Annual Performance Review, new manager...

Subject: Annual Performance Review, new manager...
From: Aimee Hall <aimee -at- aimeehall -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 14:21:20 -0600

I'm a new manager in a small Marketing/Tech Pubs department... I manage a
graphic designer and a technical writer, and I do a little bit of each
myself. I was thrown into the position of manager about 4 months ago when
my boss abruptly left the company. I have only about 2 years of work
experience, plus a Master's degree in Technical Writing, and I (briefly)
hesitated to take the promotion because of my lack of experience. So now
it's time to do the yearly reviews, and I need a little guidance.

The technical writer that I manage is a classic example of the "font
monkey." He has turned his job into, basically, data entry--the engineers
give him a draft or a marked-up copy of an old manual, and he "formats" it.
He doesn't seem to suggest improvements, clear up inconsistencies, or
actually *write* anything. The manuals include numerous grammar errors, and
even his "formatting" is flawed--cross references that reference nonexistent
sections/pages, 11 point type mixed with 12 point type, inconsistent spacing
between paragraphs, sporadic use of stylesheets...

Our previous boss was the Marketing Manager, and had no interest in the
technical writing responsibilities of the department. This technical writer
was given free reign to do his job (or not do his job) whatever way he saw

When I was promoted, I was given the option of firing my technical writer
and hiring a "secretary" to do his job... I rejected this option in favor of
trying to train this guy into a good (or at least average) technical writer.
He has shown some improvement in the brief time that I've been managing,
although there is still a lot of room for improvement. So my question...
When I do his evaluation, is it fair for me to give him a failing grade on
"quality of work" when he has not had proper guidance in what constitutes
acceptable quality? Can I assume that these are skills he should already
have developed? Or should I give him the benefit of the doubt that he will
improve if I work with him?

As a possibly-related aside, I was hired 3 months after him, for the same
job description, at what I would later find out was 25% less pay... Even
after my promotion, he still makes 10% more than me... I'm somewhat
concerned that the discrepancy in pay is causing me to be too hard on this
-Aimee Hall



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