Documenting Performance Problems
There are important principles to follow when constructing documentation. These principles are easily forgotten or ignored by supervisors, thereby making it difficult for an organization to act on the documentation because it is problematic.
Without effective documentation, it is also difficult to motivate troubled employees to improve their performance, and difficult to safely administer disciplinary actions without legal risk.
- Document discussions, encounters, actions, or steps taken with employees. Also document verbal warnings and conferences. Avoid emotional or subjective language when constructing documentation.
THINK: Am I using language in my documentation that is measurable and “describes,” not “interprets” unacceptable behavior
EXAMPLE: “The employee was irresponsible in reporting the day’s financial receipts.”
BETTER: “The employee did not enter the amount of daily receipts in the ledger. This caused a delay in reporting the monthly financial performance of the work unit.”
Documentation can be tricky. You may think or feel that an employee’s performance is irresponsible, dishonest, selfish, boorish, etc., but be sure to document the performance issue clearly. Stay away from emotions and judgments in your documentation in lieu of the facts. Documentation by supervisors is frequently deemed useless if it does not describe performance or behavior issues clearly, but only judges the employee’s character. In the above example, the thing that can be observed is failing to enter the financial receipts. Remember, effective documentation of behavior, work outcomes, or the impact of behavior on the organization is what makes a response by the organization possible.