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Recently I worked on developing a new component with a coworker. I would say that our contributions were about a 80/20 split, myself having contributed 80% of the work toward the component.

My coworker likes to spam the other developers in the department with information and updates about whatever he's been working on, including e-mails specifically discussing our new component. This behavior has resulted in my coworkers (including management) mistakenly believing that he is the primary and most authoritative contact for discussions about this component, despite the fact that he was the minority contributor.

I feel that his constant updates have given him a higher profile than me with respect to this project. Can I recover from this, and if so, how do I do it? I don't think that out-spamming the spammer would be effective, nor do I like adding additional noise to my colleagues' inboxes.

EDIT: Thanks for the answers so far, they are all really good. To help clarify the situation I'd like to follow up with some additional info about his communication. First of all, he typically does not tell me when he's about to send out an e-mail, much less run it by me for review before sending it out; I am unaware of these messages until they arrive in my inbox. Secondly, there has been more than one occasion where his communication contains information that is outright incorrect; he is not familiar with some of the code that he is discussing.

I wouldn't mind him being the point of contact if it wasn't for the fact that he is essentially being given credit for the project because of it. Management is perceiving the situation as if he was the one who wrote the 80% and I wrote the 20%, when in reality it's the other way around.

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closed as off topic by Mark Trapp Sep 3 '11 at 2:45

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This looks like a workplace issue and would probably be better suited for Professional Matters. –  blubb Sep 2 '11 at 18:54
I read this when it was new, and this has crossed my mind a couple of times. Shouldn't your team members be aware of what other people are working on and what their responsibilities are? I mean, I can't give details about what the guy three cubes down from me is working on, but I know what systems he's working with and that one of my systems interacts with one of his systems. It just makes sense that everyone who works under the same program or on the same project would have an idea of what the rest of the people are doing. –  Thomas Owens Sep 2 '11 at 19:18
Hi Jake, general workplace advice isn't on-topic here. Check out our FAQ for more information about what types of questions are on-topic here. –  user8 Sep 3 '11 at 2:46

8 Answers 8

You may be the majority contributor, but he's the majority communicator. Being the "contact for discussions" is about communication, not contribution. From what you've told us, he seems better suited for that role. It's really a separate issue from who's designing and writing the most code.

If that doesn't suit you, there's only one way other people find out about your contributions—tell them. If you aren't willing to do that, you have to accept the consequences of that choice.

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+1 for good common sense –  Morgan Herlocker Aug 31 '11 at 20:18
+1 for he's the major communicator. He might not do it right, but he's doing it. –  dreza Aug 31 '11 at 21:24

Let your commits do the talking.

Other than that, maybe talk to your co-worker about only sending out release e-mails about the component, including change logs (that will have your name associated to any changes that you've made).

If it's an issue with your management, show them commit history on the component and ask to be deemed as the lead of the project, taking ownership of it and updates that are sent out to the group. Make it official.

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I feel it is better to be the silent expert than the foolish chatterbox. If he sends out communications without running the information by you first and routinely gets things incorrect then send revision emails that clarify mistaken points.

Do it in a way that is not argumentative or condescending. Just state the facts and avoid using second-person pronouns like You or Your. These pronouns tend to imply blame when correcting a mistake.

If you do this enough he will start to look and feel foolish and will eventually run things by you first, and then you will have the guy answering to you.

If not and he gets angry at you then even better because he will start to look like an idiot to management and they will just start going directly to you.

And even if you decide to do nothing then if management is smart they will realize pretty quickly that the guy is not reliable and they will start talking to somebody else to get information.

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+1 for clarifying mistaken points. –  Karl Bielefeldt Aug 31 '11 at 19:27
great advice, make his errors clear in a simple "reply to all". –  Pedro Aug 31 '11 at 20:29
@Pedro: that's about the worst thing you can do. It will be immediately clear to everyone else that you don't know how to communicate; people will start to actively avoid you. –  reinierpost Sep 2 '11 at 19:10

I feel that his constant updates have given him a higher profile than me with respect to this project. Can I recover from this, and if so, how do I do it?

Are you wanting to have a higher profile than him? Make sure management is aware of your work and your part, don't make this into a competition or that you are trying to bring your co-worker down. You merely want to state your part and make sure they are aware of this. Don't forget that in having a high profile, he may have to handle the many requests and expectations that he may be giving others with all these communications as it would appear he has some free time to send such messages.

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I see this as two separate issues:


Are you getting credit for the work you've performed on the component? Do your coworkers and supervisor know how much work you've been doing on it? Do the commits do the talking, and are people actually paying attention to them?

If you feel you're not getting enough credit for your work, you could just talk to your co-worker and ask him to clarify in his communications how much of the actual work was done by you.


Would you rather be the primary contact for work on the component? It looks like your co-worker is taking on responsibility for communicating about the work you've been doing together, which may be his way of compensating for how little he's been doing to actually implement the component.

If he's already giving credit where credit is due, and you're not interested in doing communication work on top of your other duties, then this is probably ok.

Otherwise, there are a few things to consider:

It sounds like your coworker is doing a good job of communicating to others about your collaborative work (or, at least, thinks he is), or it would have been noticed (such as when, for example, he fails to answer questions/provide correct information to other employees). It also sounds like you see most of his announcements as spam - you may not be as comfortable or good as he is with providing information to others (are you sure that the people receiving his spam see it as unwanted?).

If I'm correct, and he's doing a good job of it, then your best approach is to ask him to incorporate you into the communications by asking for mentorship. Ask him to teach you how to be as effective a communicator as he is. If I'm incorrect, and he's providing an unwanted and unappreciated service to your co-workers, are you sure you want to have anything to do with it?

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Unfortunately he does not discuss his communications with me or run them by me for review before he sends them out. Sometimes his messages contain incorrect information because he is just not familiar enough with most of the code. –  Jake Tacholsavacky Aug 31 '11 at 18:55
That sounds like a self-correcting problem. Either he's spamming everyone (ie. no one cares about what he has to say), in which case the correctness is irrelevant, or they do care, and the correctness is close enough (he's doing a good enough job), or they do care and the errors are important, in which case they'll either ask him to do a better job or start ignoring what he has to say in favor of asking you directly. –  blueberryfields Aug 31 '11 at 22:27
I would have to agree with our muffin friend. If he is sending out incorrect information and the emails are being read, at some point, the problem should correct itself. Honestly I wouldn't want anything to do with these emails. –  Ramhound Sep 2 '11 at 12:18

Mainly this pertains to your edit. Reply in private that he is giving inaccurate information. Suggest he run these things by you since you are doing much of the development. No one wants to send everyone a correction, but if this creates problems, you really don't have a choice.

There should be some other system besides random emailings that indicates who is doing what on projects.

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When you work with somebody on the same thing, you have what is typically known as a team. In most team, there are people that are better suited to communicating progress and status to the other teams. This person is usually the team leader, however I see your co-worker more of a team liaison officer. The rest of the team does the majority of the actual work, which is you in this case.

From your description, it looks that this is what is happening to your situation except he is not communicating the right message across and he is not the team leader.

Some things you could do.

1) Have the status report be communicated in a written form (formal report) and make sure that you can contribute to it. A good contribution is to include some commit stats with the report.

2) Clarify his role and made that known to the your project manager and the team at large, so that there is no doubt in the mind of others what to expect from him.

3) Generate some real documentation (design, test reports etc) of your own and publish them. Real documentation has much more weight and credibility than status reports.

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I feel that his constant updates have given him a higher profile than me with respect to this project. Can I recover from this, and if so, how do I do it?

One thing worth keeping in mind is that brute force demands for credits might not work, even if you really deserve what you request.

  • It happened in one of my past projects that high level management mis-credited certain achievement and praised the team other than one I was member of. I complained and escalated this issue in a pretty straightforward way, demanding for the fair attribution of the achievement.
    Some time later same manager sent a large public email with apologies for his prior mis-credit and with personal thanks to every member of my team - to every member, except for me.

On a more positive note, later it didn't took me much effort to learn how to do stuff like that in a less painful way. Thing worth keeping in mind is that if you're good programmer, you're smart enough to figure how to do that.

  • I for one was simply watching and studying after the guys who get credits, and practicing repeating what they do to get that publicity and visibility. It was like... you know, pretty much like studying yet another new API by examples. It's not that difficult, really - especially if you take into account that unlike your coworker, you don't need to cheat about your achievements.
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