do something. Let them know.

  19. MFed*

    Likely MFer how got MVP got the MVP from an MFer who previously got an MVP for MFing someone else.
    F that place and get out.

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