21

I worked on this project for about half a year, but very unfortunately changes that are coming from my work touch parts of code belonging to another developer that is senior to me. While my solution has been estimated as superior at even higher level of the management and has some support, the afore-mentioned senior developer also managed to recruit some opposition. A meeting now has been scheduled where the fate of the project will be decided.

I am feeling reasonably pissed off because I myself have not even been invited into the meeting. The developer who wrote the previous version of the competing code is organizing it, and various other developers - some for, and some against my version - will attend. Hence my project will likely see some degree of defense, but I am not sure how much and which arguments will be enough to close it.

I obviously have the following options:

  • Try to talk with even higher level of the management
  • Ask the organizers why they are not inviting the developer who is obviously involved
  • Simply attend the meeting without invitation
  • Put cross on this project and try to forget it

P.S. The project was initially approved, with nobody being obviously against it, but we do have drastic changes of strategy during development. I think the competing developer initially expected that I will not be able to complete the task.

4
  • 32
    Let them know you will be glad to answer any questions. Then back off and let them do their job. Sometimes there are competing projects and only one can ha carries forward, but that decision is usually out of our hands. It doesn't in any way invalidate the work we put into our effort. Indeed, it may put you in a prime position to become a tester/advisor for the other solution, since you may have valuable ideas they haven't yet addressed, and helping them succeed can also be rewarding and rewarded.
    – keshlam
    Jan 29 at 20:05
  • 17
    There's a lot of 'ownership' language here (with both you and this other developer being mentioned as 'owners'). Do either of you have equity? If not, it's actually all the company's code...
    – AakashM
    Jan 30 at 17:08
  • @AakashM: Often, code will be deployed as a service, and services require ongoing maintenance and administration. A service owner, in this context, is merely the primary maintainer, and it's common for service owners to also be developers.
    – Corbin
    Jan 31 at 19:08
  • 1
    @corbin I'd love to believe that the situation being described is in a context of that level of organisational maturity, I really would...
    – AakashM
    Jan 31 at 22:24

9 Answers 9

77

Simply attend the meeting without invitation

First of all, no matter what else you do, please do not do this.

You have proposed a solution, and someone else also have proposed another. If there are certain decisions to be made, and you are not in a position to make that decision, then best is to leave it to them who has the responsibility of making that decision.

You do not need to defend your decision by being personally present in a(ny) discussion - in case a comparison needs to be done, those who are evaluating, must have sought inputs from both / all parties involved, and I assume, you supplied all the info when they asked. Let your solution speak for itself.

TL;DR - Do your part, document everything and move on. Oh, and keep your manager / supervisor informed, and if they feel you are needed, they'll have you looped in the invite.

8
  • 74
    I'd suggest that simply turning up uninvited could be a career limiting move.
    – Peter M
    Jan 29 at 14:46
  • 6
    @PeterM It depends if the OP was not invited, actively disinvited, or maybe there was just an accident. For example, if the organizer meant to invite the OP but accidentally picked the wrong e-mail address then people will wonder why the OP didn't speak up about not getting the meeting invite. Jan 29 at 21:53
  • 18
    @user3067860: Indeed, which is why the appropriate choice is to talk to someone about the fact you weren't invited (a different entry on the bullet list in the question), not to remain silent but show up anyway. Jan 29 at 22:13
  • My biggest concern was that the arguments may be used in the discussion claiming limitations or shortcomings that actually do not exist in the project they are aiming to overturn. But OK, due me not being invited looks like my status is already dwindling so better to withdraw early.
    – eee
    Jan 30 at 9:15
  • 10
    You are framing your concerns in an adversarial way. That isn't likely to lead anywhere good. If you can keep your emotions in check, frame your desire to join the meeting from a view point of trying to become a better developer. You aren't there to 'defend' your implementation. Your benefit to the group is to be able to answer any questions they may have. The benefit to you, is you get to follow the discussion so that if they go with the other implementation then you will know why. Then in the future you will know when to use the other implementation and when to use yours. Jan 30 at 18:32
132

If you want to attend a meeting, then ask the organisers if you can attend. There's no need for drama or second guessing. Be prepared to give whatever rationale you have for attending, if asked.

You can move forward based on whatever the response is.

0
29

Can you attend a meeting you weren't invited to?

Sort of.

The other answers are good - but I want to expand on this question in the general sense.

So, let's address the first obvious aspect - unless the Meeting is being held in a locked and guarded bunker - the likelihood that you will be able to physically attend is high. Especially if you know the time and date of the meeting.

This is the first part of the answer 'Can you' - in terms of actually doing it, yes - you can.

However, I want to put that in context - which is the same as 'Can you inject this drug into your bloodstream?' - the answer to that question would also be yes.

The next part is critical: Should you attend?

As others have pointed out, it's within the rules of work etiquette if you find out a meeting being held where you think you should attend, that you approach the organizer or your management and outline your reasons as to why you should be in the meeting.

I have done this several times, most of which weren't nefarious: "Hey Boss, I'm interested in this project and I think there are several key areas where it overlaps these systems that I'm responsible for, so I'd like to sit in on this meeting"

But there were a couple of times when the reason for wanting to sit in weren't so cordial...

"I understand that Group A wants to get rid of System B because they don't like it, as the current product owner for System B - I've been specifically not invited by Group A to this meeting, in the hope they can give a one-sided view to Upper Management - I feel it's important for the product owner of System B to attend to give a balanced view"

And as a result, I've been invited via the proper channels to attend the Meeting.

This is something you should be cautious about using, even though there may be legitimate reasons for doing so, if you do this too many times, it may be seen poorly.

Instead, if there's a repeating motif of you being specifically not invited to a series of meetings - I would instead raise that specifically with your management line:

"This is the 3rd time a meeting about System B has been scheduled and I've not been invited, I believe I am being deliberately excluded from these meetings for reasons. If I am the product owner for System B, then Group A need to be reminded that it is inappropriate for them to not invite me to these meetings"

and then let your management handle it.

Finally though, there is your absolute last resort - this is the Hollywood-esque dramatically barging into a meeting and saying "I Object! You don't love him! Marry me!"

Okay, jokes aside - this can be done - but this is one of those things you don't do without careful consideration. And by that I mean 'You need to be ready to Quit or be fired for doing so' - I would also add that if your workplace culture is so Toxic that areas that you have legitimate ownership/influence owner are having decisions made about them behind your back - you probably want to start looking for alternative employment anyway.

I would not, in general, recommend this course of action. There can be a very limited set of scenarios though where you could do it and come out the other end without loosing your job or your reputation.

In terms of when you should do this - in general it should be when there is severe financial or legal risk to the business - and as above, you should only do this when you are ready to quit or be fired on the spot.

I am unable to give any more advise or examples about that scenario as each one where it could be appropriate are so nuanced and bespoke to a situation, that it's impossible to outline all the factors - but as above - if there is a major financial or legal risk - that's when you should consider it and only if none of the other options have worked.

2
  • Re mitigating a severe risk to the business: In most cases where this scenario can reasonably happen, there is somebody at the company, probably with "compliance" in their job title, whose specific duty is to mitigate the risk you're concerned about (unless your company is wildly incompetent, or the risk is much less "severe" than you think it is). By the time you are seriously contemplating pulling a Dumbledore, you (or your management) should already be in contact with that person (or someone who works under them).
    – Kevin
    Jan 30 at 21:22
  • @Kevin - I've dealt with 2 instances that I can think of where the person whose responsibility it was thought something wasn't a big deal. It very nearly was a big deal and only by 'making them aware' of certain aspects was a big deal averted. That's in about 15 or so years - but yeah - good point, but it does happen. Infrequently, but it does happen. Jan 30 at 21:28
27

I want to put a question mark here on the undertone of direct competition.

While it is true that collisions can happen and both sides don't always survive a collision, I'm not particularly fond of the combative attitude that this question is built on. At the end of the day, fellow employees should be working together for the good of the company (discussing ideas and possible avenues) rather than being locked in direct competition (arguing which is better and succumbing to My Guy syndrome).

It's also not your project. It's the company's project that you've been working on. At the end of the day, the company is the one who gets to decide what to do with your project. If they want to pay you to build software for them that they choose to not use, that's their prerogative. What you're getting out of this deal is a salary, not the right to decide if and how your software is being used.

At best, if you have genuine reason to believe that the other developer is trying to achieve something that goes against the company's interest (e.g. wanting to kill your project for their own glory even though their alternative is worse), you have a reasonable claim to bring this up with your lowest common manager (between you and the other person).

However, be prepared for them to assume that you are the one who's trying to backstab the other for your own personal glory. Don't do this unless you have credible evidence to support your claims and credible evidence that your intentions are not selfish.
Honestly, your posted question does not make me confident that your intention here is genuinely for the benefit of the company rather than your own, but I cannot judge this conclusively.

In terms of joining that meeting, I see nothing wrong with you asking the developer if it is possible to be invited to this meeting due to an interest in the topic. If asked why, you can even claim that you wish to learn more about this project, which is not an unreasonable request (again, I'm assuming a genuine interest here and not just a way to force your project to be discussed during that meeting).

However, I strongly suggest that you do not inject yourself in the discussion nor introduce any topic along the lines of comparing your project to theirs. The brief of the meeting is to discuss one specific project, not to compare it to others. If you do this, you will be judged as someone who needlessly self-aggrandizes.

In conclusion, I would tread very carefully here. Either in your actions (= you meant what you wrote), in your words (= you mean well and mistakenly made your question come across more combative than it was intended), or both (somewhere inbetween).

10
  • 27
    "It's also not your project. It's the company's project that you've been working on." It took me several years to learn this crucial, crucial lesson. OP, heed it! And if you find yourself often working on projects that get cut or subsumed, try to figure out why. It's unlikely to be because someone has it out for you. Are you maybe picking up projects because they're technically interesting, not because they have a solid business case? Are you working on projects in isolation, meaning that someone else may also have the same idea later (and be better positioned)? etc.
    – yshavit
    Jan 29 at 22:58
  • You could still at least mildly suspect that at least some truth might be on my side. You seem very in depth convinced it cannot be. Another answer that also suggest to attend is written better.
    – eee
    Jan 30 at 8:41
  • 9
    @eee: I don't think Flater is suggesting that anything in your question is untrue. I think the answer is making the point that, even assuming another colleague is treating you and your work like an enemy, responding in the same way probably isn't constructive for you, or the project. Jan 30 at 10:38
  • The classic line is "you are not your code". Do good work, take pride in it, but don't ever believe that someone's adoption or critique of it is about you personally, instead of the managment/company's ever-shifting objectives in having that code built in the first place.
    – brichins
    Jan 30 at 17:53
  • 6
    @eee Paul is on the money here, it's not about your observation being correct or not, it's about how you respond to it as an employee of the company. In a short comment you've supported my point twice: once when you assumed I was not "on your side" (I am, because I am giving you advice that is to your benefit) and then immediately jumping to comparing something else you like more as "written better" than my answer. This has further convinced me that you are locking yourself (and others) into a me-vs-them competition more than you should be in a workplace environment.
    – Flater
    Jan 30 at 22:42
14

If the organiser isn't keen to include you you can always attack it from the left field and ask someone else who's been invited to forward you the invite. They may even add a note that your opinion may be valuable. That will open your door to the meeting and you'll have a "sponsor" in there just in case your sudden appearance is questioned.

Been there, done that, not much drama in the end.

Having said that - whatever the decision is in the end don't take it personally. You may have spent time on the project but if the company decides it's no longer a priority or the right way to go then it's time to move on. They have paid you for many months without realising any benefit in the end. It's the company loss, not yours. Been there too...

2
  • Just a heads up: If you are using Outlook, forwarding a meeting invitation might trigger an email to the sender that their mail was forwarded. (Outlooks gives a small notice before forwarding which can easily be overlooked. Been there, done that.)
    – Dubu
    Jan 30 at 16:06
  • 3
    This is one of the better answers even if you aren't wanted by the organizer getting an invite puts the organizer in the position of having the defend the active choice to exclude a stakeholder. Otherwise they can just oops I forgot.
    – stoj
    Jan 30 at 19:07
4

As someone who subcontracted in IT for decades.... all I can say is this has happened multiple times over the years, and the result has never been good. However it all depends on the circumstances involved.

In one instance I was contracting at the State of Illinois and a meeting was called regarding my project. I had an uncooperative co-worker who was a real State employee... and she had refused to give me the passwords to log onto the servers to get my project done, leaving me waiting for half the day. As you can imagine this was extremely stressful as I had important deadlines to get the work completed. She also presented other roadblocks continually- including one night where she and another woman were supposed to stay late with me and assist in getting the project work done. Instead they both left early and left me to finish it alone.

I tactfully only complained to my direct manager and did not confront her, but the woman apparently was friendly with bosses higher up and my manager was afraid to confront her either. Finally a meeting was called where I wasn't invited (it was "employees only") and my manager who I had been complaining to all along basically stabbed me in the back. I wasn't there to defend myself at all..... and I have no idea what the uncooperative woman accused me of, of course. After the meeting I was told to pack my things and leave my contract had been "terminated". So, yeah, its important you get to be heard regarding your own project. However, what could I have done?

In another instance, I had a co-worker who was also a contractor working at State Farm... but she was an older woman who had been at the company several years. She took a disliking to me and told me some of the servers were 'hers' (??!) and kept avoiding giving me access to important information I needed to get my assignments done. This was also very stressful as you can imagine, lol.

Of course I complained to my manager, and basically confessed that this woman was very difficult to work with. A few days later they had a company meeting where she was invited in, but I was not. Again I had no idea what was said, or what I was accused of.

That night after I finished work late (I'll never forget this).... I go through the security gate to leave and they take my ID card. I step through the door, and instead of handing it back on the other side like they usually do, the guard never gave it back. I knocked on the window, and he pulled down a shade. I was essentially locked out of the building. As I was walking to my car feeling lost.... my contracting company phones and said my contract had 'ended early' in other words I had been fired.
I later emailed my State Farm boss and asked what to do because all my belongings were still at my desk... and I wasn't allowed into the building to get them.

My contracting company then chastised me that I had 'made the client feel bad' by calling, and that I should not communicate with them directly again. They said they would get my belongings and I could come to the contracting office to pick them up. I was offered another contract job there later and turned it down.... I was done working for them. Never again!

My answer? Its just unfair. Could I have forced my way in to the meetings? I doubt it would have worked. But it sure is important for you to be heard when your job is on the line.

1

Many years ago I worked at a big company as an external employee: not in direct employment with the company, but employed by a business partner. That made me fireable on the spot and I could not be a workers union member (as my work there were on the basis of a company-company contract and not by a work contract).

However, the union of that company was quite strong and quite vehement. It planned strike, demos and so on. Reason was that they heard, mass layoffs are planned. They organized a big assembly to talk about, what to do and how.

Of course, I was not called in. In theory, because I was not a workers union member.

In practice, because the WU started to fight exactly because there were mass layoffs in the picture and that the company uses more external contract people, like me, to prevent union activity.

Additionally, my job was in a much bigger threat as theirs. And also I fought for my survival on the job market. Obviously the guys seeing a strike-breaker in me, thought it differently. They did not want external employee at all.

However, the meeting was in the dining hall, and I was not expelled. I was just not called in. Officially, I did not even know that there is a workers union assembly there. Inofficially, I heard it.

So I went there, to eat my lunch.

There was no lunch, but I heard what I wanted to.

0

Inform a few participants who may mention your work. Also in a note to the organizers earlier on, include a brief description of your views and be sure to add "please feel free to contact me if needed", keeping off the meeting. If the organizers still ignore, face it.

0

The tone of your post suggests you are very personally invested in this project and have already experienced some confrontations and may have already instigated some underhanded tactics to get your point of view across before this impasse.

This type of scenario is common enough that many of us have experienced it. It happens in IT management just as much as it does in development. I mean it can happen elsewhere too but this tech sector is full of opportunities where multiple solutions or products could be considered viable, but many overlap boundaries or feature sets of existing or competing solutions. Egos are usually involved, especially if a junior is effectively challenging a senior role. It looks like you and this senior dev have been working on similar issues in parallel and potentially this has driven a divide in the team or is otherwise affecting more than just the two of you.

If things have gone this far and you are the subordinate, then it is best to let it play out without any more of your input. This has escalated to a point where rational discussions have been exhausted or have otherwise failed, you need to recognise this and the fact that the only next step if you want to win is to no longer be rational. Don't fall into that trap, it will ruin your reputation.

You need now to trust in the leadership of your management team. They may very well go with the solution offered by the senior dev and they will have their reasons for it. It might come down to legacy and a reality that the senior dev is more likely to hang around long term (compared to you) due to their knowledge, involvement or ownership of the IP. You might have had the more superior idea and the company might have been better off with it, but you know how the saying goes, there is no 'I' in 'Team', in the end this is a team and it sounds like you are currently sitting on the outside with the smaller number of supporters.

The fact that things have degenerated to this point probably means that you are starting to outgrow your position, but your current team is not prepared or does not have the capacity for you to do so. In a more encouraging environment with more of a growth mindset, a good manager or team lead would likely have recognised this spark in you and found a pathway for you to start to be more involved with the management and decision making process, they might have even given you the opportunity for this project to succeed and used it as a learning experience for whatever struggles that this current senior dev perceives to be there.

Unless you can find a way to unreservedly accept whatever outcome and move on, you may find that this will be the first of many clashes if you hang around. My advice is that all this demonstrates that your personal corporate goals and culture are no longer aligned with the organization that you are with, so you should start to prepare to find another organization and role that suits where you are at and can support where you need to go.

Most programmers will be happy to go along with the flow, this is a dollars per hour gig for many and the fact that tomorrow we start something new for whatever reason is not something to dwell on, it just is what it is. Your emotional connection to this project suggests you are ready to take the next step towards being more than a programmer, perhaps an engineer. I am not saying this is a healthy situation for anyone involved, but it is one that many of us have experienced and grown through. I am sure we will start to see your posts on https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/ soon.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .