Are Your Disciplinary Documentation Skills Up To The Test?

by Bethany Wright on July 8, 2019

in Compliance,Policies

Pen and paper

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

My favorite answer to that question is, “only if there is documented proof!

Proper documentation can establish a pattern of performance problems that has led to a termination, or verify reasons one employee received a promotion over others who applied.

Establishing a consistent approach to documentation gives employees an opportunity to improve their performance by informing them where they are not meeting expectations, as well as advising them what they can do to correct the issues. Consistent and good documentation demonstrates that you are treating similarly situated employees similarly and will help support your employment decisions (i.e. termination) if someone files a discrimination claim against your business.

And when I say good documentation, it’s because I’ve seen a lot of bad documentation, both formal and informal (texts, IMs, etc.). For example, the manager who thought they were texting another manager about how “lazy” this person was and how he thought the employee was setting them up for a claim, only to quickly find out he was texting the employee at issue. Unfortunately, the employee had the same first name as a manager in the company.

The first step to ensuring your business is properly documenting incidents and disciplinary discussions is to develop an employee conduct policy. This policy should establish when and how you might discipline employees for performance or behavioral issues, but also give the business some flexibility on whether or not they follow the disciplinary process as stated, or skip some steps if warranted by the seriousness of the situation.

Next, create a standard form or format to document the performance or behavioral issue. These types of formal documents should include the name of the employee and the date the document is being presented, as well as the following:

  1. A factual statement of the incident or conversation.
  2. Statement of the impact of the problem identified.
  3. Any prior discussions on the same subject, with dates.
  4. A statement of expectations, including relevant policies or goals.
  5. A statement of the corrective action or steps for resolution, such as a training.
  6. Any consequences that may occur if there is not immediate and sustained improvement.
  7. A statement that the employee may not necessarily agree with what was said, but that they were presented with the information and understand it.
  8. Signature lines for the employee and their supervisor or HR, or whomever is responsible for performance improvement at your business.

Once your formal policy and process is in place, train your supervisory and management staff on how to consistently document and address employee issues when they come up.

Cascade Employers Association has a great onsite training developed specifically to address appropriate documentation. When it comes to managing risk, this training is a great way to get your staff on the right path.

Remember, if you don’t document, it’s like it never happened.

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