Re: What a predicament!

Subject: Re: What a predicament!
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 13:24:04 -0800 (PST)

> "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!"

Sounds about par for the course. So what's so unusual about this? They always
want it tomorrow and tech writers ALWAYS think there are "usability problems."

Show me a tech writer who doesn't fancy him/herself a "usability expert." Heck,
even I get into that funk sometimes.

> 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>!"

There is nothing wrong with imitation. How the hell do you think Microsoft
became so huge?

And while we're on the topic - intellectual property is a complex pie. There is
a big difference between ripping off intellectual property and merely imitating
something else. Its perfectly legal (and often financially beneficial) to
imitate other people.

> 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.

If you're so stressed you can't work for a month, you really need to find
another job.

> 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?

1. Quit.

2. Forget them

3. Move along.

You're taking you're job WAY to seriously. It sounds to me like your employer
is asking for results and that is stressing you out. If you disagree with their
business practices, don't try to change the world and show them "how it is",
just quit and get a job at a firm that more closely represents your moral and
ethical stance on these issues.

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

Realistically, yes. The sheer stress of doing it will harm you. And there is a
slight chance that the mere fact that you had to make a big deal out of this
will anger your employer and make them bad mouth you.

Just step back and let it go.

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

Nothing. Its none of their business. Just tell them you want different
challenges or whatever. If you bad mouth a former employer it only can hurt

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

Chill out and stop being so obsessed with the work. Its technical writing, not
brain surgery.

Andrew Plato

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