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The situation I'm takling about at my workplace is as such: I do have a decent knowledge of a software base and have many times proposed improvements to my manager. He declined them for time reasons. Fast forward a few month later, and I see a colleague who has overheard said propositions and has implemented them "on the side"; I know for a fact the he was pretending to be oversaturated with work but he used that time to covertly, without sharing with his team, implement those features.

I now discover that the manager is liking the features, and even presents them to me as inventive; I also discover that he has been sold the implementation of said features as stellar, when I've noticed that they are harshly implemented and that they in instances reuse core components I've myself introduced in the past.

I'm all for improving and sharing as a team. I do think stealing ideas and using allocated time, which we divide between devs in the team, to implement those stolen ideas, is not in order; at least, not in pure career interested advancements.

How can I react constructively to the situation, by explaining the situation to my manager in a professional manner ?

marked as duplicate by gnat, Rory Alsop, Mister Positive, Masked Man, Draken Feb 28 '17 at 12:18

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    Your question isn't really a question but more of a rant. We can't tell you how you should react and how we'd react doesn't help you in the slightest. A question here should have a practical goal whether that's "How can I get recognition for coming up with these ideas?", "How can I avoid this in the future?" or what you probably really want to ask: "Should I inform my manager about this (or how I feel about it)? How can I do so professionally?". Please edit your question so it can have constructive answers. See help center and tour for more or visit The Workplace Chat to get feedback. – Lilienthal Feb 27 '17 at 10:43
  • Alright, I have edited my question accordingly. – darwin Feb 27 '17 at 10:48
  • Thank you. It could be further improved but this is enough to reopen. I do think that you have two separate issues here: a coworker stealing ideas is one, a coworker fudging his workload to work on unapproved stuff (and causing his team trouble in the process) is another. They just happen to have been done by the same colleague here. – Lilienthal Feb 27 '17 at 11:00
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    It's not the question, but I think a much bigger problem here is that your coworker is lying to their team about their workload and implementing things that are not a priority. – Erik Feb 27 '17 at 12:39
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    The problem to me is not the feature itself, it's the initiative and the precedent it sets. Initiative is good, but doing so while using the pool allocated to all devs reaks of a bigger problem to me. That means, it's simply the wild west and the end of team work to me. If anybody can make his own rules then what good is it to work in a team? Indeed, implicitely lying is a problem to me. – darwin Feb 27 '17 at 14:37

I think the best thing to do for now is to accept the situation and learn from it.

If you were to go to your manager, saying the colleague 'stole your ideas', you might come over as whining, so I would not do that. You can also talk to your colleague, but he can just deny that he overheard your ideas. I don't see how confronting either of them could help now.

What you can do, is the next time you have an idea and your manager does not give it priority, if you're really convinced of your idea, also just implement it like your colleague did, if time allows for it, or in your 'free' time.

  • I don't think whining is appropriate indeed, but implementing the ideas over work time when other matters are pressing does not seem productive when the pool of available work hours is shared between devs. That would me that one picks hours in that pool for personnal, non validated implementations. And it hurts the other devs. I have a problem with that really. – darwin Feb 27 '17 at 10:51
  • You're right about that. I've edited my answer to include that you only do the implementation if time allows it or in your own time. – JeroendeK Feb 27 '17 at 10:53

First of all, don't let people tell you that this is something that "just happens" and you should just suck it up unlucky. This is advice from someone who's had to defend themselves in a lot of situations like this... People do it because they want to progress and in their eyes most of the time people will sit back and "just take it" because they don't want to disrupt their career potentially.

  1. Document. Everything. It is really essential that if you're asked for proof, that you can provide it. If you need to have a chat with a colleague, email them instead of having a quick face to face. Get meetings minuted and keep backups of everything.

  2. Be really open and approachable. Don't confront your manager about it, let him know your position but be helpful. Send him an email "I noticed you've implemented that idea we discussed a few weeks ago, and honestly i'd love to help out with that, as it's something I personally have great experience with! let me know if there's anything I can do to help develop the item we talked about further. If I have any more ideas you think are worthwhile please let me know so we can work on a solution together."

    • You don't want to get upset or negative as it's unprofessional and is normally perceived as weakness.
    • You want to make sure you are friendly and approachable, whilst making it clear you're aware that your idea has likely been taken.
    • It could be an honest mistake and this is giving your manager a chance to turn around and say "oh sorry! I knew I heard it somewhere just couldn't remember!" you know, give him the chance to save face whilst knowing that he won't get away with it again.
    • You're being very professional in this email which works for you as you're not "just handling it", you're reacting to pressure in a positive and constructive way.

Ultimately, how you handle it is up to you, but this is a very good option.

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    I think your answer can help me. I don't want to suck it up, while also not wanting to rant against said colleague. Making clear to others that I was behind certain features should be helpful, if done right. – darwin Feb 27 '17 at 14:39

Ideas are worthless; only work is valuable and you didn't work on this improvement.

have many times proposed improvements to my manager. He declined them for time reasons.

You said "X would be nice" a few times in passing, but you didn't think it was worth implementing.

a colleague ... has implemented them "on the side";

A colleague disagreed and thought it was worth implementing and promptly did so.

I know for a fact the he was pretending to be oversaturated with work but he used that time to covertly, without sharing with his team, implement those features.

Irrelevant detail to the question at hand, refer to any "team member not doing his job" question on the site.

I now discover that the manager is liking the features, and even presents them to me as inventive;

You now discover that your manager appreciates initiative.

I also discover ... reuse core components I've myself introduced in the past.

You also discover that code you wrote in the past was valuable for implementing new stuff. Great!

How can I react constructively to the situation, by explaining the situation to my manager in a professional manner ?

Maybe next time you shouldn't dismiss your own ideas even if your manager doesn't allocate time for them. A few months later present the upgrade and get recognition you deserve.

(Again: if your coworker didn't work on the stuff he should have worked on these past months that is a legitimate concern, but not relevant to this question.)

  • 1
    I fear that your approach might reinforce the "wild west situation". Notice I've expressed how a pool of man-hours is allocated throughout the team. Now if you then go and create a precedent which is basically "I used the pool to do stuff which I never even discussed openly", what does it say about the team? I understand the gist of your advice, but have concerns as to the effect over teamwork basically. – darwin Feb 27 '17 at 14:42
  • @darwin Yes, that would worry me too, which is why I pointed out that "team member not doing his job" is worth another question. Ultimately it is the managers problem: if he rewards cowboy-projects, that is what he will get. – Odalrick Feb 27 '17 at 15:16
  • I think we can agree on that; in the end the standard is set by the manager indeed. – darwin Feb 27 '17 at 15:42
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    This answer makes me physically sick, ideas have serious value. It's the manager's job to decide if the effort is worth the result and he decided that it wasn't. OP mentioning it to his manager is OP thinking it is worth the time. Pulling a 180 when the features are actually there is disgusting to me. – narvoxx Feb 27 '17 at 15:53
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    "Ideas are valuable". FWIW, I invented Tivo a few years before it happened. That idea of mine is worth exactly nothing. Because I didn't implement and sell it. – gnasher729 Feb 27 '17 at 22:54

I don't think there's any harm being a little passive-aggressive about the episode:

Oh yeah, I remember talking about that last year/month/whatever, but was too busy with project work at the time. Good job, how did you solve 'x' problem?/I intended to include a way of doing 'y'.

Don't let this come across as being sarcastic, being supportive works just as well.

Next time around (if you wanted to do this work yourself), discuss with your manager and book some time in the resource plan (if you have one). This reinforces that you want to "own" this piece of work.

  • It is really hard to express this without sounding bitter or sarcastic, however I agree that this makes sense. – darwin Feb 27 '17 at 14:39

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