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During an important meeting (which I am attending remotely, but which my manager is attending in person) with industry partners, my manager has taken credit for writing a demo which I developed on my own.

Is this considered normal business practice? Note that my manager didn't say the team had developed it, or it was our demo, but "I" (my manager) had developed "my" (my manager's) demo. I did not actively participate during the meeting and did not call out my manager during the meeting.

I'm a little surprised at this behavior and am wondering what others would do in this situation? It doesn't seem like a HR-reportable offense, and really I'm not too upset about it (it was a quick demo, not a lot of work). On the other hand, I know that I'd never do something like that... in academia, for instance, that sort of thing would be frowned upon rather severely. Should I confront my manager? Or my manager's manager? Or just let it go? Should I speak up next time, or is this normal, common practice to which my reaction is unjustified?

EDIT:

In case it matters and I wasn't clear enough, it's not that my manager took credit for the project, per se, but that he claimed to have done the work himself, specifically claiming - for instance - that he had made decisions, implemented code, tested, etc. These are claims of fact that seem untrue, unless "I" in these cases means "my team", which seems strange to me but which I might be able to accept.

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    Is this relayed / useful for you?workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/30978/… – Reinstate Monica Aug 8 '14 at 19:25
  • @yochannah Yes, this seems very much related... seems like I missed it. This might even be a duplicate of that one, since the answer seems to answer my question more satisfactorily than the answers currently here. Maybe close as duplicate? – Thomas Aug 8 '14 at 19:31
  • I still think this is just a misunderstanding of language. If you're in charge of system X and your team builds X. You could say "Thanks to my team we built X". But you could also just say "I built X" and not explicitly mention the team. It seems it would only be dishonest if someone wants to know specifics, say, what resources were used, and then you said something like "None I did it all on my own" – Brandin Aug 8 '14 at 19:32
  • @Brandin What about something like "I decided to model this as an X", when the manager wasn't involved in the modeling decisions in any capacity? Ah well, it sounds like I'm just overreacting... still, it seems very strange to me to take credit for others' work, even your subordinates'. Would it be OK for me to claim I'd done my peers' work, if I'm representing the team to customers? – Thomas Aug 8 '14 at 19:38
  • Yes. If you are the team lead you should probably say to customers "I implemented features foo and bar", etc. Again it is your choice whether to use "I" or "The team" etc. – Brandin Aug 8 '14 at 19:41
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Your manager represents the team, and represents the team whether they say "I" or "we". He can and should give you credit for your work at the appropriate time and place e.g. at your salary review and behind closed doors but the outside world couldn't care less who on your team came up with the demo. General Eisenhower gets full credit for the D-Day landings in Normandy but we all know that he never personally landed on those beaches. Nevertheless, the credit he gets is full and fully justifiable. Because he represents Team Allied.

You could escalate to your manager and your manager's manager but since your complaint is based on a non-understanding of management dynamics, you could pay anywhere from no price to a very stiff price for it. You could also call out your manager at the next meeting, but since your calling out is based on your non-understanding of management dynamics and since your calling out is very public, I surmise that the consequences may be most unpleasant for you.

Academia is a very different world, where faculty are in effect, individual research entrepreneurs. The department may get a nice rating from US News & World Report but the faculty does research as individuals and gets credit for their work as individuals. No matter how renowned the institution is, the institution is for all practical purposes just the place where they work. Note that in even in this case, faculty members are not in the habit of crediting the individual graduate student researchers on their team when they present the findings at conferences and seminars.

Good thing you restrained yourself and asked for advice before you act. How to handle it? That's up to you.

Clarification from the OP: "my manager not only took credit, but made claims implying that he had actually done the work (i.e., he made some decision while implementing code X for reason Y, he performed whatever testing, etc.) Saying "I had this demo developed", or even "I developed this demo" might be one thing; "I wrote these lines of code" seems different.

Well, your latest disclosure changes the nature of the beast. To put it bluntly, your manager lied outright. That's absolutely uncool. And I would count myself working for such a manager as a misfortune. If you are going to complain to your manager's manager, be sure to state SPECIFICALLY what he said. Your failure to be specific caused a miscommunication between you and me. You cannot afford such a miscommunication between you and your manager's manager. Your manager's offense was not in failing to give you credit but appropriating your work as his own. Doing that is known as stealing.

If you complain to your manager's manager, stress that you understand that a manager represents the team and is therefore entitled to use "we" and "I" in referring to the team's output. And that your complaint is about him appropriating your work as his own. Which is way different from representing the team. And the relief that you are seeking is that he stops doing that to you or anyone else on the team.

  • So it is common industry practice? Glad I asked. It's still surprising to me, but based on the bluntness with which it was done, I assumed at least my manager didn't suspect it was unethical. – Thomas Aug 8 '14 at 19:15
  • It's common practice where ever an individual is allowed to represent a group of people. – Vietnhi Phuvan Aug 8 '14 at 19:18
  • I think it's reaching a bit far to say that it's common whenever you're representing a group of people. For instance, I'd find it a bit odd to claim that I grilled some steaks at my cousin's barbecue if he did all the cooking, even if I were the only attendee present at the time. Seems like I'd say my cousin cooked the steaks. If you don't mind my asking, what geographical region do you operate in? I wonder whether this is cultural. – Thomas Aug 8 '14 at 19:23
  • Also, I'd find it a little odd if Eisenhower made claims like "I jumped out of a amphibious vehicle, charged the beach and shot some Krauts." This seems like a lie, not a proper attribution of credit where credit is due. Perhaps my question wasn't clear enough - my manager not only took credit, but made claims implying that he had actually done the work (i.e., he made some decision while implementing code X for reason Y, he performed whatever testing, etc.) Saying "I had this demo developed", or even "I developed this demo" might be one thing; "I wrote these lines of code" seems different. – Thomas Aug 8 '14 at 19:26
  • Well, your latest disclosure changes the nature of the beast. To put it bluntly, your manager lied outright. That's absolutely uncool. And I would count myself working for such a manager as a misfortune. If you are going to complain to your manager's manager, be sure to state SPECIFICALLY what he said. Your failure to be specific caused a miscommunication between you and me. You cannot afford such a miscommunication between you and your manager's manager. Your manager's offense was not in failing to give you credit but appropriating your work as his own. Doing that is known as stealing. – Vietnhi Phuvan Aug 8 '14 at 19:40
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As you describe it, this is unethical but not such a big issue that you should escalate it. Escalating it makes you look bad.

If the manager explicitly ordered you to develop the demo, he could say "I did it", but that already would be borderline dishonest. But think of all the scientific articles where the head of the laboratory is one of the lead authors - this is now quite common.

If the manager explicitly advised you how to implement details, again he could claim credit. If, however, the implementation was your own decision his behavior is dishonest.

Take it as the price for having learnt more about this person and next time do not divulge all details.

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