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Preparing for the Future in Tech Comm and Dealing with Workplace Bullying

By Cindy Currie | STC Fellow and Kit Brown-Hoekstra | STC Fellow

Ask a Tech Comm Manager is an advice column geared toward answering all those questions you have, but might be uncomfortable asking. We glean the questions from social media, forums, and most importantly, from you, dear reader. If we don’t know an answer, we will interview experts and get information for you. Send us your questions to kitbh.stc@gmail.com or tweet them to @kitcomgenesis or the hashtag #askTCmgr.

 

Tech Comm is changing rapidly. How can I best prepare myself for the future?

One of the challenges (and advantages) in our field is that, just when you have become an expert in something, it changes, and you have to learn something new. Yet the fundamentals stay the same. First, ensure you have a solid grounding in the fundamentals (see Resources):

  • Project planning and analysis
  • Content development (including common document types, instructional design basics)
  • Content organization and design (including the basics of content modeling, structured authoring)
  • Written communication (including indexing basics)
  • Review and editing
  • Visual communication
  • Content management
  • Production and delivery

The future of technical communication is visual and interactive. A knowledge of game design, storyboarding, storytelling, video production, and basic graphic design would make you a valuable resource.

Think about how you can apply your existing skills to a new environment. What things do you enjoy the most? Focus on those areas and build from your strengths. Go where your interests and curiosity take you. Take classes, go to conferences and workshops. When looking for job opportunities, look for positions that stretch you—where you can both contribute to the team and learn.

Remember: You can’t possibly be an expert in every aspect of technical communication, so look to your network for people who are experts in areas where you are not. Ask questions, and be helpful to them, as well.

I was bullied by a coworker, and I thought I had moved on. Yet, management continues to throw us together on projects. What can I do?

First, we are sorry that this happened to you. It’s an awful situation to find yourself in. This is a difficult and complex situation. If you didn’t report the bullying to your manager and HR, they might not be aware of it. Make sure that your manager fully understands the issue before taking the next step. If you did report it, and your manager is ignoring the problem, then you need to escalate up the chain of command and involve HR. If the bullying is severe enough to affect your mental and emotional well-being, please see a counselor to help you work through the issues.

Bullying only survives in silence. Ignoring it doesn’t usually work. Confronting the bully directly often doesn’t work, either. If you do confront them, however, don’t ask them to stop; tell them that they are behaving inappropriately, and they need to stop (this is most effective in front of other people). Document the bullying with dates, times, and circumstances. Practice self-care. Educate yourself. Build a support team outside of work.

Also, examine ways you can change the interaction to improve the outcome. If multiple people are contributing to the bullying, identify the instigator, and figure out how to neutralize them (most bullies are very weak and use bullying to make themselves look strong). Don’t buy into their narrative, and if you see someone else being bullied, stand up for them.

Sadly, in some cases, it might be best if you find another job. It’s not fair, we know—especially if you like your job except for the bully—but consider this: You spend most of your waking hours during the week at work. Life is too short to spend it stressed out and unhappy. Staying in a damaging situation isn’t going to teach the bully a lesson; it’s just going to make you miserable. You deserve to have a safe, collegial, supportive work environment.

Ask a Tech Comm Manager is an advice column geared toward answering all those questions you have, but might be uncomfortable asking. We glean the questions from social media, forums, and most importantly, from you, dear reader. If we don’t know an answer, we will interview experts and get information for you. Send us your questions to kitbh.stc@gmail.com or tweet them to @kitcomgenesis or the hashtag #askTCmgr.

Resources

STC’s Foundation certification: https://www.stc.org/certification/.

TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmRKlZEXVQM.

The Muse blog post: https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-deal-with-workplace-bullies.

Workplace Bullying Institute: https://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/definition.

Download the Mar/Apr 2020 PDF

2020 PDF Downloads

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