The HR Documentation Dilemma
So-n-so Smith has an incident of poor behavior or performance issues, and you’ve had to talk to him/her about it. Lovely. Now you need to decide how serious an offense that was and how you are going to deal with it so it doesn’t come back to bite you or your company later.
Whether they worry you personally or not, lawsuit fears are not unfounded. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received a record number of charges of employment discrimination 2011—the second year in a row! That’s why it’s important to know when and how to document corrective and disciplinary discussions. Sure, you don’t want to create a time-consuming paperwork nightmare that bogs down your management and HR people, but you don’t want to be ill-prepared for potential future litigation in a worst-case scenario either.
It’s bad enough when you have to reprimand or warn an employee, so why not make sure your documentation radar is properly calibrated?
Confused about how they handle informal verbal warnings to employees?
If you are, that’s understandable. Many times, a gentle “hey, you need to get your reports in on time” or “I need you to be more polite to our customers” is all it takes for otherwise good employees to adjust their unwanted behaviors. That might not be worth the time to document the brief discussion in writing. But repeated corrective statements, reprimands or warnings do need a good paper/electronic trail. If you have uttered something to the effect of “I’m going to be checking your progress on this” or “If this behavior continues, I may have to take disciplinary action”, you are best off documenting it.
What should you write down, if you have to write it down?
Even if an employee completely came across to you as behaving offensively, irresponsibly, selfishly or otherwise horribly, using descriptions that focus on perceived personality traits rather than facts in disciplinary documentation won’t help your cause. “A manager should write down in precise, unemotional terms exactly what events transpired, what was said to the employee, and what expectations for future behavior were set, leaving out personal opinion or interpretation,” says Bonnie Levitt, MSW, PHR, hireVision’s Director of Hiring Management Services. “But, unless you plan to begin a formal disciplinary process with this incident, you don’t necessarily need to have that employee sign off on it just yet.”
If you do go down that path to a formal disciplinary action, items you should include in that first write-up besides the objective description of the actions and discussion in question include:
|➤||The date of the incident and/or disciplinary conversation|
|➤||A reference to earlier verbal coaching on the|
|➤||Specific examples of behavior, quality of work or the overall company impact that the employee’s actions or (inactions) are causing.|
|➤||The manager’s expectations for correcting the behavior|
|➤||A means for the employee to sign off on the document that shows he or she has received of it.|
No matter what outcomes your verbal or written warnings may bring, you’ll never be sorry you got in the habit of good documentation. These notes and records can prove invaluable in the future and can save your company money, time, and headaches in the unfortunate event of a claim.
Need help managing your employee documentation issues or other HR functions? hireVision’s HR Partnering Services and Hiring Management Service can help. Contact us today to discuss how to best manage your unique human resources needs.
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