HR Documentation: 4 Things to Avoid

Documentation Should Work For You, NOT Against You

In the HR world, you’ve heard it said time and time again that if it’s not documented, it never happened. When it comes to creating the type of work environment you desire, consistent and documented conversations with your employees are the way to have true influence over their morale.  As an employer, you think a lot about what you want or would like to see in your employees, but most employers rarely say it and an even smaller number write it down.  In the minds of a lot of your employees, it’s not official unless it’s written. So let’s do just that. It’s time to begin consistently documenting discipline in the workplace.  Writing it down might add a couple more minutes to your time, but it will assist you in gathering your thoughts before speaking as well as give your employee a tangible take-away.  Most employees want to become better employees but need written and detailed feedback.  Those employees are worth keeping and nurturing. If given the chance, they will rise to and exceed your company’s standards.

See also: 7 Tips for Documenting Employee Discipline

How NOT to Document

So we’ve gone over the importance of documentation but have you ever been given guidelines on how not to document? In order for documentation to be trustworthy, it needs to include only objective facts!

  1. No personal opinions – you want to be clear that the write up is about what the employee has done that needs improvement, not how you feel about the employee or their behavior
  2. No drawn conclusions — your theories of why the employee behaved poorly, or legal conclusions such as hastily naming an employee’s behavior ‘sexual harassment’ are not needed. Even blanket statements count as unwanted conclusions. Stay away from stating that the employee “always” or “never” does something.  Those statements are rarely true and could make your entire documentation seem like an exaggeration
  3. No personal information about employee – do not comment on the employee’s rumored personal life or include information about their family, race, beliefs or medical history. Statements like those could be potential red flags for discrimination claims!
  4. Promises or Threats –When wanting to write what will happen if the employee changes or doesn’t change, don’t make any guarantees.  Just include the time frame at which you will revisit the topic from there.  You can’t always be sure what the future holds, so be sure if you make a promise you can follow through with it.

Plainly stated, when documenting, stick to the facts and leave out the extra otherwise you could put yourself in a compromising situation.  Make sure you provide accurate details that could be helpful for you or a third party investigator.  If you do that, you can be sure your documentation will work for you (and your employees) instead of against you.

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