Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists.

I Need A Break, But I’m Not Sure I’ll Have A Job After

Dear Content Therapist: I’ve been with my current company for five years now. I’ve learned so much about content marketing during my time, but I’ve also been working nonstop and feel like I’m about to burnout. The company isn’t known for always putting their employees first, but I’ve stuck around because things were starting to change. I need a break, and since we have unlimited PTO, I decided to take two-and-a-half weeks to recharge. However, when I brought this up to my supervisor, they told me that if I couldn’t handle the work environment, then I should look for a new job. This isn’t my first run-in with this supervisor. I love my team and have put in a lot of hard work to help get it to where it’s today, but I’m not sure if I can sacrifice my own mental well-being. Should I not take the time or start sending out resumes?  — THE TIRED MARKETER.

Paul Chaney: You must take care of your mental and emotional health, first and foremost. That is non-negotiable.

If the written company policy states you have unlimited PTO, then you are well within your rights to take advantage of it, and two-and-a-half weeks isn’t abusing the privilege. (Two-and-a-half months, maybe, but certainly not two-and-a-half weeks!) That overrides any grief you get from an obstinate supervisor who alleges you’re a slacker for taking advantage of the time.

While I can’t tell you what to do, I will tell you what I would do.

First, I would carefully review the policy to understand what, if any, limitations or parameters it contains regarding time off. Often, companies use “unlimited PTO” as a marketing tool to attract talent, so read the fine print.

Then, well-informed, I would meet with my supervisor, handbook in hand, and show them chapter and verse. Be respectful and professional, but stand up for yourself. If that person won’t listen, I would go to their supervisor and speak with them. And if that person won’t listen, I would file a formal complaint with human resources.

In the meantime, I would also get my resume ready to send out, because no one should have to work in an environment where they are mistreated and disrespected. That is a tacet form of abuse you should not put up with under any circumstances.

Regarding your team, pat yourself on the back for putting in the work to get them to where they are today, and wish them well — either once you leave for a well-earned vacation or as you’re walking out the door for the final time.

You said it: You cannot sacrifice your well-being on someone else’s (your supervisor’s or company’s) altar. No job is worth that.

And don’t let fear keep you from acting. Be your own best advocate. Plenty of companies need good employees who will treat you with the respect you deserve.

AI Doesn’t Mean Fire Your Team

Dear Content Therapist: I’ve been in the content marketing industry for many years and have helped different companies with the growth of their brands. However, I recently took a job as the head of content marketing at a company, and my new boss wants to let go of my team and only use AI to write all of our content. I’ve used AI to help produce content in the past and understand that it’s an aid to my abilities. But my boss sees it as cutting out costs rather than looking at how it can affect our quality of content. How can I get my boss to see that just because we have AI doesn’t mean we don’t need a content marketing team? — THE AI CONTENT SUPPORTER

Paul Chaney:  Getting your boss to understand that AI tools like ChatGPT (that’s the one everybody is talking about, so let’s call it out) aren’t a panacea or suitable replacement for human writers and content marketers will require a bit of finesse.

First, I would tell your boss that you agree — these tools offer several advantages. They provide a cost-effective solution for generating large amounts of high-quality text. They are also suitable for research and generating ideas and inspiration for human writers.

Counter that by stating AI tools lack the same creativity or contextual understanding as humans. Nor can they convey complex emotions or a nuanced writing style. The content they produce is generic. That might work in some instances, but certainly not in others.

Another point is that AI tools aren’t always grammatically correct. They invariably require editing, a task humans will need to perform. (And, yes, I get that AI-enabled tools like Grammarly are a big help in that regard.)

Also — and this is significant — tell them that ChatGPT doesn’t cite sources. Its output is more or less a statistical calculation based on 2021 data. The amount of information it has on hand is vast, but that doesn’t always mean it’s accurate. It needs humans to edit and revise the text it generates to ensure accuracy, clarity, and tone.

By now, you will have made a convincing argument, but here’s the knockout punch: ChatGPT and other AI tools don’t know your target market or audience for which you’re creating content.

They haven’t researched your competitors (to the degree you have or for the same reasons). Nor have they had in-depth conversations with your company’s subject matter experts or sat in a conference room for hours deliberating the fine points that differentiate your products or services in the marketplace. Those responsibilities fall to humans.

Conclude your argument by agreeing that these tools are helpful, given their limitations, but that a collaboration between humans and machines can achieve better results than either could on their own.

If that doesn’t convince your boss, then I see two options:

One, agree to use AI to produce content where possible. Perhaps they will be willing to compromise.

Two, ask them to give you a topic. Input the information into ChatGPT as a prompt, and take what it produces. At the same time, give the topic to one of your best writers and ask them to create a similar document (they can use ChatGPT and other AI tools to help or not). Then, let your boss compare the two without telling them which is which.

I would be surprised if they chose the former. Of course, there’s always that chance, so you’re taking a risk.

If nothing else works, as a last-ditch measure, ask them to give you six months before acting. State that it’s too soon to make cost-cutting decisions that can affect lives and careers. Give these machines time to prove whether they can truly serve as replacements for humans.

One thing is certain: The same dilemma you face now will be repeated in many companies. It’s just a matter of time.

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.