​The Dos and Don’ts of Documenting Employee Performance

​The Dos and Don’ts of Documenting Employee Performance

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One of the most important aspects of managing employees is keeping careful records of their workplace performance, specifically documenting any behavioral issues that arise.

Through the documentation of policy infractions, customer service issues, or particularly meritorious acts, you’re better positioned to provide coaching and professional development opportunities. At the same time, if employee discipline or termination is due, having thorough documentation can provide you with the necessary legal cover.

With that said, there are right ways and wrong ways to approach employee behavior documentation. Here are a few guidelines for team leaders to consider.

What to do

1. Do articulate your expectations. Before you start recording employee performance issues, it’s critical to set your standards. Be sure that you have a clear, written summary of what you expect from employees in each role. Also be sure your employees have clear access to this summary, and that they feel comfortable coming to you if the expectations are in any way unclear.

2. Do focus on facts. When documenting employee behavior issues, make sure you place the focus on what actually happened, not on speculation regarding employee motivates or intentions. For example, if you find evidence of an employee consuming alcohol on the job, it’s okay to document that; what’s not okay is jumping to the conclusion that an employee’s tardiness stems from drinking the night before.

3. Do review patterns that emerge. If an employee has one unfortunate run-in with a customer, or shows up late one day, that’s not necessarily anything to worry about. But patterns of behavior may warrant a coaching session, where you and your employee can work out a strategy to ease these performance issues. As such, it’s important to review your documentation regularly, seeking any patterns or cycles that exist.

What not to do

1. Don’t generalize. Employee documentation should always focus on specific examples of problematic behavior. There’s no place in your employee documentation for generalities or cliches like "not being a team player."

2. Don’t diagnose. Again, documentation is no place for you to speculate. The role of documentation is to note observable issues with an employee’s performance, not to psychoanalyze or try to explain why those issues are happening.

3. Don’t editorialize. It may be tempting to insert your own commentary: “I thought my directions were clear!” In reality, doing this only undercuts the power of your documentation. In this case, the inclusion of your protest makes it seem like perhaps your directions weren’t that clear.

4. Don’t apologize. It’s never fun having to document employees’ behavioral problems, but it’s an important part of being a manager. If you don’t document these things, you’re not doing your job well. As such, there’s no reason to include caveats like “I’m sorry I have to do this” in your reports.

Make the most of employee documentation

Careful documentation is a critical part of employee development. Take the time to get it right, and both you and your team members will benefit. 

About the author: Amanda E. Clark is the president and editor-in-chief of Grammar Chic, a full-service professional writing company. She is a published ghostwriter and editor, and she's currently under contract with literary agencies in Malibu, California and Dublin. Since founding Grammar Chic in 2008, Clark, along with her team of skilled professional writers, has offered expertise to clients in the creative, business and academic fields. The company accepts a wide range of projects; often engages in content and social media marketing; and drafts resumes, press releases, web content, marketing materials and ghostwritten creative pieces. Contact Clark at www.grammarchic.net.


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