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26 April 2011

Manipulating Employees into Overtime

It is my honor to compensate for my failings and it is my pleasure to donate to what I support.

Your work ethic, probably like mine, demands of you an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. If I underperform, I will use my personal time to make up the quantity or quality of work that I should have produced. My work ethic frees me to donate my personal time to help my company and my coworkers.

Any attempt through extortion or fraud to obtain what I have not agreed to provide, however, dishonors me. It devalues my time and personal value, dishonors the contract between me and my employer, and disrupts my relationship with my managers.

They say "time is money." Taking time without compensation steals money.

Time is also life. Taking time without compensation steals life.

My managers used the tactics described by Geoffrey James to manipulate their people many times during my career. Many did it with the best of intentions, since they had fallen for the tactics themselves. To them, I would say what these paragraphs contain with respect and only in chunks that they could handle.

It feels great to think of oneself as professional, especially when starting one's career. However, unless you have a masters degree, a doctorate, or some sort of recognitions such as Professional Engineer, member of the State Bar, or physician's license, think twice before calling yourself a professional. It's one thing to be professional (adjective) and exercise professionalism. It's another thing to be a professional, be compensated as a professional, and have the demands that go with such compensation placed upon you.

If you supervise people, always remember that taking your employees' time by coercion or by fraud steals their money and life, just as surely as did the thief who stole my boat motor. What you steal from employees, you steal from their friends, their families, their causes. Moreover, disrupting their recovery or study time will erode their spirits, their energy, and their ability to grow.

Imposing your pressure-formed work ethic on others will produce unintended consequences. Productivity and quality will erode. Happily donated time will become resented stolen time. Growing employees will stagnate. Your community and its values will deteriorate. You will exacerbate the class divides that progressives and Marxists seek to exploit, thus the justifying government interference that hinders business and saps profits.

Even if you do not believe in karma or in Judgement Day, in the end, you will repay.

Reference: James, Geoffrey. The 7 Dirty Tricks That Bosses Play (and How to Cope). BNet: Commentary. 21 April 2011.

Copyright 2011, Richard Wheeler

07 April 2011

My Tech Support War Story

I've known people who were... not exactly computer literate.

One day at work, I heard a cranky old engineer over the cubicle wall. "Blank blank blank blankety blank!"


"Blank blank blank blankety blank!"


"Blank blank blank blankety blank!"

He asked his neighbor for the number for tech support. It was "2-HELP."

"Blank blank blank blankety blank!"

"Hello? I'm having a problem with my computer...."

I listened for a while and grew increasingly amused. Tech support couldn't figure it out, either. SLAM went the telephone. "Blank blank blank blankety blank!"

I walked around Cubicle Island and approached him. "Hey Del. Can I help you with something?" By now, I was about to bust a gut, but not from laughing; rather, from holding back the laughter.

"Blank blank! I don't think so. Even the Help Desk couldn't figure it out. They said they'd have to send somebody to look at my computer."

"Well, since I have eyes on the situation (and, I didn't mention, since I know you), why don't you tell me your problem?" I already knew the problem, but this was too fun not to drag out.

"Every time I type something, what was already there disappears! Blank blank computers!"

I said, "Del, on the right side of your keyboard, above the arrow keys, you will see a key that says, 'Ins.' That is your Insert key. Tap it one time and then try typing again."

Sure enough, that fixed the problem.

Nit of the Day: Panes vs. Panels

A member of LinkedIn's Technical Writer Forum asked, I want to find out the difference usage of these two words: pane and panel. e.g. There are two panes or panels on this screen. You can place a dockable panel (not pane) anywhere on the screen. (sic)

A panel is a flat, physical area, usually containing controls, receptacles, a display such as an LED or LCD screen, or allowing users to remove it for access to whatever lies behind it. A screen is, technically, a physical, displaying area of a panel.

A pane is a section of a window. For a physical example, a paned window is a window that is divided into sections known as panes. Originally, the meaning pertained to sectioned glass windows in walls. (Wikipedia).

Thus, panes in Word 2007 would include the title bar where it shows the names of file and of the application, a menu bar, a "ribbon" bar, the editing area, a status bar, and optional ruler bars.

Microsoft uses "task pane" to designate an area sectioned off from the main area of an application and used for some function. For example, in Excel 2007, if you click on Review, Thesaurus, Excel will divide off a portion of the editing pane to create a dialog pane so you can search for synonyms.

MS Office task panes are dockable: You can drag them to different borders of the window or leave them to float, independent of the application window. Thus, Office task panes can convert between panes and pop-up windows.
  • Panes make up windows.
  • Windows occupy the screen.
  • The flat-panel display houses the screen.
The screen is both physical and virtual, whereas the panel is only physical, and the panes and windows are virtual.

To correct the question:

Better: There are two panes or panels on in this window screen. You can place a dockable panel (not pane) at any margin of the editing area, or you can leave it as a pop-up window anywhere on the screen.

Best: This window has two panes....

If the company style book differs, however, remember the Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.


IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) Premium membership gives members free access to 400 PDU-accredited webinar recordings and waives the PDU processing fees. The library is growing at about 100 webinars per year. Check it out:

01 April 2011

The New Resume: For Experienced Workers

Long-term worker, expect resume-shock.

If you haven't explored the job market in five or ten years, you probably need a whole new resume. What works best has not changed, but what's commonly recommended has. Throw out all your old materials about resumes.
  • Older materials explain the Functional style. Recruiters and hiring managers reflexively ask, "what is the applicant hiding?" and give functional resumes a quick toss.

  • Many older samples used paragraphs; but paragraphs have given way to concise bullet points.

  • Your descriptions of achievements, employment history, and objectives may need a radial re-write..
It's not about me.

Your Achievements and Employment History sections used to describe what you did. Now, every description must state how well you did it or how it will benefit the reader.

The same applies to the Objectives statement. Replace it. First, the application or cover letter should make it obvious which job you want. Second, emphasize what you bring to the pot luck, not what you hope others will bring. Your resume is a marketing device, not a Request for Proposal.

That's tough for long-term cogs of giant machines where managers rarely communicate the significance of the work. Restating my duties as accomplishments with numbers and results, and figuring out my work's significance from 10, 15, or 20+ years ago required a lot of research. But it has to be done.

Value propositions are in.

Look at the job description and at the company's mission and objectives statements. Figure out the business case for the job. How do the job requirements support the employer's goals?

Then consider your abilities that match the job requirements. Why does the employer want somebody with your skill? What is the value of your skill? Ask and re-ask what happens for the employer if your skill provides that value. Stop when you get past your sphere of influence, and take a step back. Now you can state the value you will bring by doing what you do.

Don't claim the VP's accomplishments. State that your redesign saved the final $2 million that made selling doohickeys profitable, but don't claim to have saved the Division (unless you really did). For example, if the required life of a satellite was seven years, you could describe how you contributed to on-board diagnostics that extended the life to 15 years.

Specifics build a case for the truth of your claimed abilities.

Set a time limit to avoid agism.

By the way, only go back ten (plus or minus) years. If you haven't lost the skills you had in ancient history, they've probably become obsolete. I break that rule. I divide my employment history into Recent Employment and Early Employment (>10 years ago) and go back all the way. I enjoyed and want to return to those older jobs. Without the older jobs, I can't support some of my claimed abilities. However, if I can support my claim to be qualified for a job based on my recent employment history, I chop out the Earlier section.

Let the shoe fit the foot.

This goes to tailoring your resume for each position. The combination format allows me to sort my Accomplishments so the most relevant skills appear at the top. It also allows me to delete distracting, irrelevant skills.

If you apply for a variety of jobs on a corporate site, however, they probably limit the number of versions of your resume. In that case, you have to keep each version of your resume longer and more general.

Less is more, but more is more, too.

Starting out, one page is reasonable. Short and relevant is best. A lot of technical managers want details, though. Making them get out a magnifying glass is not the way to do it. A veteran engineer who organizes a resume with lots of headings gets the "core competencies" across in a 15-second reading. If that 15-second read catches the hiring manager's interest, the applicant will probably get away with two or three pages.

Apart from the part about job objectives, Barclay's podcast provides a great overview.

Note: Most European employers and many American professions such as academia and research require curriculum vitae (CVs), not resumes. All I know about CVs is that they can run many pages.


The worst resume mistakes of 2011 include describing what you want or what you have done. Every statement of proposed value, accomplishment, or history should demonstrate how you will support the employer's business. Keep it as short and as simple as you can, but include enough to support each claim you make.

For a good audio over view of resume writing (except that he still uses Objectives instead of Value Statements), visit The Job Stalker - PodClass III - Resumes.