On Office Politics and Being the New Kid

Subject: On Office Politics and Being the New Kid
From: Lori Olcott <lori_olcott -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2006 09:24:30 -0800 (PST)

Hi Y'all -

I've been settling into my new job for a little over a month now. It's
not a titled tech writing position (Data Management), but the interview
team was very excited about my writing background. "We don't have much
documentation. This will be great!" Since being hired, I've been
learning the systems and writing up how-to's for what I've learned so far.
There is some documentation available, but it's very high level - not
something a new person would be able to use very effectively.

I've been getting extremely mixed messages from the lady who maintains the
group's intranet site and who wrote much of the documentation that is out
there already. She is quick to say that she's not a writer, and has asked
me to let her know if there are any holes that need to be filled.
However, when I gave her what I'd written, she said she didn't want any
"personal notes" on the site. She also said that she doesn't like
documentation that tells someone exactly what to do to run the system.
She wants to force people to learn the system and feels that step-by-step
instructions are a crutch. While I can understand her not wanting team
members to be fully dependent on guides, I disagree with her disdain for
step-by-step manuals. When a person is new on a system, they need the
basic procedures to make the system work. Ideally, those procedures will
also include overviews and "this is what is going on behind these
commands" information to help develop an understanding of the bigger
picture. But to outright deny access to basic documentation seems very
counter-productive to the group.

I also suspect that some of this is a territorial reaction. I'm
encroaching on what has been her area. And since my title isn't
"Technical Writer" or "Documentation Specialist", she's not as obligated
to accept my input (even though it was one of the things I was hired for).
This lady's been very nice in other office interactions, so I'm not
writing her off as a hopeless personality conflict. Nor do I want to step
on her toes. But I do want to ensure we have good documentation that will
allow an inexperienced person to quickly grasp the basics of a system and
successfully run the more routine tasks. I haven't discussed this issue
with our manager yet. I'm hoping to figure out what it is that she really
wants. If I can give her that (or reassure her on what's worrying her),
then I might be able to get my goal accomplished.

Any suggestions?


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