Dealing With A Colleague Who Edits My Work

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a coworker who changes her/his written work.

How do you deal with a colleague who edits your report so much it does not look like your writing anymore?

Signed, I Stand Corrected


DearĀ I Stand Corrected:

From here, it is impossible for me to know why your coworker has access to and edits your reports. Your use of the term “colleague” implies that this person isn’t your superior, yet editing is that part of her/his job description. Are you working on projects together and “your report” is in fact a joint report? Or is the colleague assertive and coerces you to submit what you will report for her/his review before finally submitting it? From the little you’ve sent about the nature of your work and because I can’t see what has been corrected in a report, there is no way for me to ascertain if the editing is justified.

Possibly, the editing might make your report better and thereby prevent you from being criticized for its style or adequacy. Send a more complete description of what prompts this inquiry should you want a more informed opinion from the workplace doctors. I will assume your colleague is not your superior. You have to choose whether to simply bite your tongue or to confer with her/him about the process and/or substance of what is corrected. Should you object to the process; of your report being changed without your consent; you will need to confront that colleague.

If you don’t want Dan (or whatever is the colleague’s name) to edit, you can deal with it at the moment he attempts to do so. In a private, firm way, say, “Dan, this is supposed to be my report. I know you want to be helpful, but I want this to reflect my work, not yours.” Or if you don’t want to cut off his help completely, you can say, “Dan, I like you to scan my reports and I welcome your suggestions but I want to do the editing.”

Probably you need to schedule a “time out” session with him to hammer out do and don’t rules for when and if he should see, edit, approve of, or have input to your reports. Apparently, you have not confronted him about that. But if that is already an established matter and he has authority to edit, your confrontation with him must deal with substance and style as well as when and how much editing and who’s words are contained in the final report. I gather you object the fact that he changes the substance and style of your work. In this case it, you and he are like coworkers in a newspaper who want the best for your readers. Your conversation will then entail issues of rhetoric of a specific report; who does its first, subsequent, and final draft, who is to get a particular report, its informative and or political purpose, what information should be included/excluded, and its protocols and traditions.

Substance and style can’t be separate; eloquence vs. plainness and even grammar are up for debate. In short, you and your colleague must work out rules for when, what and why of a collaborative process. Can you argue about these matters? How do you deal with “my words” being changed? Who has final say? So far I gather you have not talked about how you work together. Working through answers to these questions probably will take courage and persistence.

A one fix-it session is likely only a start at working out what is acceptable to you and Dan. Focus on the end product; the purpose of the report its internal and external customers. Remember that getting to reports that add value to your work organization are not just a matter of ego; working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. If any of these thoughts apply to your situation, I will be interested in what you decide to do to find a working relationship with your colleague that pleases you both.

William Gorden