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Discipline and Documentation

This is the first of four articles dealing with discipline and documentation.
Today, the need to effectively document instances
of employee performance and behavior is becoming a key prerequisite
for effective management. It is not sufficient that the
owner or manager know that an employee’s performance has
been unsatisfactory, she/he must be able to prove it. All too
many times, the person who recommends discipline, suspension
or termination does so with little or nothing on the record.
They may be able to explain, in great detail, all of the employee’s
faults, but the file is silent. The employee may be totally
incompetent or unreliable, but the file contains only innocuous
documents or memoranda. If a formal evaluation is included,
it frequently shows ratings that are not representative of the
true performance or behavior of the employee. In short, the file
does not reflect actual performance.

This situation frustrates many owners and managers. However,
with legislated rights and procedures, it is necessary that you
spend the time necessary to build a good case this means the
need to follow some reasonable guidelines for effective documentation
of employee performance and behavior. Here’s one
example of how the documentation process can be divided into

1. Informal conferences and oral reprimands.

2. Written reprimands.

3. Evaluation meetings followed by written summaries.

4. Written evaluation of unsatisfactory performance or

5. Termination of employment.

Of course, I am not an attorney (thank goodness!) and these
common sense guidelines would certainly be superceded by any
law or regulation.

Let’s consider that a meeting with an employee is called for.
Here are some guidelines to help you in preparing for, and carrying
on, the meeting.

Know Your Purpose: What will you seek to accomplish in the

Will you request a change in the employee’s behavior, or will
it merely be a gathering of information?

Is there a solution for a problem?

Will it be discipline of the employee?

Will you give a performance appraisal/evaluation?

After all is said and done, establish measurements for success.

Set the Stage.

Select the most conducive location.

Establish a time frame for the discussion and keep within it.

Review the plan for the discussion.

Format of the Discussion Meeting.

Greet the employee, then state the purpose of the meeting.

Solicit and listen to the employees view of the subject.

Move discussion along based on the plan and time frame.

Arrive at decision/solution/action plan.

Encourage the employee to make recommendations.


Agree on actions to be taken by all parties.

Agree on follow up schedule and milestones.

Ensure the employee understands.

Seek and obtain commitment of employee.

Finally, evaluate the effectiveness of the meeting and determine
how to improve on future meetings with this or any other

About the Author

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

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