Myth: “If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.”
Reality: You can still tell your side of a story, but without documentation it will not be as persuasive.
There are several important reasons for a supervisor or manger to document workplace events and actions taken:
- To see if a trend is developing that may need to be addressed
- To help supervisors/managers remember what happened and keep facts in logical order
- To use as a “script” when discussing problematic behavior with employees
- To help employees improve by providing them with accurate feedback on behavior that must change and a written record of the steps outlined in a disciplinary meeting
- To substantiate your personnel actions to others (like upper management or HR) in the event they question an evaluation, pay raise, promotion, reward, discipline, or lay off decision
- To ensure accurate gathering and evaluation of facts in disciplinary situations
- To provide a record of what has happened in the past to support future decisions
In addition to the above principles of good management, solid documentation is important from a legal perspective.
- Personnel decisions are less subject to challenge. Plaintiffs’ attorneys may be dissuaded from taking the case if solid documentation exists. Or, the attorney may give the employee a dose of valuable perspective on the strength of his or her case.
- Personnel decisions are more easily defended with documentation. In court cases, unemployment hearings, discrimination charges, NLRB hearings, and workers’ compensation proceedings, if a company’s documentation is timely, accurate, and supports a legitimate business reason for the adverse employment action, then the company will likely prevail. In contrast, if there is no pre-adverse action documentation, the reason now being offered by the company for its decision will not hold much sway.