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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Paper Trails (Living in Self Defense at Work)

In a writing class, we eventually get around to one of the jobs business writing does:  create a paper trail.

Paper trails exist to create a shared understanding of a commonly experienced event at work, to document progress in problem-solving (or not), and ultimately, whatever the goal, to establish a history that can be argued if a conflict erupts about what happened why at a future time.

When a business reaches that point, the paper trail becomes a first line of defense.

They are necessary, but, at times, they feel false to me, as if I am always thinking about having an alibi in case I ever need one.  I don't like living like that.  I prefer to work companionably and in good faith, and the constant creation of a paper trail feels like I am planning something mean.  Like I'm smiling while I have my dukes up and ready, tucked behind my back.

I have never really put up my dukes for any reason, preferring to lose a battle or be smacked around than pummel someone else.  But that's my preference. In a job situation, I represent the company, and my dukes are their dukes. So, my dukes help create paper trails that serve many purposes--most of them good ones:  record-keeping documents, transmittal documents, accounting documents, and the other kind that tries to make sure that if trouble comes, it hits someone else harder than it hits you.

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