I spend most of my time on this blog trying to give tips and tricks on how to improve as a technical writer. Today, we’re going to go in a different direction. Today, I’m going to begin the story of the worst technical writing coworker I’ve ever dealt with. Out of respect for those involved, names have been changed. Out of respect for you, everything else is told exactly as it occurred. The six-part series begins here.
Part 1: The Introduction
I met Mark my first day on the job. He had about a six month start on me, but was fairly new himself. I was excited to work alongside another technical writer; someone who shared the same passions and spoke the same language as me. He was two or three decades my senior, but seemed friendly and sociable, so I was optimistic.
He gave me a tour of the building and showed me a few hidden gems, including the 4th floor cafe with fresh donuts and popcorn. As we walked, he gave me the low-down on some of our other coworkers. One of them was the girl I back-filled, Laura, who moved to another position on the team a month ago.
Without my prompting, he started on a rant that lasted the remainder of our walk. She was rude. She was unhelpful. She undermined him. She ignored him. The list went on. Strange thing was, up until this, I had only heard great things about Laura. Everyone, including my boss, raved about how great she was. She knew what she was doing. She was proactive.
I was confused.
Part 2: The Investigation
Not being one to get caught up in gossip, I went to talk to Laura myself. She was sweet. She was helpful. She offered to send me everything she had: templates, style guides, resources, and more. I could not see the person Mark was describing. So I asked.
“How was working with Mark?”
One long eye roll later, she got into it. What ended up being an hour-long conversation can be boiled down to this: Mark didn’t know what he was doing.
And unlike Mark, Laura had evidence. Email chains between her and our boss about Mark not performing up to par. Endless stories about Mark asking endless questions he should know or could easily find online. And the cherry on top: his resume and writing test from his application.
I picked up his resume and was appalled. Grammatical errors. Formatting errors. His experience read as the most peculiar progression: administrative assistant for 12 years, followed by administrative assistant/technical writer/code developer (WHAT?), and then a technical writer. Each of his positions read like he hired a resume writer who threw in as many buzzwords as possible. He got system names wrong, acronyms wrong, everything wrong.
In his writing test, he corrected things incorrectly and found only 11 out of 31 errors.
How did he get hired? From what Laura had to say, he slipped through the cracks. They were desperate to get the position filled. Despite Laura pointing out all the red flags, someone higher up put the on-boarding process in motion. Before she knew it, he was in the seat next to her.
Now I was worried.
About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit her bio page.