23

I have a pretty senior position in a large tech company (a director). I have a strong engineering background which is known to everyone I work with. I am respected among my reports, peers and all the way up by everyone. If it is relevant at all, I'm a woman.

One of my co-workers (he is one level above me but I don't report to him), went with me to several important meeting with a 3rd party provider. But any time anyone had a question in my area of expertise (something I personally built, my team built or even highly specialized (and sensitive) area that I am the only one in the room with any qualifications for), he would jump and answer himself based on whatever he knows or think he knows from talking to me or from others. He wouldn't even give me any credit and would just say "we" so everyone we met with clearly understood it as his teams even though he had nothing to do with it.

It wouldn't have bothered me as much because eventually people caught on and started directing the questions to me instead. Except in one meeting where a couple of guys just pointedly ignored any input I had whatsoever. Not in a rude way, just simply looking away after stating any opinion to look at my co-worker and talk to him as if I never said anything, sometimes even crediting ideas I just mentioned to him or to themselves. They even thanked him for work that I did (they didn't know it was me) and he gladly accepted it.

I am honestly extremely upset by this. It's been eating at me for over a week now. I'm also at a loss as to what to do. On one hand, I want to gently talk to my co-worker and express my feeling because I know I will resent him if he doesn't stop his behavior immediately. On the other, this guy may one day become my boss. I don't want to burn any bridges. Part of me really wants to believe he didn't do it intentionally; I think he just thinks he is speaking on behalf of the company. I actually have a pretty good relationship with him otherwise just never really worked closely with him. I think he may be like this with everyone not just me.

What would you do in my place? Also, how should I have handled these guys that completely dismissed anything I said (without being rude outright) for over 2 hours?

Edit: It's worth noting that it's not the first time this co-worker has done something similar with me. I just usually brush it off and wait until he is finished and explain in more detail or provide corrections politely. He seems to accept my corrections just fine and doesn't seem to think much of the whole thing. It got to me this time because it was with people I'm meeting for the first time and that it clearly made some of them dismissive of my opinion just like my co-worker appeared to be doing.

  • 1
    You're the person on the spot, what do you think causes it? Apart from a showboater trying to score off your sweat? – Kilisi Jun 22 '16 at 5:38
  • I agree with Kilisi - the problem you describe seems to be this parasitical co-worker rather than dismissive clients - you should look for solutions from that angle (and there have been more than a few questions here about that already) – HorusKol Jun 22 '16 at 5:52
  • @killsi I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I've mentioned a previous incident to perceptive co-worker. She said that he is socially unaware and expressed frustration with him as well. I just don't want to create awkwardness between us and affect my chances at a promotion if I were to mention it to him. He is very dominant and expert at making other people feel stupid when they disagree with him. – Elaine Jun 22 '16 at 5:58
  • @horuskol I wasn't able to find similar questions, would it be possible to point me to them? Thanks – Elaine Jun 22 '16 at 5:59
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    sometimes even crediting ideas I just mentioned to him or to themselves You proposed something and made the client think it was their idea? Well done. – rath Apr 27 '17 at 13:32
27

From my personal experience; what you're describing isn't so much taking credit for something rather it's someone taking control over a meeting.

The reason why I would say that it's purely just someone taking control over the meeting is for two main reasons.

1. Difference in Positions

Your colleague; although you don't report to him, is in a higher position than yourself. When you're in a meeting with a third party vendor, they don't really know who's great at what unless they have prior knowledge of you. First impressions speak volumes; which is why they'll likely wish to speak to the 'bigger fish' rather than the smaller one. Once they've had time to gauge knowledge on each of you, they'll readjust and that's when you'll find them asking/talking directly to yourself when the question is best answered by yourself.

2. The Meetings are with Third Parties

They don't generally care who does what in a business. A 3rd party vendor should be considered no different from a customer in the sense that you're representing the business, not yourself or your own individual team. This is likely how your colleague sees these meetings and he probably doesn't find himself 'taking credit' for anything rather he's just accepting credit on behalf of the company; something which he may feel he has to do because of his position. If this same attitude continued in internal meetings however, this would be cause for concern.

What you can do

Prior to the meeting; ask your colleague if he doesn't mind directing X related questions to yourself. Or if you're feeling up to it, ask him if he doesn't mind letting you take the reigns in the next meeting!

At the beginning of the meeting when you're introducing yourself; clearly state what it is that you're there for. Explain that you're the best for answering X questions and you're responsible for X areas within the business. This helps the third party vendors understand who they're best to go to for what.

In your place I'd be happy letting someone else control the meeting as long as the outcome was what I was after or near enough to what I was after.

To deal with those 2 in a meeting specifically though. If they were asking for clarification from my colleague; I'd ask them if they understand when I finish explaining something which from what you're saying sounds like they didn't fully understand what you were explaining.

However all meetings aren't going to go exactly as planned. At the end of the day, as long as he's agreeing with what you're suggesting and you're able to impact the outcome of a meeting and achieve the purpose of the meeting; then I'd say that's a job well done.

Note

Another thing to look at would be how you're answering questions or how you're speaking in general. If there's doubt in what you're saying or how you're saying something, then that will cause the person that you're speaking to to have doubt in you too. Which in turn will cause them to seek clarification.

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    +1 - too many people get involved in meetings and don't have a strategy. This should include who is going to talk about what. Hopefully, there aren't any surprises from your own team. – user8365 Jun 22 '16 at 13:47
  • @Rawrskyes:I find the first part of the answer helpful. But the second part not and also in contradiction with the first part. What would be the gain for the poster to go through all these clarifications and expectations prior to the meeting? It might help his ego feel better but how would these “requirements” for meetings with outsiders help him professionally? – smith Dec 6 '17 at 18:12
  • @smith : Requirements, clarifications, expectations. Many a times people will have meetings thinking they know what they're going in for and not actually have a clear goal or outcome in mind. Clarifying this sort of stuff prior to meetings as well as at the start help clearly define why people are required. It helps someone professionally by giving direction so they can achieve outcomes. If someone's not adding value to a company then I would question why their role exists in the company. Unsure what you find contradictory though. Sorry. – Rawrskyes Dec 21 '17 at 5:14
  • @Rawrskyes: it is contradicting because the original poster’s concern is that credit due to him is stolen. Not how to have more productive meetings. The way you present it, it is guiding how to highlight his contribution in meetings that should make the company look good – smith Dec 21 '17 at 23:18
10

One thing the others did not address is the fact that you are a woman. I know some people do not agree with me on this, but he may be dismissive of you because you are female, whether consciously or not.

Studies are proven over and over again that female workers do not speak much in meetings, and they are perceived to have talked significantly more that they had.

My suggestion is that you have speak more and let them know to direct their questions at you, since you have worked on it. If they ask about X feature you have worked on, you should say something like "Oh, so when I implemented/designed this, I did it this way because of ..."

Sheryl Sandberg, the CTO of facebook wrote a NYT op-ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/opinion/sunday/speaking-while-female.html

1

It is difficult to feel that you are being ignored deliberately. The behavior of the third party people in the meeting was beyond rude. However, given that they do not work for your company, and if they are clients, you need them happy to do business, this is not something you can easily correct. The only person who can start to make a dent in this sort of thing is the senior manager who was present. It was unlikely he realized that this was going on. People tend to pay less attention to what is happening to other people than to what they are trying to accomplish in a meeting.

I would suggest that, since you generally have a decent working relationship with this person, that you talk to him. Tell him their behavior made you uncomfortable and that you felt that he inadvertently made it worse by his lack of support. Ask him to redirect technical questions to you, ask him to publicly give you credit for things you and your team did (that he did not when you were sitting right there in the room was definitely unacceptable behavior). He doesn't have to specifically call them out for their behavior, just redirect their attention to you when you are presenting technical information or when they ask him a question that you should be answering and make it clear that he values and trusts your professional expertise. The fact that he did not, devalued you to these people even more.

You have a job to do in these meetings and you need to do it even when the other people are less than attentive. But you need the support of your own colleagues to do so when it gets that bad. A lot of the time women are too passive about asking for the support that they need to have to be perceived as effective and competent. They are often too passive about speaking up in the meeting even when it is fully appropriate to do so. It feels a little too much like not being nice and we are socialized to be nice.

If you talk to him and his behavior doesn't change, then there are two things you can do. First, learn to release your annoyance and anger by recognizing that he is just a jerk and it has nothing to do with you. Next, learn to deal with office politics more effectively because you need to be able to shut down a snake who is grabbing credit for your work if it turns out that is what he is.

And grab the credit yourself. For instance, in the case to you and your team being complimented, but not getting the credit from him, the next sentence out of your mouth should have been something like, "My team will be so pleased to hear your compliments. I will be sure to pass them on to them how much you appreciate their good work." Make sure to put the sentence emphasis on the word, my.

-1

I really like what Elaine said about trying to give people the benefit of the doubt: "Never attribute to malice," in other words, "that which can be better explained by thoughtlessness." Robert Hanlon

I also agree that coworkers should (along with friends, parents, and people as a whole) treat us kindly and respectfully, as we would prefer them to do, but does it follow, on account of this, that they must?

And lastly, at the end of the day, does it really matter what they think? After all, they're humans just like you. Why is it not more important what you think.

  • 2
    In business it matters very much what decision makers think of you. – HLGEM Dec 6 '17 at 16:02

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