Subject: Re: NEED HELP..PLEASE RESPOND (long!)
From: "Laura A Mac Lemale" <lmaclemale -at- paychex -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 11:06:35 -0400

Hi John,

I read your post and yesterday's responses on digest this morning. Here's
hoping I can contribute something useful.

--First of all, you can approach your boss (as others suggested). He/she
may or may not be direct with you, but maybe you can dig for a little
information about what's going on with the company long-term. Are any
new projects on the horizon, or is there a hiring freeze, etc.? If
you're not comfortable asking directly, you can just initiate a
casual discussion and see if you can pick up any tidbits about what's
going on.

--As far as the unappreciated tasks go, maybe you can also mention that
to your boss. However, you may have to exercise caution on this one. As
Bryan indicated, if the busywork is being handed to you in a protective
way (i.e., to avoid layoff attention), then the company may be facing
financial hardship. If that is the case, you may have to be creative to
come up with more relevant tasks for yourself (see task idea list*). [You
may want to be diplomatic in your description of the tasks to your boss
and avoid the word "silly."]

--If this is not the case, and your boss really does not see the
techwriter/secretary distinction, then you definitely need to find an
avenue(s) through which to develop your own skills because you are the
only one who can do that. (You probably want to be beefing up your own

--There may be the possibility (slim though it may be) that things in
your company will pick up again, and that if you weather the storm you
may become a highly valued, contributing member of the organization when
business improves. So for now, you would want to lay low and
move forward with your own professional development.

--Personal experience: At one time in a previous job, I was the lone tech writer for a few months without a lot of project work. During the downtime I learned Framemaker (Adobe's Classroom in a Book), caught up on some industry reading, and investigated other software and Web resources. I took an online HTML tutorial to enhance my Web development skills. Eventually projects picked up and another writer was hired.

--Assertiveness does not have to be synonymous with aggressiveness. It's possible to be assertive and maintain tact, diplomacy, and dignity. You have every right to express yourself to your boss and/or co-workers, and you are really the best person to speak up for your own needs and goals.

--Some of the suggestions (though some may have been intended as tongue-in-cheek), such as purposefully making really bad coffee, might be a bit passive-aggressive. You may have to balance some of the more mundane tasks with your own development, at least for a while. As someone else suggested, maybe you can use the time to revamp the Developer Activity report or some other documentation.

*Some task ideas:
--Create an in-house style guide, or update an existing one.
--Learn a new software skill. There are many free demo downloads available on the Web.
--Polish your HTML or other Web design skills. Maybe you can even create a project that will be relevant to your company and its business/products.
--If there is another group that handles Web development, ask your boss how you can contribute to that. Be creative, and suggest a plan so that your boss just can't say no.
--Look for opportunities in the company for creating documentation. Is some group doing a task or system procedure that is not documented? Then initiate a project that will provide them with documentation. You can devise a project plan, task outline, and documentation proposal.
--Similarly, review existing department procedures for other groups and determine if you can improve the existing documentation.
--If there is another group that you are interested in working with, ask your boss if you can shadow someone or otherwise contribute to that group.
--Look for in-house training opportunities. Is there some software in your company that your boss and others don't use adequately? Then become an expert user and offer training. (i.e., Managers are making Powerpoint presentations but are not using the software to its maximum value.Become a Powerpoint guru on your own and teach them all!)
--Update your own resume. It never hurts to keep it current!

Thanks for reading this far, and HTH. Remember, good or bad, it's all work experience and makes you more knowledgable. Good luck in your endeavors!

Laura MacLemale
Technical Writer
lmaclemale -at- paychex -dot- com

Response to John Mathew <techwriting4me -at- yahoo -dot- com>

<<Just wanted your opinion on how I should handle this
problem. My boss feels that there's a very thin line
between a tech writer's job and a secretary's job and
he keeps dumping all kinds of nonsense on me like
keeping a track of the Daily Activity reports of
developers in my company, and making the resumes of
other employees. I feel very underutilized and
misused, but I don't know how to tackle this problem. >> <snip>


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