Squeaky tech writer gets the grease?

Subject: Squeaky tech writer gets the grease?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 09:42:31 -0500

Jenise Cook wonders: <<for those contributions you make on the job where
your boss is out of the communication loop, do any of you out there ever
meet with your boss to informally share what you've done?>>

I make contact with my supervisor a regular part of every day. Keeping your
boss and other people involved in deciding your fate well informed of what
you're doing is key to survival in most jobs. The trick to doing this well
has two main aspects:

1. Put it in the manager's context: "Just a quick check on priorities. I've
got a manuscript to proofread, plus the marketing Web page to create, but
Glen just asked me to edit his thesis by the end of the week. Any problem
with me doing that tomorrow, provided I've got the other work done?" This
serves an additional purpose beyond letting them know about the other work
your'e doing: it also shows them that you can juggle priorities and keeps
them up to speed on your workload. Also (see next point) you can sometimes
use this as a training tool for a new manager.

2. Don't be annoying about it: Pick a time when the boss is not too busy
(e.g., en route to a staff meeting, at the coffee machine), and learn to
read their reactions and adjust your approach. Some folks want to know
everything you're doing; others trust you to manage your own workload and
don't want to hear about the details. With a new manager, start out by
keeping frequently in touch while you help them ease into the job, then
quickly reduce the frequency of contact to a comfortable level so they can
deal with all the problems they face easing into the job. Part of the
purpose of this is to help them understand how things are working (show them
the ropes) so they can come up to speed faster and with more confidence. It
also creates a precedent of ongoing dialogue.

Sometimes a little automated help works wonders. For example, because we've
standardized on Outlook, I enter all tasks and requests into Outlook's task
system. This lets me sit down with my manager and show him everything that's
currently on the go, when it's due, and so on. Best of all, Outlook keeps
the completed tasks until you manually delete them. At the end of the year,
you can simply display the various tasks and show everything that you've

Some variant of this approach (e.g., recording this work in a Word file)
should work well for everyone. Moreover, if you're a freelancer or planning
to become one someday, you can turn this into a means of collecting data on
the work you've done. For example, I used to do this for my editing: assign
each manuscript a difficulty level, track my completion time, and record the
word lengths. This gave me an excellent indication of how fast I could work,
which let me set my freelancing rates and also budget my time at work when
the boss wanted to schedule work.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

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