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I work on a financial product where we need to document all of work which is later shared to regulators, meaning it needs to have a very high quality. I have 5 years experience from finance but I never needed to write a document that is shared with external regulators.

The whole team are currently working in a shared document and the manager/PO assigns tickets what we need to do with a extremely short description like "Document this step", "Document this code" etc.

Multiple times I have done my tickets and market them as done and noticed later on that the manager has either edited my part heavily or rewritten everything is his own words, often much more detailed. He has never informed me of this, but instead I had to discover it myself, which frustrates me as he is making the chances behind my back.

I agree that his edits are much better than mine, but I am never given a chance to make the changes myself. I have even asked him to review my work before submission without any feedback. For example, I asked him to review "Document this step" before submitting the first version of the document, I never received any feedback, 2 months later we are working on the second version and he decided to rewrite everything about "Document this step".

Now in my last performance review he has mentioned that my documentation is off poor quality and not up to standards. I totally agree that I could improve it, but never given any chance. How should I approach this?

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  • Are you close enough to any of your team members to ask them if they're facing the same issues? If I am to assume your manager isn't being malicious or dumb, is it also possible that they feel they've provided you with adequate documentation training and they don't feel it stuck, so they figure it's faster for them to do it than to ask you to re-do it?
    – user83977
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 14:32
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    Ask for help, but don't say you were "never given any chance [with a correction]". It's possible that it's not completely true. Also, "never" is an absolute quantifier. Absolute quantifiers like "never/always" work great for math, but when it comes to describing social behavior, they often distort reality because they're rarely true. And they can put the other person on the defensive, especially if they remember one instance that you do not remember. Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 5:17
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    "he is making the changes behind my back" I think you are under the false assumption that your manager owes you something. Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 16:17
  • The correct response is "I see you changed this. Can you help me understand what I did wrong, so I can learn from the mistake?"
    – keshlam
    Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 18:52

4 Answers 4

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You don't need "a chance to change it". You do need to learn from the changes your manager made. I often edit documents as I review them, especially if they are poor quality. I don't have time for detailed grammar comments; it's quicker to just fix the text. I often don't have time for writing lessons to people who need them just as a document is due, but I might have time later if I was asked.

As much as you can, learn from the edits to your document. Was a long paragraph broken into a bulleted list? Where you had 10 sentences, was it stripped down to 2? Was a 2 sentence paragraph lengthened with more details or examples? Were there specific grammar or spelling fixes? What did your boss fix?

If you can't learn from these examples, then especially since you've been told your documentation is not up to standard, ask for help. Are there written standards you can read over and learn from? Can they send you on a course? (I was sent on a technical writing course in my first months on the job simply because 100% of new hires were sent on that course.) Can your boss go through an edited document with you and explain what was wrong with your version? Make it clear that you want to get better.

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Have a 1:1 talk with your manager.

Let them know that you want to improve your documentation skills but you need help and guidance on how to do this.

It helps if you come up with a proposal yourself. You see what your manager has been changing. What's different about what they write? Can you try to mimic that style and level of detail. Can you take some online classes or watch some tutorials. What are good examples that you can study?

Present the proposal to your manager and ask for feedback and incorporate it. A good manager will help you create a plan with regular check in points and actionable feedback.

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Kate's answer already hints at it, but I'd like to emphasize this point in more detail: You underestimate how much time and skill it takes to "give you a chance to correct it".

I do a lot of code reviews. When I find something that needs to be improved, there are two things that I can do:

  1. Fix it. This takes me a few seconds.
  2. Give the developer a chance to fix it. This means that I have to (a) write down what needs to be improved, (b) explain why it needs to be improved and sometimes even (c) explain how it should be improved (and why this is the preferred solution over alternatives X, Y and Z). This can take from a few minutes up to half an hour.

I usually still opt for 2, since part of my job is training those developers. Your manager's job is not to train you personally. Training requires a certain skill set, which your manager might not have, and a huge amount of time, which your manager probably does not have either.

(The other answers already explained in detail what to do instead, so I won't repeat that here.)

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You said that you have 5 years experience in finance, but not whether any of it was related to technical writing. Much as the race car driver and race car mechanic have different but complimenting skills, I think you may benefit from some courses in technical writing. As a short term exercise, try thinking about how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich step by step. The PB&J exercise is a writing prompt that encourages attention to detail and structured communication that should produce results similar to what your documentation should convey.

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