3.1 Documenting Performance Problems
"Treat documentation as a communication tool
to preserve facts and remove ambiguities."

Experienced supervisors know that the first question their boss will ask when they propose terminating a problem employee is, “Do you have all the documentation you need?”

The best answer: “Sure. I've built a file that documents everything completely. We're on solid ground.” The wrong answer: “No, but I'll put some documentation together so we're safe.

  1. Document personnel matters as they occur, not weeks or months later. To serve their purpose, documents must reflect a complete, accurate account of what individuals discussed and what events transpired on a specific date. Failing to maintain ongoing documentation can not only embarrass you in front of your boss and human resources director, but also limit your organization's ability to terminate poor employees. You may then falsely conclude that your employer does not support you.

  2. The benefits of documentation far outweigh the time and effort of noting performance-related conversations with your workers. By writing what topics were discussed, who was present, what issues or concerns arose and what promises or agreements were made, you build a paper trail for future reference. Amassing a well-documented employee file prevents misunderstanding among all parties and affords legal protection to you and your employer in the event of litigation.

  3. At its best, documentation describes the highlights of a conversation like a report on the evening news. It summarizes negotiated terms (i.e., who will do what, by what deadline), warnings issued to an employee, specific performance measures that you reviewed together and itemized commitments by all sides.