Help me present info at work that contradicts the work of others
April 5, 2018 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I have to make a presentation at work in a couple hours that involves presenting information considerably different than what a coworker has previously presented. I’m confident my analysis is more accurate than my coworker’s. How best to present without sounding like I’m trashing my coworker?

I am a loan officer at a commercial bank and until recently was a senior credit analyst. I don’t mean to brag but I am good at my job, and have a very good reputation at work. The credit officers I will be presenting a loan request to this morning regularly say very complimentary things about my work and how solid and reliable it is.

I am presenting a deal for a client who is usually served by another loan officer here (not worth getting into why). I do not like relying on work others have done, and so I did my own credit analysis of this client’s personal financials rather than using the other loan officer’s. My analysis of their personal cash flow is starkly different from the other officer’s, which has recently been presented to Credit on another deal. (Like they calculated last year’s cash flow at about $5 million, and I’m coming up with negative $3 million.) While there is a certain amount of art and estimation involved, I am confident my answer is closer to the truth because I can look at the source documents and see where the other officer made mistakes. (I’m talking basic mistakes - using a figure from the wrong line, mistaking company cash flow for personal cash flow, etc).

How do I best present this info today? I am a 35 year old woman presenting my info verbally to a team of four older male credit officers. My coworker is a man who has been in commercial lending for longer than my entire working career. I want to show confidence in my work while acknowledging that it’s different from what they’ve recently seen, without just basically saying my coworker did a rotten job. Help!
posted by skycrashesdown to Work & Money (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Don't bring up your colleague's work at all. Present your facts and your source documents. If your audience is savvy they will ask the right questions. Don't focus on "well Jim used numbers from the wrong column"; focus on "well my computation is based on company cash flow from x source document".
posted by vignettist at 8:03 AM on April 5, 2018 [25 favorites]


Your work is yours, and it's independent of your colleague's. To the extent possible, make no reference at all to what your colleague may have done - especially as you didn't use it as the basis for your work. It's not relevant. If you're asked directly, you can stress your faith in the validity of your own analysis, and step right around whatever your colleague may have got wrong.

Your audience, if they choose to, can make any comparisons and draw their own conclusions. That's on them, not on you. You do your work, they can do theirs.

On preview: what vignettist said.
posted by rd45 at 8:04 AM on April 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


You present the facts of your analysis in a neutral, calm, straightforward manner. I agree, don't bring up your colleague's work if at all possible, but answer any questions that may come up about the differences in the same "just the facts" manner. You're there to present your analysis, not compare and contrast.

You don't say if your colleague will be in the room, but even if not, address the differences as if your colleague were. If asked specifically where your colleague's $5M number came from, you don't know because you didn't do their analysis, they did; however it seems the number "may have been taken from" whatever wrong source rather than the source your number came from. Note passive construction as if the numbers just appeared on their own, not "colleague obviously got numbers from wrong line".

They'll figure it out - if they've been doing this for a while, they've had to make similar presentations at some point in their careers.
posted by Gnella at 8:18 AM on April 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Floating this for other people's thoughts, would it be worth giving your colleague a heads up as well?

If your audience asks about your colleague's analysis, it seems disingenuous to pretend you have no idea what he did. I think it would add weight to your analysis to be able to directly say, yes, I discussed that with him but I'm still right because [reasons], even better if you can say, I brought that to his attention and he agreed that previous estimates were off, or something like that.

Also it would help your colleague not feel thrown under the bus, if that's a concern. I suppose the effectiveness of this approach would depend on your relationship with your colleague and how well your workplace handles having mistakes pointed out directly but without malice.
posted by yeahlikethat at 8:38 AM on April 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


This really is very culture-dependent, but another reason to speak to your colleague beforehand is to eliminate the possibility that it's you who's made the mistake. Not that I doubt you, but, with such a great variance between results and with your results presented as an implicit criticism of your colleague's, it's best to minimize the possibility that you've done anything wrong. If your colleague gets angry afterwards, you can be sure he will hunt through your work looking for even minor and insignificant errors and use them to try to discredit you. ("Well, maybe I was off on this by 40%, but look, she attributed this $5 of income to the wrong source!!! Both sides, amirite???")
posted by praemunire at 9:01 AM on April 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


> Floating this for other people's thoughts, would it be worth giving your colleague a heads up as well?

That was my thought too, but it's so incredibly dependent on company culture, relationship with colleague, relationship between colleague and bosses, relationship between OP and bosses...I'd be uncomfortable advising yes or no without knowing these people IRL.

IDEALLY, it would great to pull him aside before the meeting to say "just so that you aren't surprised or feel put-on-the-spot, I just wanted to give you a heads-up that my analysis looks quite different than yours. If you want to talk about how I got there, we can meet privately later on." That is the way that I would personally like to be treated as a human.

OTOH, I have most certainly worked in a lot of offices where that kind of heads-up would have been ruinous. Invitation to nitpick and derail the meeting, twisted around to make the heads-up look like a weakness of confidence on my part, and in a semi-analogous situation I even had a dude go behind my back to get the meeting preemptively shut down.

> You don't say if your colleague will be in the room, but even if not, address the differences as if your colleague were. If asked specifically where your colleague's $5M number came from, you don't know because you didn't do their analysis, they did; however it seems the number "may have been taken from" whatever wrong source rather than the source your number came from.

I agree with this, and would probably pivot back even more. I wouldn't even speculate on where colleague got their numbers at all, I would probably say something like, "I can't speak to the methods my colleague used for their analysis, but my method was to take this number from here and that number from there to obtain this total."
posted by desuetude at 9:58 AM on April 5, 2018 [12 favorites]


I'd say don't give your colleague a heads-up.

Your colleague is the 'usual' loan officer for a wealthy client, and the colleague's mistake-ridden analysis has made him look like a "starkly" more favorable candidate for a loan than yours does?

There could be deeper waters here.
posted by jamjam at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2018 [15 favorites]


If you think the previous analysis is going to come up - I could foresee something even as blunt as "Why is this analysis so different than what we've seen previously - I'd strongly encourage you to use desuetude's phrasing. Don't speculate as to where they got their numbers from, just speak confidently about where yours came from.
posted by machine at 11:21 AM on April 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Presentation has been given and loan is approved! I followed the helpful advice here and didn’t even mention it, just presented my own analysis. And was reminded that the people I work for have the memory of goldfish, since they were presented the other info less than a week ago and apparently already forgot all about it. Thanks, all!
posted by skycrashesdown at 12:55 PM on April 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


(And for those curious, I think the main difference in the info can be primarily attributed to laziness and haste on the part of the other officer rather than any coherent effort to present a better picture of this client.)
posted by skycrashesdown at 12:56 PM on April 5, 2018


It still might be worth quietly highlighting for your direct manager, maybe.
posted by salvia at 1:11 PM on April 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


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