There are two main reasons that leaders should document observations, questions and issues:
- Provide back up for any disciplinary actions.
- Ensure employee questions and issues get addressed and closed out.
It isn’t uncommon for supervisors to rush to the HR department with an employee issue and want to provide disciplinary action only to discover that HR’s hands are tied because the supervisor didn’t do a good job of documenting the previous behaviors or performance issues.
Leaders who rely only on their memory run the risk of accidentally forgetting to close out an employee concern. Over time, this missed follow-up erodes trust and risks employees doubting that the leader will get answers to questions and issues resolved.
You need to document observations regularly.
Documenting allows you to follow up with employee questions or concerns and support your position in disciplinary actions. The last thing you want is to have a history of events in your “mental notes,” but have no written observations to support your concerns.
When an employee brings a question or issue to the supervisor and hears the promise, “I’ll get back to you,” or, “Leave it with me,” they are expecting the leader to get back to them with an answer or resolution. Even the most well-meaning leader can get themselves into trouble by relying solely on their memory. That’s why, when you’re approached by a team member with a question or a concern that you cannot address in that moment, it’s important to write it down. If you neglect to do this, you run the risk of forgetting about the details, and perhaps forgetting to follow up at all. When this happens, it can undermine your credibility and the team member’s trust in you.
- Always note the date and time of your observations or notetaking. This will help you accurately document a timeline of events when necessary.
- Keep your notes in a notebook. Paper is easy to lose, you might throw it out, or you might forget the context of the standalone notes.
- Record the action steps the employee and/or you will be taking to rectify the issue.
What’s one of your best practices for documenting important events or situations?