A few weeks ago my manager from a previous company contacted me asking if he could include research I completed while working there in a conference paper he was writing. He said the paper would be an overview of what his team had been doing recently intimating there would be other research results in there also.

I quickly agreed. After all, I had no intention to publish myself, due to the very obscure field of research, and I didn't actually own the intellectual property, the company did. My ex-manager was being kind by asking. (I will add, it was good research; I solved a long-standing problem in the field.)

A few days ago, my ex-manager sent me a draft of the conference paper for comments. After looking over the paper it was exclusively my ideas. Moreover, the co-authors were me, himself, and his superior who had little to no input on the research.

Now, it's fair that he credits himself when he's gone through the hard effort of turning messy technical notes into a presentable paper. But I feel like I have in some ways been misled, in particular with the crediting of my ex-manager's superior and also in being told the paper would be work from the whole department which was clearly not true.

The problem is I like this company and would like to keep friendly relationships with them in case I want to return there in the future. Is there a polite way of querying my ex-manager about this without burning bridges?

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    What would be your goal in talking to him about this? You feel a bit misled, okay, but what do you actually hope to gain here? Do you want him to not publish it (despite saying you don't really have the right to ask that)? Do you think he should remove his superior (which would probably look bad for him if he did that now and you can't be sure the supervisor didn't help with what he did)? Do you think the paper should be changed? How? Would that make it a better paper? Or do you just want to tell him you feel misled (what would you hope to accomplish by doing that)? Jul 14, 2018 at 22:31

1 Answer 1



Dukeling's point in the comments is good - that you have to identify what you want out of the conversation. Otherwise, how will you judge if it was successful or not? However, the implication that "what would you hope to accomplish by that" is less helpful - you don't need to justify why you want to accomplish something to us, and often just expressing oneself is justification enough.

To that end, yes, you can ask to get a coffee/beer or whatever to have an in-person meeting with this manager. And you can use this to ask about the superior, or to raise any considerations you have.

But you need to be clear on what you want to accomplish - do you want to be more prominently listed? Do you want to simply express surprise that it is all your work? Would you like to then co-present, or be invited to attend?

Consider what you are gaining from this - which is improved visibility in a niche field, which is very useful. Whether other people also gain recognition is not always beside the point - after all, if everyone in the company is listed then there's really nothing gained - but you are still quite prominent in this case.

Do come out of this with an appreciation for the power of marketing, and how you should have probably been more active in marketing your solution. Companies own code and patentable ideas, but you are allowed to share what you learnt. Intellectual property outside of code & patents - ie ideas - is not "owned" by anyone.

Note that While you say the superior had little to no impact, they probably signed-off on your paycheck, and by extension the time you were given to solve this problem. And they were responsible for your output - a superior who signs off on wasted employee effort isn't kept around long - so they should be allowed to get some consideration for this.

Note I wouldn't worry about keeping friendly relations too much - if what you've done is all it seems to be, they will happily have you back. Don't start swearing, of course, but you can voice displeasure.

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