Re: Tech writing situation

Subject: Re: Tech writing situation
From: Jeff Hanvey <jewahe -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Emily_Cotlier -at- cardlink -dot- co -dot- nz
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2000 07:21:17 -0700 (PDT)

--- "Mark L. Levinson" <markl -at- gilian -dot- com> wrote:
> I used to believe that the best revenge at work was
> simply
> to outlast the schmucks. They do find themselves
> pushed
> out eventually. But in today's market (if New
> Zealand is
> like other places) there's often the option of
> finding a
> better job instead...

I don't know if I'd go so far as to tell someone to
quit his/her job over a situation like this...

In many companies or divisions that have a lone tech
writer, it's common occurrence for that writer not to
take part in *every* writing project - otherwise that
writer is going to be overwhelmed by it all (no matter
how organized, efficient, and multi-tasking capable
s/he is).

However, if this is not an isolated situation, then,
yes, you probably should be worried because something
deeper is going on: either the company does not value
your skills or you are being so flexible that they
take you for granted. In this case, there are two

1. Start looking for another job.
2. Lay down the ground rules: explain what you will
and will not do and stick to those rules in all your
dealings. If a description of the technical writer's
duties doesn't exist at your company, then develop one
based on those rules (with the approval of your
supervisor and the CEO).

On the other hand, if this is an isolated situation, I
wouldn't worry too much about the assignment of the
work. However, use strategy (2) above. In this case,

1. Talk to the CEO to see how involved he wants you to
be in the project.
2. Talk to the NMG; offer your limited help and set
the boundaries.
3. Write a memo outlining these decisions. Send it to
the NMG, your supervisor, and the CEO.
3. Stick to those rules.

For example, if the group decided that you would act
as a mentor, then you can help him at the researching
stage by having him watch you research a project. This
doesn't interfere with your work and gives him an
opportunity to ask questions. Or you could suggest a
couple of good books for reference.

Similarly, you could offer your editing/proofreading
skills. Of course, make it clear that your work takes
precedence over being helpful. For instance, If
(probably when) he comes to you trying to win your
pity and get you to do part of the work, tell him
"Gee, I'm really busy right now. Perhaps you could
draft it, and I'll look over it when I have a minute,
then give you some suggestions for a second draft."
That one sentence reminds him (a) It's his project
and he has the ultimate responsibility, (b) You have
your own assignments to finish, and (c) You will not
be guilted into doing his work.

Since this is *his* project and his skills that are on
the line, he should understand when he his too
overwhelmed and talk to the CEO to have your role in
the project expanded (again, have your role formalized
in writing so that you can get the credit you
deserve). Otherwise, you've done all you can to help.

I don't want to sound like Andrew here, but you just
can't feel slighted every time someone else is given a
writing project - or spend hours worrying about how
much the company values you or how you'll be credited
for the work you've done.

Maybe because I'm male and haven't had to fight the
stereotype battle, but I just don't believe that every
thing has to turn into the holy war of me vs them
(marketing, engineering, SME's) and that there is some
conspiracy to disrespect my job. Be professional and
do your job, do it to the best of your ability, and
get on with life.

Jeff Hanvey

"There is fiction in the space between / The lines on your page of memories
Write it down but it doesn't mean / You're not just telling stories"
-Tracy Chapman, Telling Stories

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