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You’ve heard the statement, “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.” The human resources mantra to managers and supervisors is to "document, document, document," because disciplinary actions can often give rise to claims of discrimination, leading to high costs of litigation. But do your managers and supervisor know how, when, and what to document?

Although it may seem like a headache to write a report on each and every problem that the employee may be exhibiting, in the long run, it is a lifesaver.  Documentation is one communication tool you can use to preserve facts and remove ambiguities.

Documenting performance, productivity, and conduct problems can be an uncomfortable experience for most supervisors and managers. 

However, there are many benefits to both the employer and employee in properly documenting employee discipline and misconduct. The documentation may help the employee realize that certain levels of performance or kinds of behavior are unacceptable and can help employees change their performance or behavior in the future.

Documentation also acts as an insurance policy for the company. If the employee later challenges an action that had been taken against him as a result of poor performance or a behavior issue or files a grievance or lawsuit, thorough documentation can prevent such actions from continuing beyond the preliminary stages.

Documentation is the written and retained record of employment events. These records are made up of government and legally mandated elements, documents required by company policy and practice, documents suggested by best human resources practices, and formal and informal record keeping about employment events.

  • Why What, When, and How to document performance
  • The defensible process to use in addressing employee problems
  • Analyzing discipline problems
  • Best practices for documenting and carrying out corrective and disciplinary actions
  • Practical, defensible documentation techniques
  • How to effectively document employee performance
  • Documenting performance for correcting performance problems

Cutting corners with documentation is the single biggest mistake managers make when handling progressive discipline and terminations. You need to recognize that your company may have to explain a termination decision long after it occurs. In the case of employees terminated for poor job performance or misconduct, this means having on file all performance reviews, notes from counseling sessions, and written warnings leading to the termination decision.

  • HR professionals
  • Managers
  • Supervisors
  • Team leaders
  • Business owners

Steven G. Meilleur, Ph.D., SPHR – is President, and CEO – of PRAXIS Management Solutions, LLC, a New Mexico-based management consulting firm specializing in human resources, employee relations, leadership, training & organizational development, organizational research and assessment, strategic & operational planning, and non-profit organization management and governance. Dr. Meilleur has more than 40 years of management and executive-level experience in human resources, risk management, and organizational management in the private non-profit public, and private for-profit sectors. 

Dr. Meilleur also serves as Senior Vice-President and Risk Services Consultant for Human Resources and Employment with Poms & Associates, a national risk services and insurance brokerage firm. His previous work experience includes public, private, and nonprofit organizations, in executive and management capacities.

A member of the faculty of the UNM School of Public Administration in the graduate program, Dr. Meilleur teaches in the areas of human resource management, nonprofit organization management, leadership, dispute resolution, organizational change, and human resource development.  He has spoken at numerous conferences and workshops across the country and is a published author in the areas of human resources, marketing, leadership and management development, organizational change and innovation, non-profit organization management, and board development.

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