Why is Documenting Employee Issues Important?

Documenting employee issues is one the least liked things supervisors have to do. The process is a time consuming, academic exercise that is solely for the purposes of covering everyone’s backs should an employee take legal action over an employment decision that they were not in agreement with. So why is it important?

Documentation provides insight into an employer’s rationale behind disciplining an employee or deciding to take an adverse employment action such as termination.

The primary purpose of documenting is to:

  • Help an employee understand gaps in expectations. What should be happening compared to what is happening.  Think in terms of expected results compared to actual results.
  • Explain why the gap between what should be happening and what is happening matters and the negative impact the gap is having on the business.  Think in terms of reduced profitability, work group morale, safety, customer satisfaction and so forth.
  • Confirm the agreed upon course of action to close gaps or the consequences of not meeting expectations.  In some cases, talking about consequences for not meeting expectations (i.e. disciplinary action, no raise, termination, et al) is not constructive.

In the event the employee does not close the gaps and consequences follow, the documentation leading up to imposing consequences will help protect the employer from claims of discrimination or wrongful termination. Enforcement agencies and the Courts rely on an employer’s documentation to help determine the merits of employee claims that come before them.

For this reason alone, we can make the case for the business necessity of documenting employee matters. You understand this yet, you procrastinate or elect not to document at all. Why?

The most common reason not to document issues is the supervisor not having the time.

If you view documenting an employee issue to be of value, then you will find the time to document the issue. If you believe the time spent handling other issues will yield a greater return on investment of your time then you will conclude that you shouldn’t document.  In truth, this may be a viable argument.

To determine if your time is best invested not documenting an employee matter, calculate the cost of the time needed to document the issue and then compare to the cost of higher unemployment insurance premiums or legal fees to defend an adverse employment action.  If you will achieve a greater ROI of your time by not documenting—then don’t document.  Just be willing to write a check instead.

Understanding the reasoning and the value of documenting employee issues is the first step of protecting yourself and your company. In our next blog, we will teach you the key talking points to address and ensure proper documentation of any employee issues that come your way.

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