Re: need suggestions on handling a boss

Subject: Re: need suggestions on handling a boss
From: Julie Stickler <jstickler -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 11:57:34 -0500

The first problem I see in this situation is that your boss is wearing
too many hats:
- Manager
- Subject Matter Expert
- Editor

If you can't go directly to the Subject Matter Expert for information,
you're playing a game of Telephone where information is going to get
garbled as it is passed from person to person. You need to speak to
the Subject Matter Experts directly. Unless your manager is designing
the things you are documenting, they should not be source for
information about how they work. And they should never be your sole
source of information.

The second problem I see here is lack of planning. You should never be
in a situation where you are assigned doc for something that you don't
understand that is due tomorrow. If you're going to write good doc,
you need time to plan and research before you write. So something is
broken in your communication system (I'm not going to blame your boss
on this one, because I'm currently working in an environment where the
developers wander over and say "We're releasing code tomorrow, we
probably need doc don't we?" To which we reply, you won't have doc
tomorrow, here's when we can fit it in...). Someone at the management
level needs to be planning the process for whatever you're producing
and planning doc needs to be written, and then making sure there's
time to do it properly. Even if you're just documenting internal
processes, someone, somewhere should have a schedule and doc should be
on it.

If you don't have enough information to understand the assignment, ask
for clarification on what she wants. If she won't give you
clarification, tell her, politely, that you can't do the work if you
don't understand it. And keep asking until you are clear. If she
won't give you answers, there's something really wrong that you have
no control over. And it's time to do some thinking about whether or
not to stay at this job.

I've had a horrible boss who set people up for failure. I'm NOT
saying that's what is going on here. But this story does make me
think back to a bad boss that I had who couldn't delegate until she
was overwhelmed, at which point everything was CRITICAL and due
yesterday and she didn't have time to explain just do it! And even
worse, when I asked questions for clarification, she suddenly thought
I was questioning her authority instead of what I was being asked to
do. I had to leave that job because what had started out as a good
working relationship deteriorated into a very bad situation that
became so stressful it was starting to affect my health. No job is
worth that.

Julie Stickler
Blogging about Agile and technical writing

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