A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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"And Then She Said": Office Stories and What They Tell Us about Gender in the Workplace   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article calls for a rhetorical perspective on the relationship of gender, communication,and power in the workplace. In doing so, the author uses narrative in two ways.First, narratives gathered in an ethnographic study of an actual workplace, a plasticsmanufacturer, are used as a primary source of data, and second, the findings of this studyare presented by telling the story of two women in this workplace. Arguing that genderin the workplace, like all social identities, is locally constructed through the micro practicesof everyday life, the author questions some of the prevailing assumptions about genderat work and cautions professional communication teachers, researchers, and practitionersagainst unintentionally perpetuating global, decontextualized assumptionsabout gender and language, and their relationship to the distribution and exercise of power at work.

Weiland Herrick, Jeanne. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (1999). Articles>Collaboration>Workplace>Gender


Are You Interruptable?

I’m permanently interruptable because that’s my job. It took me quite a while to realise this, and getting yourself into a position to be interruptable isn’t all that easy. You need a good team around you (which I have) and you need to trust them and delegate to them as much as you can (I trust them, and I’m working on that delegation thing!).

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2010). Articles>Workplace>Management>Collaboration


Collaboration Requires a Culture of Comfort

When we determined that the open-yet-structured environment of an internal wiki could provide all the information organization and collaboration we needed, we knew we would be facing push-back from a certain segment of our user population.

Gill, Karla. IT World Canada (2010). Articles>Collaboration>Workplace>Case Studies


Designing Collaborative Learning Spaces: Where Material Culture Meets Mobile Writing Processes   (PDF)

In May 2007, the Department of English at Utah State University (USU) redesigned its computer lab to increase mobility and collaboration during writing projects. Our study shows that despite the Professional and Technical Communication (PTC) field's efforts to promote writing as a socially active, collaborative practice, many students view computer labs as spaces for conducting isolated, single-authored work. In this article, we discuss how a combination of movable furniture and mobile technology, including wireless access and laptops, can enhance student collaboration in group-based writing assignments. The lab included both desktop and laptop seating areas, so the authors created a modified worksite analysis designed to evaluate team collaboration in this new layout. These material changes in the lab allow students to configure the space according to their needs, offering them some measure of control over three crucial elements of successful collaboration: formality, presence, and confidentiality.

Bemer, Amanda Metz, Ryan M. Moeller and Cheryl E. Ball. Programmatic Perspectives (2009). Articles>Education>Collaboration>Workplace


The Effect of Technological Innovation on Organizational Structure: Two Case Studies of the Effects of the Introduction of a New Technology on Informal Organizational Structures   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article looks at how two offices changed their informal work relationships and patterns in response to a major technological innovation in their field. This inductive study involves a cross-case analysis with field studies covering a two-year period. The research applies the models suggested by social action theory to help explain outcomes. By the end of this study, one office had lost its funding and was eliminated, while the other has survived and grown. The article examines whether the differing organizational responses to new core technology were related to each office's ability to survive.

Kahn, Russell L. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2000). Articles>Workplace>Technology>Collaboration


Effective Websites: The Responsibility of the Whole Organisation

Building an effective website is often seen exclusively as the job of the web team, and viewed as a design or technical issue. However, having worked with many different organisations, we would argue that often what stops them improving their website is the organisation itself. Developing an effective website often requires organisational change: it requires a culture where people at all levels in the organisation adopt behaviours that make a ‘good user experience’ an important goal. If the organisation is not focused on providing a good user experience, then the web team will be unable to build an effective website.

Burton-Taylor, Sarah. Usability News (2006). Articles>Web Design>Collaboration>Workplace


Exploring Negative Group Dynamics: Adversarial Network, Personality, and Performance in Project Groups   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Most previous social network studies have focused on the positive aspects of social relationships. In contrast, this research examined how the negative aspects of social networks in work groups can influence individual performance within the group. Accordingly, two studies were conducted to make this assessment. The first study examined the effect of negative relations and frequency of communication on performance among student groups. The second study investigated how the Five Factor Model of personality and position in adversarial networks interacted to influence individuals' performance. Although results of the first study indicated that frequent communication with others could make a person more likeable, consequently helping him or her perform better, the second study showed that those individuals disliked by others were less likely to achieve a good performance rating, despite their conscientiousness, emotional stability, or openness to experiences.

Xia, Ling, Y. Connie Yuan and Geri Gay. Management Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Collaboration>Workplace


The Fox and the Hedgehog Go to Work: A Natural History of Workplace Collusion   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The author argues that an ironic approach to collusion can help shift the focus of resistance away from the relatively rare events surrounding implacable opposition or total unanimity to the quotidian aspects of workplace politics. Collusion is characterized as an outcome of organizational politics conducted between the traditionally opposed parties of radical industrial sociology (i.e., managers and workers) under the guidance of an ironic mode of cognition. Irony is depicted as a foxlike way of gaining 'a perspective on perspectives,' which provides a means of understanding stalemate, accommodation, and collusion by showing how opposing ideological positions are indebted. It also illuminates the moments when collusion breaks down and resisting parties become implacably opposed hedgehogs (one position prevails over the other), leading to overt conflict and resistance.

Sewell, Graham. Management Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Management>Workplace>Collaboration


How to Encourage Good Use of SharePoint

Many organizations are adopting Microsoft SharePoint as a content management system, and view it as a low-cost alternative to a high-end content management system. However, just because an organization has SharePoint, does not mean that everyone is aware it is available.

Dick, David J. Carolina Communique (2011). Articles>Content Management>Workplace>Collaboration


How to Get Out of a Slump, and Handle Pressure Situations Calmly

It turns out that you can get out of a slump or handle pressure situations comfortably by merely changing your facial expressions. I have been trying this over the past several days and have been completely stunned with what happens.

Johnson, Tom H. Tech Writer Voices (2008). Articles>Collaboration>Workplace


If You Want Something Done Right, Don't Do It Yourself

When you get fed up and do decide to blaze your own trail, don't forget to take some friends along with you. You never know when you're going to run into a wild past participle that you need help taming.

Allen, Jennifer. Boston Broadside (1992). Articles>TC>Collaboration>Workplace


Improving the Writer-Developer Relationship   (PDF)

Many technical communicators work in environments where their contributions and value-add to business are not well understood. This perpetuates a lack of respect for the technical communication profession on the part of the technologists with whom we work. By improving our overall work processes and practices, we can change the perceptions of those around us for the better, improving our relationships and increasing the quality of our contributions. We can also begin to see technical communication as a practiced profession equal in importance to the professions of the technologists with whom we work.

Colvin, Richard D. and Virginia Beecher. STC Proceedings (1999). Articles>Workplace>Collaboration


The Influence of E-Mail as an Interoffice Communication Tool in Small Organizations   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

E-mail has significantly impacted the way we communicate in business, possibly going so far as to affect the social structure of organizations. One under-explored effect of e-mail is how it impacts communication in smaller organizations. Given the ability of regular face-to-face interaction, is e-mail necessary to boost communication? A report of employee attitudes in one small business did provide an opportunity to observe the impact of e-mail on communications and employee attitudes. As a result, it is suspected that interoffice e-mail may serve to link formal and informal communication channels, particularly in terms of including managers to the informal communications network.

Adrian, C. Mitchell. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2001). Articles>Workplace>Collaboration>Email


Instant Messaging in the Workplace   (PDF)

Proposes six guidelines for employee use of instant messaging.

Hoffman, Jeff. Intercom (2004). Articles>Workplace>Collaboration>Instant Messaging


Institutionalising Usability: Ways to Embed Usability in Your Company or Organisation

Trying to embed usability in an organisation needs more than persuasive, logical arguments. You also need to appeal to managers' emotions and political ambitions. This article describes five successful strategies that we've seen work in companies large and small.

Travis, David. UserFocus (2005). Articles>Usability>Collaboration>Workplace


Integrating Social Media Into Existing Work Environments: The Case of Delicious   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article offers an example case of technical communicators integrating the social bookmarking site Delicious into existing work environments. Using activity theory to present conceptual foundations and concrete steps for integrating the functionalities of social media, the article builds on research within technical communication that argues for professional communicators to participate more fully in the design of communication systems and software. By examining the use of add-ons and tools created for Delicious, and the customized use of Rich Site Syndication (RSS) feeds that the site publishes, the author argues for addressing the context-sensitive needs of project teams by integrating the functionality of social media applications generally and repurposing their user-generated data.

Stolley, Karl. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2009). Articles>Workplace>Collaboration>Social Networking


It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know: Work in the Information Age   (peer-reviewed)

We discuss our ethnographic research on personal social networks in the workplace, arguing that traditional institutional resources are being replaced by resources that workers mine from their own networks. Social networks are key sources of labor and information in a rapidly transforming economy characterized by less institutional stability and fewer reliable corporate resources. The personal social network is fast becoming the only sensible alternative to the traditional 'org chart' for many everyday transactions in today's economy.

Nardi, Bonnie A., Steve Whittaker and Heinrich Schwarz. First Monday (2000). Articles>Workplace>Collaboration


Know When to Back Down From a Challenge

The mettle of a leader is tested by adversity; history lauds those leaders who take on the odds and win. But savvy leaders are those who also know when to say no. Unfortunately, we brand folks like that as quitters, when it may be more correct to say they have the guts to know when they're licked.

Baldoni, John. Harvard Business Review (2010). Articles>Collaboration>Workplace


Learning at Work: The Role of Technical Communication in Organizational Learning   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Concludes that technical support is an important audience for customer documentation and a source of knowledge. Proposes that technical communicators produce documentation that meets the needs of technical support and taps into that knowledge.

Wahl, Scott. Technical Communication Online (2003). Articles>Collaboration>Workplace


Managing Conflict

Conflict is characteristic in any situation that brings diverse groups together to manage tasks and obstacles. Nowhere is that more apparent than in business environments based on hierarchical structures where teams are inherited and divergent objectives create barriers to effective teamwork. Conflict resolution is among the many tasks delegated to managers, yet it is often the most difficult to master.

Harris, Kerri. Writing Assistance (2007). Articles>Management>Collaboration>Workplace


A Meta-Analysis of the Cultural Propositions about Conflict Management Styles in Face-Negotiation Theory   (peer-reviewed)

Among the most influential intercultural communication theories is Ting-Toomey's face-negotiation theory. The theory has undergone a number of refinements over the past two decades and has emerged as one of the most cited theories in intercultural business communication research. The theory posits that face or "identity respect and other-identity consideration" is maintained and negotiated in communications and interactions of members of all cultures; however, it is perceived and enacted differently across cultures as a function of the cultural dimensions of individualism and power distance. Our study is a meta-analysis of all research that we could find that has been conducted about the cultural propositions related to conflict management styles in face-negotiation theory. Specifically, these propositions state that individualist cultures tend to use more dominating conflict management styles whereas collectivist cultures tend to use more integrating, compromising, avoiding, and obliging conflict management styles. We integrate findings across studies to answer the degree to which these theoretical propositions are answered by empirical research.

Cardon, Peter and Ephraim Okoro. Rhetoric, Professional Communication, and Globalization (2010). Articles>Workplace>Collaboration>Globalization


Negotiation Techniques

Most of us are involved in negotiating in some form or other on a daily basis. Here is a look at the process of negotiation and tips you can use to improve your technique as you progress through the process.

Harris, Kerri. Writing Assistance (2006). Articles>Business Communication>Collaboration>Workplace


The Proximity Problem for Technical Writers

I’m not convinced that proximity is essential to keeping up with project information. I’m not persuaded that there aren’t equally viable ways to gather the same data and interact, because if nothing else, the Internet has shown us how remotely distributed people can be closely connected with each other. The Internet has pulled us loose from our physical relationships, distancing us from those immediately around us and drawing us closer to others whom we never see or speak with.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2011). Articles>Workplace>Collaboration>Technical Writing


The Rules of Digital Engagement

For contract web workers, consultants, and freelancers who work with far-flung collaborators, multiple clients, and constantly shifting teams, the rules of digital engagement--the way we interact with each other and resolve conflict in virtual space--are constantly changing. As we adapt to new ways of collaborating, we must also learn how to communicate effectively, set expectations, and build team confidence in an evolving work environment.

Follett, Jonathan. List Apart, A (2008). Articles>Web Design>Collaboration>Workplace



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