Re: exposing the soft underbellyof "merit raises" (was: Re: Finding a good job title)

Subject: Re: exposing the soft underbellyof "merit raises" (was: Re: Finding a good job title)
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 07 Feb 2001 10:35:56 -0800

Scott Turner wrote:

> >It's no mystery to me why people fuss over job titles. (Mine have
> >included such esoterics as "principal publications consultant" and my
> >current title "document architect.")
> >
> >Deborah Snavely


> Titles establish lines of authority. This is part of what we are
> struggling with daily. Is it any wonder that some developers don't
> respect tech writers? That management doesn't respect what we do? It
> is partly because they have no reference to our authority. What we do
> is often perceived as fluff, not germane to the core value of the
> product. Enforcing a better perception of our works value would be
> easier if there were authority behind what we do.

The insecurities and ambitions that motivate people to pant after
job titles aren't a mystery to me. I have plenty of both myself.
What is a mystery is why anyone with any self-respect or pride in
their work would give into these impulses or waste any time on them.

Promotion may be a rationale, but it begs the question: why is the
obsession particularly strong among tech-writers? My impression is
that, for many, impressive job titles are an end in themselves, not
a path to better pay. Why else would so many worry about exactly
when they can call themselves a "senior" writer, regardless of
whether or not they're actively looking for work? Why else would
people enter documentation competitions that are forgotten a week
after they're awarded? They're looking for external validation, and
they want it so badly that they don't care if those external marks
of validation have any real importance or not.

If anyone is hoping that a fancy title will win them more respect,
forget it. Titles may mark the official lines of authority, but
official structures are often not adequate in themselves. Almost
always, they're propped up by an informal structure based on
personality and expertise. If you want respect, it's in this
informal structure that you have to work. Demonstrate your
competence, knowledge, and professionalism, and you'll have no
trouble getting the respect of managers and programmers. If you're
an idiot, getting a title will only make you an idiot with a title.
It won't win you any respect.

Bruce Byfield 317.833.0313 bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com
Director of Marketing and Communications, Progeny Linux Systems
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux

"Of course, few admitted, even to themselves, that they bore
responsibility for their plight. They preferred to see themselves as
victims, and, like victims everywhere, they found explanations that
exonerated themselves from blame."
-Mike Dash, "Tulipomania"

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