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I've worked as a software developer in a small/medium-sized company for about 2.5 years (my first proper job after Uni). Basically everyone knows each other in the software development teams.

Lately I've been feeling frustrated that others seem to get recognised or appreciated while I get left out. I was thinking about why this may be, and it may be because I tend to avoid confrontation and office politics, and as such don't really stand up for myself when others use me as a stepping stone to get ahead.

I feel that I work hard, often putting in long hours to get work done, and often getting put onto failing projects and scraping them back at the last minute when other developers have left to work on other things. I've also been proactive and engaged with the company, genuinely applying effort to make things go well. I don't just sit there and do the daily grind.

Despite this, I've never been good at making myself appear as good as I feel I am. I tend to keep my head down and get on with my work. This contrasts to some others at my level who like to play up their achievements, in some cases embellishing them.

For example, there is another developer at my level who recently got promoted while I didn't, and I don't think he really deserved it. He's a fairly average worker and he doesn't particularly go above and beyond his day job. But what he does do is boast and play up his achievements while downplaying others'. A while ago we worked on a project together after he hadn't been with the company very long (he joined about a year after me). I helped him get set up with it and explained how it worked, which ate into my time to complete my own work. He was struggling at the start, so I worked with him on some of his tasks to help him get a feel for it.

Later on, we had a progress meeting with some managers, and we were a bit behind schedule. I was fairly shocked at what he said during this meeting. It was basically:

"My tasks are going well, I've made good progress. X's tasks are taking longer though."

I didn't know what to say to that without sounding petty and spiteful, so I said nothing. At no point did he mention the help I'd given him which ate into my own time, nor the fact that I had more tasks to do than him anyway.

More recently, we were working on something else together (the task was to jointly produce something for a presentation), and he asked me for help, which I gave. I then discovered that he'd taken credit for it, acting like he'd done it all himself, and was getting praised by our manager.

What can I say in these situations to back myself up without seeming petty or spiteful?

How can I showcase my achievements without being arrogant or boastful?

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    I had a person treat me like that and the next time they needed help I told them “I am too busy at the moment this is important” and referred them to other sources. I also told the manager that I had been asked and offered a solution resource... I was happy with the improvement in the situation. – Solar Mike May 11 at 9:35
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    "I saw that getting Y's project up to speed was more urgent than my [X's] project, so I of course helped getting it off the ground." - (and next time, OP's [X's] project will - silently - take priority) – Captain Emacs May 11 at 10:24
  • Why would you want to work for a company with such management? – dan-klasson May 11 at 12:36
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    @dan-klasson This could easily happen under good management. You just need one bad actor, really. – R. Schmitz May 11 at 18:15
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"My tasks are going well, I've made good progress. X's tasks are taking longer though."

There are two possibilities here: either it's factually correct or not.

If it is correct, than you did indeed mis=manage your time. It's nice to help other people, but as long as your boss doesn't explicitly makes this part of your goals and metrics, it's not your job.

If it's an incorrect statement, you correct it right then and there. That can be done effectively with a simple (and friendly) clarification question. Something like

Sorry, I'm not aware of any delays in my work. Can you please clarify what specific tasks you are referring to and why you think they are behind ?

In the future, focus on your work as assigned by your boss. If someone asks for help, answer "I'm happy to help, but I need to clear it with by boss first". Then go ask your boss: "He boss, team XYZ has fallen behind a bit and they've asked me help out with task ABC. This would take me about a day. Do you want me do this and if yes, which of my existing tasks should I de-prioritize?"

Do this CONSISTENTLY. If you get a lot of request for assistance, your boss will notice that your help is in high demand and they can help to prioritize. If you don't get a lot of requests or they just go away, you can focus on your existing work and excel at that.

Make sure you have clear written goals (ideally quantitative) for your work. That's the best way to make sure that you and your boss have the same definition of what "good work" means.

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  • Yeah I think there is a degree of me having mis-managed my time and not covering my bases due to going out of my way to help someone. I hoped it would be beneficial for everyone e.g. "If I train him, he'll become a better developer and will be more productive, and may be able to help me with some things," plus I generally wanted to be helpful. But maybe it was a bit naive. I think I could have communicated better, e.g. telling my manager what the situation was sooner so that it didn't end up being a surprise in the meeting, nor being used against me. – Touchdown May 11 at 12:59
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    @Touchdown It's a very important lesson. If people do good work, then good work gets done. However, who gets credit for the results is then entirely up for grabs. If you don't claim & defend it then someone else will take it, either consciously or as a simple by-product of being the only person putting in a claim. – Kaz May 11 at 13:25
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    @Touchdown: To be frank: you made a mistake. You worked on what you felt is best (with the intentions), but that's not your job. That's what managers are for and they typically have way more context and broader view to make these decisions.You need to keep your manager in the loop, otherwise they can't do their job. Hence my recommendation on setting clear & specific goals. Everyone's perception is different and written goals take a lot of the guess work out of the process. – Hilmar May 11 at 14:54
  • @Kaz: I don't think this a "credit" problem. It's more that the OP's definition of "good work" is different from their manager's. If you create clear goals and alignment, credit typically sorts itself out naturally. – Hilmar May 11 at 14:56
  • @Hilmar Completely disagree on that one. Unless you have visible, quantifiable metrics (eg sales targets) then what you do matters far less (for internal promotions etc) than peoples perception of what you do and whether they even know you exist in the first place. – Kaz May 11 at 16:01
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we were working on something else together

That's twice, you should have learnt the first time. Don't do extra work for this person unless you see a concrete benefit to yourself in doing so.

What can I say in these situations to back myself up without seeming petty or spiteful?

Not much, you can stand up but it will look a bit petty as they're relatively easy to gloss over. So it's best to avoid having to do so.

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