Re: Tuesday's news: cost-cutting measures

Subject: Re: Tuesday's news: cost-cutting measures
From: Kevin McLauchlan <kmclauchlan -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 3 Sep 2002 15:50:44 -0400

On Tuesday 03 September 2002 09:29, Jane Carnall wrote:
> It's not really worth sending this ANONFWD...
> Okay, I've just been told I'm "at risk of redundancy"...
> and unless I or the company can think up some
> "cost-cutting measures" by Friday, I'll be formally
> redundant.


Your wording suggested that you are the only
employee in that painful position right now....
or, are others also being asked to [re-]justify their
respective existences?

I'm guessing that you are the one-and-only writer at
the company. Assuming that you've been usefully
busy up 'til now, the implication is that there is enough
tech-writing work to fill the void.

Somebody mentioned the "rock and a hard place" implications
of volunteering to work part time. If it's put that baldly,
then that's probably the reaction you'll get "You're
admiting, then, that you've been under-employed all these
months? Is that it?". Similarly, if you come up with
suggestions as to which documentation can be trimmed
from the schedule, then you are shooting yourself in the
"Oh, well if we can get along without this and this and
this, then we can probably get along without the person
who writes/maintains them, wouldn't you say?"

Given that SOMEthing has to give, then I like the
notion of part-time. I also like the notion of a relatively
formal meeting *before* Friday, to which you invite the
appropriate people, and in which you extract from *them*
what *they* think can be trimmed.

The idea is that you try to manage this evisceration
such that the resulting, slimmed-down workload
looks more like the amount of work that can be
done by you in two?/three? days per week... or in
five "half-days" (or whatever). I think you really
want *them* to be the ones who decide that one
or another project or product is "redundant".

By the way, about that word "redundant" -- we don't
normally use it in that context, over here on this side
of the pond. If you truly are "redundant", then somebody
or something else is doing the job, and there's no hope
for you (or perhaps for that other person, after the
"death-cage" grudge match...). Perhaps they are
grasping for a different term... "obsolete"?

"All of our documentation will now be done via
thought transference, direct from the brain of the
relevant engineer."

By the way, you might want to try that line (previous
para) as a little joke, and then segue into the issue
of increased costs for customer support.

For that matter, if the manager of Customer Support
is not among those plotting your asassination, then
you might want to recruit her/him as an ally in the
meeting. Some judicious priming might be in order,
before-hand. Of course, if the majority of support
calls are due to broken documentation, then you'll
want to consider other avenues (ahem) and let sleeping
dogs lie (to mangle a metaphor or three).

We've recently taken a company-wide 10% pay chop
(preceded by the executives earlier this year), and it
is generally acknowledged that if there were to be
another layoff (we cut loose half the company last
summer) then it would be ... er.... ah... 100% -- the
doors would close.

Still, I wouldn't rule out any near-term manipulations
of the workforce. Somebody might get the bright idea
to outsource the documentation.
If that came up, I'd definitely attempt a rearguard action,

- noting that some of our big customers are already picky
about the documentation (meaning that documentation
actually ISN'T just fluff, and some important people
(important to our fiscal future) have shown that they
value it sufficiently to make both complaints and
constructive comments... along with some praise,
and how often does *that* happen)
- raising the argument that somebody who already knows
the products and the industry (and all the developers and
testers) is better equipped to provide accurate and
complete... and useful... documents
also, if they lose the guy who knows what NOT to say
in our kind of docs, they'll incur an editorial overhead
that they don't currently have (i.e., some things that
are learned from the engineers and from the code, etc.,
are proprietary -- which ones are which?
- pointing out that we already have empty cubicles, so they
won't be saving much on overhead
- insinuating that any consultant/freelance writer who's
worth the effort will demand rates higher than my
salary, which eats into any savings from not having to
pay my benefits
- reminding them that my laptop is one of the "boughten"
ones, not one of the leased workstations, so there'll be
no savings there
- suggesting that, since I've largely moved to Linux, I
won't cost them anything in Windoze licence fees.

My laptop is a few years old, but it serves my purposes
reasonably well. If the axe were to come too close, I
could agree to work partial weeks, for reduced pay --
with the understanding that I'd be using the resulting
excess time to pursue freelance/consulting assignments,
to make up the shortfall (blah, blah, usual NDA/non-compete

Or, I could just go to free-lancing right away, and keep
the laptop... since it already has my paid-for tools on it.
I could work mostly from home, especially if they continue
to give me access to the company VPN... though it's not
entirely necessary.

I'd visit when necessary to attend project meetings or to
try out new equipment and software. Since I already have a
networked office at my house, I'd be able to begin taking
the appropriate tax deductions. I live in a socialist state,
so emergency and chronic medical insurance would not
change. On the other hand, I would need to find some drug
coverage and possibly dental as well.

Maybe I'll just touch wood if I can find any of the real
stuff around here... hmmm.

Well, good luck. If my ramblings are too remote from
your situation to be of any use... then don't read 'em.

/kevin (who just got back from vacation this morning and
who was tellingly relieved to note that his
access card still works :-)

** DIR-ty DEEDS, and they're DONE dirt cheap. (Sing it,

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Tuesday's news: cost-cutting measures: From: Jane Carnall

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