Our team's duties were dumbed down considerably by a new manager - anyone ever had this happen and did you successfully negotiate a layoff/payout based on this being a sneaky layoff without having to do a layouff?
December 27,2019 at 11:38AM UTC
What I and others on our team, all with computer science degrees, were hired to do 5-12 years ago: write API documentation and detailed configuration documentation for an application built on top of SAP. This work leveraged my developer, PM, and "back end"/API technical writing skills and experience.
What a new non-technical manager is requiring us to do: Create end user help screens and associated manuals consisting of a data entry or report screen capture and the help screen contents for clerical and power users skilled in the application focus area (corporate credit rating) but with light to intermediate computer skills. These duties leverage my keyboarding skills, (somewhat insufficient) ability to repetitively perform the same sequence of steps, and (somewhat insufficient) ability to follow an ungrammatical style guide because "those are the rules the users want". We're writing absurdly surface level documentation I'd consider placeholder level only, for each of thousands of screens in the application.
The tool in which we write is a closed-architecture multi-tier custom application that makes even partial automation of the work impossible.
Would you agree that my principal technical writer role that, under a previous manager, involved daily tasks like scanning through source code, writing client code samples, and writing detailed configuration documentation has been dumbed down considerably? I believe I could have done this work as a college student, and I've gained a lot of expertise since those days.
The new work does not leverage any of my technical skills, and I don't possess the application specific (corporate credit rating analysis) skills that would be useful, and which a new non-technical hire on the team does possess. Could management partially make up for that by providing access to the credit rating SMEs who design the product? Yes, but "we'd be a disruption" to their work, so we only have sporadic access to them. The work also does not involve use of my information architecture know-how either, because the end users dictated to our manager what they wanted the documentation to look like, and she has run with it. She is completely disinterested in input from the experienced writers on the team regarding the format.
My frustration with this state of affairs is considerable. Our team of writers with undergraduate or graduate degrees in CS are significantly underutilised - as clerks rather than as an experienced tech workers and content creators. Our original positions still exist in name (job title and compensation level) only, and we've been silently slotted into these lower level roles without the opportunity to opt for a redundancy payout due to the loss of our original roles.
Lest you read this and think, "Wait, an easier job for the same pay? Shut up and take the money!", consider that lower level work isn't necessarily easier for high level technical people to perform. The work is monotonous and creativity has no place in it. Additionally, the requirement to avoid detail is counter to the requirements of most technical writing I've done, and my own standards as an engineer. I'm aware every hour I spend at this that I'm losing technical skills I'm not using. Due to long days and a long commute combined with family responsibilities, playing with code at night after work to keep my skills up isn't feasible.
I suppose the kicker was that it recently affected my ability to regain employment that is a match for my skills and technical aptitude. A recruiter from one of the FANG companies reached out to me based on my (now outdated) online CV that focused on my highly technical writing. She immediately lost interest when she heard that I've spent the past year writing end user database application help screens.
Unfortunately, there's a reason that I'm hesitating to change employers. I am just a couple years away from a high-5-figures amount vesting. The employment contract states that if laid off, any pending amounts vest on a pro-rata basis, so I'd be entitled to 2/3 of it. If I walk, I get none of it.
So I'm strategizing on how to ask for a payout based on my role being eliminated and this new role, despite carrying a similar title, involving very different skills and experience than what I bring to the table.
Have any fellow FGBers successfully negotiated a package when in a similar situation?
And before you ask: Yes, it is possible they're trying to get us to resign so that they don't have to pay out a few hundred thousand dollars total, to us. There's no way to know for sure.
Secondarily: Any ideas on how to keep potential employers from "switching off" when they hear I've been writing end user documentation for over a year, given that this isn't a role I ever would have accepted if those had been the duties originally?
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