Re: Editing comment too harsh

Subject: Re: Editing comment too harsh
From: Moshe Koenig <alsacien -at- NETVISION -dot- NET -dot- IL>
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996 08:21:32 PDT

To Rebecca Phillips' comments:

>>If a writer hears from a manager that his/her comments are too caustic,
>>start looking for a job and leave that manager high and dry. He/she
>>deserves it.=20

>The great philosopher Linus van Pelt once said that "There is no problem
>so great or so complicated that it cannot be run away from."

Who's talking about running away? I'm saying that nobody has to stay
where he/she isn't appreciated. I don't believe in pearls before swine,
and I know what it means to bend over backwards for people who are
hell bent on sticking it to a technical writer. There's no way to win
when everyone has been instructed to give thumbs down. I believe that
the best way to prove one's worth is to be absent and let the others
feel the loss. That's not running away; that's doing what is right
for yourself. Remember the words: "If I am not for myself, who will be
for me?" It's worth remembering when every note becomes an incriminating
document.

>Your statement does not reflect an attitude of appreciation for others.
>How can you expect them to appreciate you?

Totally incorrect interpretation. I am always VERY appreciative of
others UNTIL I see that they are chronically grousing; then I acknowledge
that there's nothing to be done. Sometimes the chemistry just isn't
right, and there's no sense in beating a dead horse. I think that if
you'd talk to my customers, they'd tell you that I am more than just
an external critic; I work hand in hand with them to the extent that
they are ready for that. However, there's no such thing as 100% success.
Some situations are no-win situations; it's inevitable.

>Once I criticized my manager for coming down too hard on an editor.
>He said "Well, he deserved it." I said, "But what did it accomplish?
>I don't care what he deserves. I just want him to do a better job next
>time, not destroy his confidence." Giving people what they "deserve"
>will get you nowhere in life.

That sounds VERY preachy! First of all, if your manager said that,
again, your criticism did not change his mind, and he WAS your manager.
I emphasize the past tense, because clearly you didn't stay around for
more, nor should you have. In effect, you did exactly as I advocated.

I don't believe in "sticking it" to anyone; I do, however, believe in
passive resistance, in allowing a person to take the natural
consequences for actions. A manager who makes a writer feel worthless
should not complain when the same writer does a vanishing act; if the
manager does, then it's the best way of getting the message back that
he/she was way out of line. Staying and arguing won't do it as well,
and it will erode the writer needlessly.

>>I've read the comments that many others have made, and I tend to
>>believe that personal chemistry has a lot to do with the way people
>>react.<snip> You ge so accustomed to facing criticism and getting so
>>little appreciation that a strong ego is just a means of surviving.

>I tend to believe that a positive attitude and outlook goes a long way
>towards creating chemistry.

Usually, but to every rule there are exceptions.

>If you go into a job believing that people are going to treat you with
>no respect, believe me, they will.

Again, preachy! I've NEVER done that!

>The original thread was from an editor who gave the impression that she
>wasn't about to pack her bags, but wanted to improve the relationships
>with her co-workers. Being pushier won't work towards that end.

Who, may I ask, is talking about being pushy? I'm just saying that she'll
work far better and be happier if she spends her efforts working for
people who appreciate her efforts, not trying to fight everyone around
her to get them to do something they clearly don't want to do. In almost
every profession, I can cite examples of persons who were more than
competent but who left jobs because they started to feel unappreciated.
That is probably the most destructive thing that anyone can face. Being
positive is important, but when you are the only one who is positive,
show enough respect for yourself and go where your positive attitude
is appreciated. It will be eventually, and you'll be much happier.

>>You'd think that being a male Murphy Brown would mean that I'd be the
>>writer nobody wants. If that were true, then I'm just not good enough
>>at being obnoxious. I'm fighting like the devil right now to wind down
>>my outside activities so that I can take a salaried position after
>>close to a year of frenzied freelancing that has all but put me in a
>>padded cell.

>For one thing the end doesn't justify the means.

Don't follow your train of thought.

>I don't mean to get personal...

A sign that an affront is coming.

>...you are a highly skilled technical writer in a market that is
>desperate for good technical writers.

A big fish in a small pond, I understand?

>I know your reputation and I have seen a sample of your work, and I
>know you are good. If I had the choice of someone with a positive
>attitude but a tenth of the experience you have, who do you think I
>would choose? That doesn't justify negativism.

While you claimed that you did not want to get personal, I will
stay scrupulously away from being personal. Instead, I will tell you
what's coming down these days:

For the job that I am about to assume, I was asked in the interview
to express my biggest flaws. I said that I was very independent, very
creative, very much the sort to take matters in hand and to see them
through. The interviewer said, "You've just stated positive qualities.
I wanted negative qualities." My reply? "Most companies see those
qualities as very negative!" That decided it on the spot; the company
in question was looking for someone who could and would manage things
independently, who would assume authority, who was not looking to
lean on others. I could cite dozens of other companies, including
one of your former employers, who saw those same qualities as reasons
to wonder if I should be allowed to set foot inside as a visitor. As
I said and will keep saying, if you keep looking, eventually you find
the place where you fit in. I wasn't looking to be a section player
in the second fiddle section; I knew it wouldn't work. In every place
that I've worked successfully, I've been more than just a tutti picker.
That was what was right for me. However, I also know that I've gone
places where I see the terror in the eyes of the prospective employers
when they see my work, when they hear that I was successful, albeit
worn out, as a freelancer, when they hear how I've managed so well in
the past. Department personnel can be so territorial that they'll
freeze out all but the most mediocre.

Let me also say that I've NEVER had a showdown over what I thought was
right with a manager. However, I have had the situation in which
project managers felt that the manager wasn't cooperating and then
they approached me directly. I then turned to the manager to avoid
being in a situation in which I would be perceived as usurping
authority. In this case, the manager played "See no evil, hear no evil,
speak no evil," and I was put in the terrible situation of having to
decide if to offend the manager or the project managers, a no-win
situation par excellence. It was then that I realized I had to move
on. I didn't wait for anyone to lower the boom; I left before that
could happen.

So you see, it's easy to assume that my attitude is negative. There's
nothing negative about realizing your own worth and to believe in
yourself enough to go where people appreciate you. I know that many
employers don't understand that; some do, however, and they are
usually the companies in which most people enjoy working. I only wish
there were more of them.

- Moshe

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