Re: Wasting time??

Subject: Re: Wasting time??
From: tara -at- BARBER -dot- CTEXT -dot- COM
Date: Fri, 4 Apr 1997 10:15:52 EST

>>Writing in all its varieties is a creative act, and writers move in
>>mysterious ways, their wonders to perform (to steal a phrase). The best
>>managers understand this and trust their writers to do what they need to
>>do to get the job done.

>Yes, I care about how the technical writer's who work for me spend their
>time. Why? Because I care about the quality of the documentation that
>represents the company. I also care about the writers and their work habits
>being perceived as professional.

Ah, one of the finer lines we have to walk. I agree with both of you.

Creative people need recharge time, and sometimes the best way to do that, and
to give your subconscious a chance to work out a problem without the
interference of your conscious mind, is to do something totally unrelated. So
I don't mind a certain amount of web-surfing, or chit-chat, or other forms of
brain-noodling. Especially in the case of a modest amount of socializing, it
can do you a lot of good; my group has the best team spirit in our company, and
uniformly good relationships with other company employees. That's stood us in
*very* good stead as far as getting cooperation on our projects.

But such stuff is like nitro-glycerin. The right amount can support your
heart. Too much can blow your head off. Finding the right balance is tricky,
and that's why, without being too obvious about it, I monitor my people and how
they use their time. If I think someone's going a bit overboard, a gentle
comment has been all it ever took to get them back on track.

You're also both right about the need to look for danger signals, in the form
of contantly slipping deadlines, excuses, too much misuse of time, etc. If
it's a personal problem, I try to see if there's some way that I or the company
can help. If the problem continues, than it's a judgement call, based on the
situation and the quality of the employee. And it's never easy.

But we employ real people, with real lives and real problems, and it's paid me
well, on more than one occasion, to try and bend a bit when one of my people is
in crisis. It's better for all concerned to help a good employee over the
rough spots than to lose them, one way or another, and have to start over with
someone new.

Still, the *worst* I ever got burned by an employee was by one who kept her
nose to the grindstone and rarely socialized. I was a new manager at that
point, and since her early work was fine, I thought that meant she was a
dedicated worker and didn't need more than token supervision. When we started
getting her final work back, I found out how wrong that perception had been.
The memories are still painful, but I learned from it.

In parting, I'll leave you with a story my grandfather told me, and that I've
tried to remember over the years.

A company president had hired an efficiency expert to hone his company's
operations. They were touring the building when they passed an office where a
man was sitting, leaning 'way back in his chair, feet up on the desk and hands
behind his head.

"Did you see THAT?" squeeked the efficiency expert.

"Yep," said the president.

"Well, aren't you going to say anything?" said the expert.

"Nope," said the president.

"WHY NOT!?" screamed the expert.

The president stopped and gazed calmly at him. "Son, that man once had a idea
that saved this company three million dollars. And as I recall, when he had
that idea, his feet were exactly where you saw them today."

Tara Barber
Documentation Manager
CText, Inc.

Since my opinions belong to me, anyone stealing them deserves what they get.

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