Re: Advice, please

Subject: Re: Advice, please
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 13:02:33 -0700

Writer Whirler wrote:

My question is this: how much time and effort should I put into trying to get her to improve her work? My boss thinks she is dead weight and I shouldn't have to put so much time into editing (which is true.) But I want to give her every opportunity to improve and conform before I fire her (yes, it will be me.....eeek!), if it comes to that. I think back to when I didn't know what I was doing and someone gave me the chance to get better. However, I really was an inexperienced novice. She's supposed to be a seasoned pro. What would YOU do?

Welcome to the world of management! The responsibility may give more scope for your talent, but it can turn nasty, too - as you're finding out.

My thoughts on the situation:

- If you're not already, start saving evidence of the sort of problems you're having. You may need to justify firing Betty to the higher-ups in your company. Until you have repeated examples of the problems, you may not be able to justify firing her.

- If you do need to fire her, consider the timing carefully. Probably, you'll want to avoid firing her in the middle of a project. However, she might be so much of a liability that not having another writer would be preferable to dealing with her.

- If you have to have justification for firing her, you may as well try to work with her a bit, and give her the benefit of the doubt. Part of your job as a manager is to help bring people up to speed, or to try to.

- Try sending out Style Guide notes about the more basic problems with Betty's work. Some of the things she did might be due to misunderstanding. Perhaps she thought that she was supposed to copy from the sample document? And maybe she needs instructions about how to insert graphics. She could be clinging to the one method she's learned because she doesn't know any other way.

- Try a few editing teleconferences with her. In many cases, talking gets the points across better than e-mail. If nothing else, talking is harder to ignore.

- Consider going over part of one of her documents doing reader-response criticism. That is, explain what problems you have as a reader - not as an editor. This method is a low-key, easy to understand method of editing that is much less threatening to unskilled writers than traditional methods. When I was teaching, I used it with 18 year old university students regularly, and found it ideal for communicating basic considerations of writing.

- Don't expect immediate improvement. Settle for signs of improvement. If there's none after a couple of projects, you can probably justify firing her if that's what it comes to.

Good luck, in any case. I hope it works out.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

"Waiting for the ferry, tickets in their hand
Good people that were never out of sight of land
Waiting for the ferry, tickets in their hand
Good people that you knew would never understand."
-OysterBand, "Not Like Jordan"


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Advice, please: From: Writer Whirler

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