by Colleen Kettenhofen

“As far as the courts are concerned,
if it isn’t written down…it’s as if it didn’t happen.”
Colleen Kettenhofen

Many managers and supervisors in my training workshops and speaking engagements come up to me privately regretting that they did not document a particular incident with an employee. A lot of times they report to me that as time went on, the employee only got worse. Soon, they had to terminate the employee. Often they will say to me, “That lack of documentation came back to haunt me.” Many managers and supervisors today are overloaded, and let’s face it, documentation takes time. Unfortunately, too, for these people, they often feel they’re spending 80% of their time with the 20% of their difficult employees. I’m amazed at how many people in management positions really don’t know exactly what to document. So….here’s is a list of things to include:

  1. Date, time and place of where you are doing the documentation in case you’d ever need to account for your whereabouts.
  2. Date and time the incident occurred.
  3. The employee’s full name.
  4. Location where the incident occurred.
  5. Witnesses present. Include the names of those who saw the incident or came to you to complain about it. And even if you didn’t see it, usually when that many employees are all saying the same thing, there’s usually a grain of truth to it.
  6. Place where the incident occurred. Was it in your building or out in the work trenches somewhere?
  7. Your action at the time. Did you say anything to the employee about this? If so, what? Be as specific as possible and stick to the facts.
  8. The employee’s reaction. Once you spoke to the employee, how did they react? Again, be as specific as possible. Stick to the facts in terms of how they acted and what they said.
  9. Your signature

This is not something you show the employee. It is your observation documentation only. This is for your records and possibly for your Human Resources Department. Keep this information in a locked file and do whatever your organization’s policy requires you to do with it. Every organization is different. When documenting stick to the facts. You want to remain “objective” as opposed to “subjective.” So, make sure to keep records of any past “great job” memos as well. This way it’s less likely that the employee can say, “Well, that’s just your perception. You’re just picking on me.” As long as you can remember facts it will be harder for them to argue with you. Also, there’s the chance that anything you write down, whether at work or at home, could be read in front of a jury.

You are free to reprint or repost this article for use in your newsletters, association publications, or intranet provided Colleen Kettenhofen’s contact information (name, website, and email) is included with the article. Colleen Kettenhofen is a Phoenix, Arizona motivational speaker, trainer, & co-author of “The Masters of Success ,” featured on NBC’s Today Show, along with Ken Blanchard and Jack Canfield. For free articles, video clips, and e-newsletter, visit Colleen’s area of expertise are leadership, managing people, life balance, difficult people, presentation skills. Colleen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions and seminars.


She can be reached at contact information listed below:

Colleen Kettenhofen

(971) 212-0479


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