How to prove you’re needed

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ProofreadingIf you’ve read our posts before, you know we encourage workers to make tactful departures. We also encourage workers to be direct with their bosses and be confident in their abilities. Now, what happens when these two situations converge? You get a memo dripping in red ink.

As regional blog Torontoist explains, publishers at newspaper Toronto Star recently announced editing positions–possibly as many as 100–would be outsourced. This news naturally upset the editors. As a result, one editor decided to take his or her red pen to the memo announcing the outsourcing and make a point. The editor marked up the outsourcing announcement to show why editors are necessary in-house members of the paper’s team. [I should point out that the pen-wielding editor sent this memo directly to Torontoist anonymously--or at least they're not printing his or her name. So we don't know who did this.]

The bleeding memo is here.

We can all learn a few lessons here, I think. Though I’m sure you can add even more (and please feel free to do so in the comments). The lessons aren’t just about leaving a job gracefully, either–they’re about dealing with workplace conflicts and conversations with your boss.

  1. Keep discussions in-house
    I’m not taking sides in this debate, but making your case to a third party and in public can backfire on you. This person’s goal might be to pressure the boss into rethinking his decision, but few people give in to public embarrassment.
  2. Quantify your contributions
    Public airing of grievances aside, this editor did successfully make the case that he or she and presumably the rest of the editors know their trade. When you tell the boss you deserve a raise or a promotion, don’t just say, “I deserve it.” Have proof.
  3. Keep the focus on the job, not on the boss
    If you’re frustrated with your boss because you’re not earning as much as you think you deserve, you haven’t received a promotion in a couple of years or you’re experiencing some other disagreement, don’t take it out on him or her. While this memo’s intent is about preserving editing jobs, the decision to choose the publisher’s letter to mark up makes it more about attacking his writing skills than about the outsourcing. As stated on the Torontoist, the union leader described the benefit of on-site collaboration between editors, writers and other staff members. That point gets lost in this example.
  4. Don’t ruin your reputation
    Again, without taking sides, I can say that the eager proofreader was smart enough to remain anonymous (or at least remains anonymous thus far). When we feel jilted, we all say some pretty crude things. Haven’t most colleagues complained about their bosses during happy hour? But we also know that when we’re interviewing for a job, we don’t badmouth our previous employer. Had this editor proudly signed his or her work, you can assume few employers would’ve ever wanted to hire someone willing to publicly bash the company.
  5. Don’t be afraid to make your case
    As explained in the above post about connecting with your boss, you shouldn’t be afraid to talk about what you want at work. If you’re confused or concerned about a decision that affects you, have a discussion with the boss. If you approach the conversation with a respectful attitude, your boss won’t view your concerns in a negative way. You might even be seen as someone who is proactive in his or her career, and that could benefit you in the long run. If you always keep your concerns to yourself, you could end up regretting your silence for the rest of your career.
14 Comments
  1. “2. Quantify your contributions”

    Always…ALWAYS talk in terms of dollars (or, insert local currency). How much revenue did you bring in or save for the company? Compare that figure to what it costs the company to keep/promote you. Are you a net loss? We need to learn to calculate our own ROI. I had to do this recently…and succeeded!

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  5. Impersonal – that’s the key to #3. Never focus on the boss. Everyone has their individual foibles, but what you’ll take away is the great work you performed. That’s the value you bring to any organization.

  6. Unfortunately, it’s all about the bottom line. You can make argument after argument about how much money you earned/saved the company in the past, but they are looking at the present and towards the future. Americans CANNOT compete against outsourcing to other countries, simply because the labor costs in those countries are far lower than what we have here. Nevermind that the quality of the product or service that is returned from the outsourced labor is somewhat dubious; the fact that the company cut labor costs in half (or more) is what drives most bosses to outsource. It is merely a short-term fix for a long-term problem that will eventually come back to haunt them.

  7. I do feel I need a very good raise but since I work at the Hospital as a housekeeper the answer is no until my anivercery date only which is in 2010 0f 3/2010 so I will not hold my breath on it and will not bother to ask, I asked for my Sundays off it still has not happened yet.

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  10. In part, good advice: don’t burn bridges. But sometimes points must be made and it takes balls to do it. In journalism the separation of duties and powers often requires judgement beyond spell-checking and editors have long stood as the final line of defense of the industry’s integrity. They do hold the trade to a standard and I’d really like to see outsourcing live up to that standard.

    Sure, keep your mouth shut and guard your professional ass; make a career decision for yourself; let lawyers practice the law and never question the law itself; let soldiers follow orders only; press citizens to do as they are told and accept things as they are; trust politicians and let the bottom line rule. After all, ultimate good only comes from thinking about yourself.

    Ultimately, this reminds me of the deregulation of meat inspection in the North America: long after the professional standard is gone people will question what they are served to eat.

    Kudos to the editor who edits.

  11. An employee can be very valuable and a good worker, but right now companies are looking to cut costs and jobs. The work is still there, so they just figure everyone who is left will take on the additional duties. A small company might consider the individual’s talents, but larger companies make across the board decisions about job cuts, and many times do not consult the supervisor for input. I predict that our economy will pick-up when companies realize that the smaller staff’s left behind are actually costing them money because they are not getting everything done. Particularly, when they lose employee’s who know what they are doing and then they expect their replacements to just pick up the pace. Just last week, a worker in my office made a mistake that cost us $6,000 – probably would not have happened if we had a staff large enough to handle the amount of work given to us.

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