When a manager documents a performance improvement discussion or a formal disciplinary transaction, what is it that the manager is actually documenting?
Too many managers think that what they are documenting is the existence of a problem. That’s a mistake. You are not documenting the existence of a problem. You are documenting the discussion that you and the employee had about the problem.
The best way to document a performance discussion is to send the employee a memo summarizing your conversation and the employee’s agreement to correct the problem as soon as you have completed the discussions.
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The following information should be in the memo about your performance discussion:
- The names of the supervisor, the employee, and any witnesses who were present.
- The date on which the discussion took place (and the location, if significant).
- The specific problem that caused the transaction to occur.
- A record of all previous conversations about the problem and the dates on which each of those conversations occurred.
- This record should include formal disciplinary conversations, coaching sessions, and casual conversations (even though no record of the conversation may have been made).
- A description of the continuing problems that have been experienced since the earlier conversations took place.
- A statement that the situation must be corrected (not ‘‘improved’’) and the specific change that must be made.
- A statement of the fact that failure to correct the problem may lead to more serious disciplinary action.
- A statement that in addition to solving the immediate problem, the organization expects the employee to maintain an acceptable level of performance in every area of his job.
- A record of the agreement made by the employee to correct the problem.
- A record of any action the employee agreed to take in order to bring about the correction.
- A closing statement that expresses the supervisor’s belief that the problem will in fact be corrected and that the employee will perform properly in the future.
After the supervisor has written the memo, the best way to handle the delivery to the employee is to actually sit down with the individual and review it with him. This confirms the importance that the supervisor places on correcting the problem and allows the supervisor to again gain the employee’s agreement that the problem will in fact be solved.