FWD: What a predicament!

Subject: FWD: What a predicament!
From: Anonymous <anonfwd -at- raycomm -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 09:56:30 -0700 (MST)

Forwarded anonymously on request. Please reply to the
list if you want the original poster to see your message. EJR

I'm an experienced writer and a long-time member
of this list. In all my years of technical writing,
I have never been put in a situation like this.

After suffering financial setbacks common to our
profession in this economy, I finally landed a job
that I thought was the answer to my prayers. The
technology was challenging, the group was great,
the company was small, and the stock options were

The first product release went off without a hitch
and the money folk were happy. But nobody bought
the product, so we scrambled to change direction.

I participated in the product design phase, created
a doc plan, marched right along-side my teammates
every step of the way. But somehow, between design
and execution, the VP of Engineering got it into
his head that if we wanted to be successful, we
needed to "embrace" an already successful product
that sells to the same market but would not be a
direct competitor to our new software.

That's pretty much when the "fit hit the shan".

"We need screenshots in the help,
we need context-sensitive topics in
the TOC, we need you to document the
print dialog, we need you to copy this
manual as closely as possible,..."
"It's not in the doc plan; it's not
compliant with MS standards, there
are usability problems there, it
is directly contrary to copyright
and intellectual property laws!"
"We don't care, do it anyway!"

So the VP filed a "performance improvement plan"
in my personnel file, which I countered with a
response and a half-inch of supporting docs that
basically said, "you are making my breaking the
law a condition of my employment and I consider
this to be harassment."

I have had interminable meetings with the VP
and the COO, listening to the COO espouse
their respect for intellectual property for
10 minutes, then watching him sit there
straight-faced while the VP said "Now, go
make it look like <productname>!"

Each time I reached a goal, the VP pushed the
bar a little further away. I was supposed to
have the doc set done yesterday. But the day
before that, the team tore the UI apart and began
to rearrange it -- big surprise there. Even
without that, I had no confidence that he
would find my work satisfactory and I anticipated
being let go last night.

Admittedly, I'm a nervous wreck! Yesterday morning
I had an appointment with a psych counselor and he
put me on disability for major depression caused
by work. I'm out of work for at least a month.

So, now at least they cannot fire me and I have
my medical insurance. Disability payments are
a little more than unemployment and I needn't
be too concerned about making some money contracting
or whatever.

To put another interesting spin on the problem, the
doc manager who wrote the book I was supposed to
"embrace" is a friend of a friend and I have spoken
to her on the phone in the past. I have never met
her personally.

The phone book is open to the employment attorney
page. Certainly I have a harassment and hostile
work environment suit against them. I could also
be a whistle-blower, either through the lawyer or
by calling the other doc manager directly.

What would you do?

Will blowing the whistle hurt my chances
for getting another job?

How much would you tell prospective employers about
what's gone on here?

How can I get through this without losing my sanity,
my house, my car,...?

Advice, please!

Now's a great time to buy RoboHelp! You'll get SnagIt screen capture
software and a $200 onsite training voucher FREE when you buy RoboHelp
Office or RoboHelp Enterprise. Hurry, this offer expires February 28, 2002. www.ehelp.com/techwr

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