One of my supervisors is terrible at documentation. We have not had a major problem because of this (yet), but it is probably just a matter of time before our luck runs out. Other than not documenting well, this supervisor does a really good job. I have talked to him about this several times. His need to improve documentation was one of the main topics (and only negative issue) in his annual performance appraisal (two months ago). I still have not seen improvement. What is the best way to make a supervisor document personnel actions??
— Manager Mike
Dear Manager Mike:
At gunpoint. That seems to work for me.
— Evil Skippy
It’s also a great way to get arrested. You might want to consider legal methods before resorting to Wild West Syndrome.
The fact that you have talked to the supervisor already and addressed this matter in a formal evaluation tells me that there are two possible explanations for your supervisor’s failure to perform:
1. He does not want to document and is ignoring your directive.
2. He does not know how to document well on an ongoing basis.
If your supervisor has both the skills and the work habits necessary to meet your expectations about documentation, but is not meeting them – it’s time for corrective action. I have worked with many otherwise-great supervisors over the years who were terrible at documentation. I call these people “Losers.” Eventually their luck ran out and the employer lost a lawsuit or other legal matter because the supervisor’s failure to document made it impossible for them to defend against the claim.
Before anyone asks, the answer is “No.” A judge or jury will not usually just take your word for something no matter how nice you are or how honest you might look. You have to prove that you counseled the employee, trained her, provided the mandatory leave or whatever. There is an old H.R. saying – if you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen.
Don’t merge into the express lane on the corrective action highway just yet. You need to consider whether or not you’ve done your job. Just because someone gained the title of supervisor does not mean that he or she has already developed all of the skills necessary to succeed in that role. You have instructed the supervisor to document, but have you determined whether he knows how to do what you want? It’s time to sit down with this supervisor and have a serious discussion.
Tell him that you are going to meet with him about his documentation efforts at a regular time each week (you have to make this a priority commitment and not keep changing it). These are not intended to be long, boring meetings. They are coaching sessions that should usually last no more than five minutes. (Long, pointless meetings are dumb and take up time that could have been devoted to things like documentation). You might even start with a daily session. Your goal here is to force the supervisor to engage in documentation each day until it becomes a habit. During your coaching sessions, go over the documentation and point out what appears to be missing and what needs to be improved. In addition, provide the supervisor with training resources to help him develop good documentation skills (articles, blog posts or formal training).
Don’t overlook the possibility of sending the supervisor to a local training program about performance management. (I have had many supervisors confess to me after attending one of my training programs that they wished they had attended such training when they first became a supervisor – documentation is not a natural skill and needs to be learned.) You can also find an abundance of information on the Internet. Here are some links to Evil Skippy’s past words of wisdom to get you started:
- Daily Performance Management – “I.T.S.” Fundamental
- The “Draft Performance Evaluation File” – A Supervisor’s Best Friend
By the way – be sure to document your discussion with the supervisor. You want to be a good role model, right?