39

Background

I am an employee of a large (50,000+ employees) consultancy firm. I work in a smaller team with approximately 10 other people. I started working for this company, as a graduate, around 9 months ago. As a graduate, I am almost at the bottom of the position hierarchy (above apprentices and trainees, etc.).

Problem

Recently, my team have been working on quite an important job, with a tight deadline. We have to issue a number of reports to our client over the course of three weeks e.g. four reports went out last week, eight are due to go out this week, and a final four next week.

It has been my responsibility to produce the figures to be added into each report, using the ArcMap software, which I am more proficient at using than the rest of my team. The rest of my team have little to no experience with any of the software in the ArcGIS package.

As I was adding a completed figure into one of the reports due this week; I noticed that ArcMap had been referred to as "ARC GIS" within the methodology. This particular report had been proofread by my manager, and then by their manager too; though had both overlooked this mistake, due to their unfamiliarity with the software.

My dilemma is that I can either correct my manager/their manager and have inconsistency among the reports (four already submitted to client with incorrect spelling), or have consistency and incorrect spellings. Is it even my place to speak up about this? As a newer member of staff with less experience, would correcting this spelling come across in a condescending manner?

Question

Would it be appropriate for myself, a new member of staff, to correct a senior member of staff's spelling in this particular situation?

  • 106
    In the time it took you to post this, you could have walked into your manager's office and said, "Hey, boss. We put a space in "ArcGIS" in the documentation. Should I do a bulk search/replace real quick, or does it matter?" - No blame, no patronizing. Just an honest question with a light tone to someone who can make the decision. – Wesley Long Sep 28 '17 at 15:34
  • 17
    Seriously? Speaking as a GIS user/employee no one cares if someone wrote ARC GIS instead of ArcGIS. If they do they need to re-examine their priorities. – atxgis Sep 28 '17 at 17:55
  • 3
    @atxgis - if it's generally used that way and then there is some mis-attribution on a public site, then the developer or distributor of the commercial software license would probably appreciate their name or the product name being correctly cited, even when it's open source. – PoloHoleSet Sep 28 '17 at 19:04
  • 17
    @atxgis: I disagree. It reflects poorly on the professionalism of a company, and the attention to detail of its employees, when they cannot properly render a six-character name. This definitely comes under basic proof-reading for any externally-facing documentation. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 28 '17 at 23:20
  • 1
    @WesleyLong isn't better to write questions that can become canonical? I mean, I've had almost this exact worry about branding issues whenever using software with ambiguous or error prone names like AfterEffects, node.js (is it capitalized?), and others. – zero298 Sep 29 '17 at 18:07
86

Would it be appropriate for myself, a new member of staff, to correct a senior member of staff's spelling in this particular situation?

As a new employee, I would urge you not to do this, I would point it out to your supervisor. Being new to the company, you want to be careful with the initial impression you make with your peers.

If the typo is significant enough to mention, let your manager decide how to address it.

  • 16
    My personal rule is, as a new staff, I know nothing. I don't care what grades I got, what degrees I have, or what kind of salary I had before. It has nothing to do with this new company I'm at now. – Nelson Sep 28 '17 at 18:07
  • 30
    Except that in this particular case, the original poster is responsible for working with a particular software package because it has been determined he is the subject matter expert. The issue relates to that package. – T.J.L. Sep 28 '17 at 20:09
  • 4
    @Nelson I hire new employees because they know stuff and I certainly want their opinion if they see things they think could be done differently - there's always place for improvement and a new set of bright eyes can really help there. This doesn't mean they should bring it up repeatedly or complain about it or use it as an excuse. That said this is more about process and big picture things than typos. – Voo Sep 30 '17 at 11:13
  • @T.J.L. but in this case, if the name is used in a contracted legal document, you wouldn't know that. They probably need to keep the name consistent regardless of its correctness. It is possible the name is used internally for reasons you cannot know outside the company. – Nelson Sep 30 '17 at 11:18
  • 1
    Really could give this advice to 80% of questions here. – user42272 Sep 30 '17 at 23:17
19

No, it'll probably cause more problems that in solves and will probably end with you gaining a bad reputation for yourself.

The ArcGIS/ARC GIS doesn't really cause any significant issues in terms of understanding the meaning of the report. Everyone seems to know what the report is.

If there's something meaningful that would negatively impact the company, then yes you need to raise it.

I'm not sure this example is enough.

  • 14
    "Meaningful" is awfully subjective. If someone reading the report is familiar with the software, the typo might not reflect well on the company or the report writer. Trivial, sure, but technically unflattering. – ThunderGuppy Sep 28 '17 at 17:51
  • 8
    I am very familiar with the software and I would not bat an eye at someone writing ARC GIS instead of ArcGIS – atxgis Sep 28 '17 at 17:54
  • 8
    @atxgis I'd raise an eyebrow, but I certainly wouldn't be confused. It does reflect a little on the team's inexperience with the product, but that may or may not be an issue. – jpmc26 Sep 28 '17 at 19:01
  • 13
    It's a myth that just being understood is sufficient. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 28 '17 at 23:20
  • 1
    I’m not entirely sure what your first paragraph relates to. Are you saying not to just go ahead and make the change directly and silently? If so, agreed. But if you’re talking about raising the issue with the relevant person(s), then very much disagreed. If asking management whether you should change a factual error in an external report is likely to gain you a bad reputation, then that is a toxic workplace. Employees should never fear notifying management of mistakes, even minor ones, for fear of being snubbed—that’s an excellent way to stifle initiative and create inefficient drones. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 30 '17 at 10:03
16

If you aren't actually involved in the document's editing process, then it's not your place. You could offer to become part of the process and proofread the remaining reports, then you would be taking initiative to make things better (always a good thing for those low on the totem pole to be seen doing). They may not want you to, but if they do, I'd correct "ARC GIS" to "ArcGIS" (not "ArcMap") in the remaining reports.

I work with ArcGIS every day and have for years. It is not a mistake to refer to ArcMap as ArcGIS. ArcMap is one part of the suite. They did mis-capitalize the name, and there shouldn't be a space between the two words, but the meaning is clear. If the only relevance it has in the methodology is that you used it to produce some figures, it's not really important to differentiate between ArcMap and ArcGIS.

They also may have consciously chosen to refer to it as ARC GIS rather than ArcMap because the document's intended readers have some idea of what ArcGIS is, but wouldn't necessarily know that ArcMap is part of it and not a different piece of software.

  • 2
    I concur with this on the ArcMap - ArcGIS synonymous referencing. ArcMap's easily the most commonly used/seen part of the suite and a distinction is only really made with other parts like ArcCatalog, ArcScene, etc., at least where I work and in my college courses. – RioC Sep 28 '17 at 21:59
  • 2
    “They did mis-capitalize the name, and there shouldn't be a space between the two words, but the meaning is clear. If the only relevance it has in the methodology is that you used it to produce some figures, it's not really important to differentiate.” — Disagree. Would you trust a report that said that graphs were produced in Micro SOFT Exel to actually contain the correct graphs and numbers? I certainly wouldn’t. If they can’t do something as simple as reproducing a six-letter name, how can I trust that they know how to work the infinitely more complex programs themselves? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 30 '17 at 9:44
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Edited my answer, I wasn't clear that I meant no reason to differentiate between ArcMap and ArcGIS. – Dan C Sep 30 '17 at 12:03
8

You can always ask "This is probably a stupid question, I see you refer to our software package as ARC GIS, but I have always seen it referred to as ArcGIS have I been referring to it wrong this whole time?" but you really, really have to sell the "I could be wrong" part of the question tone of voice and facial expression matter.

  • 3
    I think this is the wrong approach. The OP knows more about ArcGIS and the right name is a fact that is easy to double check. Pretending you think you might be wrong would just make you appear insecure. – svick Sep 29 '17 at 16:22
  • You can honestly state that you could be wrong without trying to sound like an idiot and make the exchange excruciating for both of you. – user42272 Sep 30 '17 at 23:18
  • @djechlin I agree with trying to make the situation low key, but when you know you are correct and it's something small and easily verifiable (as in this case; the official name is "ArcGIS") then acting unsure about it serves only to discredit yourself and your domain insight. As a manager, I would way rather have an employee at any level make a polite, confident, constructive suggestion based on their expertise (then leave it to the appropriate manager) than to come in with a wishy-washy half-suggestion requiring me to dig into and evaluate the subject myself. – brichins Oct 1 '17 at 3:58
  • @brichins Business communication goes more like "I believe it's this way," "by the way would you want to correct this," "I'm pretty sure this should be..." all of which allow the other person the chance to know someone you don't or not care as much as you think they should. Because when you're very very very sure of something, you're right, like, 85% of the time. – user42272 Oct 1 '17 at 4:45
  • @djechlin Agreed, it's appropriate to downplay it and reduce confrontation. And it is very easy to be wrong when you're sure you're right, so one should always be aware of the possibility. I like all the examples you just gave for doing so, but my point was that one should not overdo it. "Have I been wrong this whole time" (as in answer) or "I could be wrong, but..." both come off as uncertain or condescending to me when the subject is something objectively black-and-white as it is here. I am a technical person in industries where most have learned to put facts over ego though, so YMMV. – brichins Oct 1 '17 at 5:04
5

It's not a spelling issue. It's not "ARK GIS" or "ARC GYS". It's a generalization. Does the content still make sense with using ArcGIS? I wouldn't bother changing capitalization, no one really cares.

If you still feel strongly about it, you could ask your manager if specifying the exact package, for the sake of accuracy, is worth the effort. I understand ArcMap is included in the ArcGIS suite. The answer is likely to be No since it's already been through proof-reading.

2

What is your job role? Is it part of your job to proofread this as an SME? For example if it were me (a QA) reading the document I would definitely question it as my job is literally to look for defects/issues.

Note the word question - I think the best way to go about this would be to go to your team leader/manager (not the person who wrote it or your manager's manager), and say something along the lines of: "Hey, I noticed that we're referring to this like this here, but on this page... etc etc... is this worth raising as an issue or is it okay as it is?"

Asking as a question is important. Get your manager to make the decision instead of you, and accept whatever answer they give you. This along with using terms like 'we', take any sting or personal pride out of the equation. Nobody feels like they're being criticized, and you look like you're being thorough and careful, which is great!

It's good that you spotted something like this because it shows you're paying attention, and if it does end up being changed it will likely reflect well on you.

2

Don't ask. Show initiative: Go ahead and make the correction to all documents.

It's a typo with virtually no importance, so it's not worth taking your manager's time or even your own to ask. It would slightly improve the document and won't cause any negative effect, so just go ahead and do it.

I doubt anyone will notice the change, or if they do notice they won't care.

Your senior will care about you pointing out that he made an error, especially when nobody cares about that error and you are then nothing more than an annoyance.

  • 1
    Sorry, but this is very bad advice! You should NEVER silently change anything in something that is to be sent out externally with someone else as the sender. If you didn’t write or proofread the report, don’t silently change anything. If it’s written in a format that allows tracking changes, you could change it visibly, but always let the relevant people know that you’ve done it and give them the reason why so they have to approve or reject it. Even if you know the change is correct, silently changing it is going behind your manager’s back. Don’t do that. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 30 '17 at 9:53
  • 1
    In this case, it would probably be easier to ask the manager/relevant person first, get the go-ahead, and then, with permission, change it throughout. No decent manager will think that using 20 seconds of his time on asking a question about procedure like this is a waste of time. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 30 '17 at 9:55
  • 1
    +1 to J this is the only advice on this page that could actually get you disciplined. – user42272 Sep 30 '17 at 23:18
  • @djechlin it's also the only advice that could bring you or notch closer to promotion. Employers expect initiative. – Bohemian Oct 1 '17 at 0:54
  • dogma != advice – user42272 Oct 1 '17 at 2:33
0

I once worked at a company called XYZ Software, and nobody had noticed that there was another company called XYZ Softwear which produced t-shirts and so on! So if you referred in any document to XYZ Softwear that would be a fatal error that must be corrected. If you referred to "Micro SOFT Word" in a document, you would expose your company to ridicule. That needs to be fixed. Every Mac software developer will positively hate you if you use the spelling "MAC", so that is something that you need to fix.

As far as workplace is concerned, you decide for yourself if it is something that needs fixing, and if you think it is, then you tell your manager about it. Your manager can then decide to have someone fixing it, or to say that it's Ok, or to say that he doesn't care. Consider that you might have been wrong, there might have been a reason for the spelling of Arc GIS, and your manager can tell you and then you know. Show that you care about quality without interfering with everyone's job.

-4

In this day and age of text messages, people are used to incorrect spelling and grammar. If it is a technical document or the company for which you work could potentially be caught up in litigation for erroneously spelling the name of a product, then by all means bring it up to potentially save the company from litigation.

  • In case it wasn't clear from the downvotes, text message spelling and grammar are unacceptable in the workplace - especially for anything intended for external use and/or presentation. The only exception might be instant messaging with coworkers you are already familiar with. – brichins Oct 2 '17 at 15:31
  • Information should be corrected when possible – TOOGAM Oct 3 '17 at 22:31

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.