Have You Hugged Your Tech Writer Today?

Hug a Tech Writer

Actually, no…don’t do this.

A lot of the technical writers I know are introverts, meaning they are rather more inward focused and happy to spend time on their own as a way to recharge from the more energetic talkers out there. That doesn’t mean we dislike people, just that we like them in smaller doses. Another thing that can be confusing about us is that while we appreciate recognition for our work, some methods of recognition are more effective than others. Hugs–depending on your work environment–can get you in trouble with Human Resources anyhow, so what else can you do to show appreciation for the quiet tech writer in your midst?

Recognition is Important to Everybody

First, I should re-emphasize that just because introverts don’t always join the crowd or talk a lot, that doesn’t mean that they don’t like people or that they don’t need to be recognized for the work they do. We want to know that our work has a positive impact on the people we support.

And some introverts do require regular feedback; otherwise, they might spend a great deal of time focusing on their errors. I’m like that, in case you hadn’t guessed. I used to dread review time in my corporate jobs because I set the standards for myself rather high and am also mindful of all those times I don’t meet them. As a result, more than one manager acted surprised when I looked relieved after a positive review.

There’s another hint to managers: high performers need positive reinforcement, too!

How DO You Congratulate an Introvert?

The way some organizations (or individuals) go about showing that recognition that can get a little…uncomfortable. I understand that some companies are into big “recognition events” (pep rallies), but that doesn’t mean you have to put your shy/retiring tech writer on the stage so they can be yelled, screamed, and cheered at (some organizations are louder than others).

Instead, I offer the following suggestions:

  • Visit their desk/cubicle/office and offer the thanks-for-a-good-job one on one.
  • Send an email so the writer can save it (I have a “Warm and Fuzzy” folder in my email system so I can refresh my memory if I’ve had a hard day that I’ve done good things in the past.)
  • Be specific and concrete in your positive feedback. Don’t say something generic like, “You’re doing a great job.” Thank them for the quality of their work (or interactions) on a particularly difficult task. Or let them know that their customers or peers have appreciated their work on a specific job.
  • If the writer has gone above-and-beyond the call of duty, it can help to tailor the reward by finding out what they like to buy or do for themselves. What are their hobbies? Where do they hang out in their free time? Ideally, you’ve learned these sorts of things in the course of working with them, not just at recognition time. Knowing your writer’s habits, perhaps a gift card to their favorite hangout would be appropriate.
  • Maybe the work was so extraordinary that public recognition is inevitable. Fine. Keep it brief. Maybe at least give your writer a notice/warning that said public event will be happening so that the can mentally prepare to be the center of attention. You might think that a “surprise” public gathering/recognition would be a great thing, and you’d be right for some folks…not everyone.

All of these suggestions can be boiled down to a couple of simple guidelines that be summarized by private and customized to the individual. And save the balloons, hugs, and loud noises for the folks who like that sort of thing. They would feel hurt if you didn’t.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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