My Colleague is Taking Credit for My Work
You have put a lot of sweat equity into a new, and even innovative, product for a very large children’s toy manufacturer. It fills a niche for pre-kindergarten in your company’s line. The game doesn’t require as much manual dexterity as those for older children but is more challenging mentally then the regular pre-kindergarten stuff. You can see that it would give bragging rights to parents and this could be a great selling feature.
You’ve felt that there has been real team work with Wesley, who is a more senior designer in the unit. He is not your supervisor but he’s been a big help, throwing around ideas. You two are ready to present the prototype to your management.
The presentation meeting
|Manager:||So Wesley and Nick want to give us an update on the smart pre-kindergarten game. Who’s gonna start?|
|You and Wesley look at each other.||Before You can say anything:|
|Wesley:||Why don’t I? I’m really happy with the progress on what I’m thinking of calling the Baby Einstein game.||This is news to you!|
|Manager:||Hey, I like that. Taps into the whole bragging rights for parents.|
|Wesley:||Yes, I thought so, too, especially when I realized the potential the game has.||You’ve got to say something!|
|You:||I think the game has potential, too.|
|Manager:||But Wesley, do you think parents will really fall for the bragging rights thing?||How can you answer? He asked Wes.|
|Wesley:||Absolutely. I did some testing with parents and they were crazy about the game. Right, Nick?||You did the testing.|
|You:||I did the testing.||Trying to stick up for yourself.|
|Manager:||And did you see something different?|
|You:||Ah, no. They were crazy about it.||You look ineffectual.|
|Manager:||So, Wes, how do you see reaching this niche?|
|Wesley:||I’ve given this a lot of thought. I think we’d be best linking to some established pre-kindergarten private schools. Those parents have already demonstrated they’re willing to pay for early education.||You’d come up with that in a brainstorming session.|
|Manager:||Sort of a partnership.|
|Wesley:||Yeah, I’ve got a lot of ideas on that.|
|You:||I do too.|
|Manager:||Okay, Wes, let’s continue the conversation off-line. Good work. Oh, and for you, too, Nick.|
What went wrong?
Well, you know what went wrong—Wesley took all the credit for the work, most of which you did. But you couldn’t seem to turn the conversation around.
Whenever you tried to intervene, you looked like you were just echoing what Wesley had already said. The meeting ended with your manager having the definite impression that Wesley was the key person.
Coming out of that meeting, I know the first thing I’d want to do is tear a strip off Wesley. The next post will outline what could happen if you do and the one after how to avoid the situation in the future.
 By the by, I have already posted a series on a colleague stealing an idea at the idea stage. Although the series is in similar territory, I think this post is somewhat different. Wesley turned what you saw as teamwork into an all-about-me show.