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Discipline and Documentation, Part III

This is the third article in this series. In it we’ll discuss how to
construct a good documentation memorandum. In order to be
effective, a documentation memorandum should contain spe-cific
information regarding the following.

When did it happen? The memo must indicate when the
action or omission occurred. The actual time is often a critical

Where did the incident occur? The place of infraction is usually
an important detail.

What actually happened? This must be a specific narrative that
includes place, time, sequence of events and other pertinent
facts. This should be a detailed report.

What is wrong? It is often necessary to give the employee notice
of the infraction/deficiency. This should include any relevant
reference to specific rules, procedures or policies. This serves to
prevent future misunderstandings.

What must be done? It is necessary to give the employee specific
direction as to the proper conduct or level of performance
expected. This should leave no room for misunderstanding or
doubt. Avoid terms such as “request,” “would like,” “ask” and
“etc.” The memorandum should be written as a directive rather
than as a request. Requests are easy to ignore or deny, directives
are not.

Future consequences. The employee must be made aware that
future infractions (commission or omission) will not be tolerated
and that continued failure in these or other critical areas
will be grounds for further disciplinary actions. These actions
can include termination.

Here is an example of a documentation memo that follows the
key steps outlined above:

TO: Tom Jones

FROM: Albert Finney

SUBJECT: Written Warning

DATE: 04/10/03

As we discussed this morning, in the eight months that you have
been with us, you have been late on 12 separate occasions, ranging
from 10 minutes to 45 minutes. We have spoken about this problem
three times in the past 6 months, and your behavior has failed
to improve. Since our last conversation four weeks ago, you have
been three three times, including the occasion when you were 45 min-utes

As I pointed out, your lateness creates problems for our crew, since
others must pick up the slack. In addition, when you do arrive, oth-ers
must bring you up-to-speed about what they have done, there by
increasing the amount of time they lose from their own work.

You indicated that you would either join a new carpool or find
alternate transportation in your effort to solve the problem. I trust
that you will be able to follow through on these suggestions, since,
except for lateness, you are a good employee.

This memo is, and must be considered by you, a written warning
about this matter: If your behavior does not improve so that you are
never late during the next month, you will be subject to disciplinary
action, which might well mean termination. We will meet one
month from today to review your record.

About the Author

L. Douglas Mault is president of the Executive Advisory Institute,
Yakima, Wash.

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