The Most Common Failing of Supervision is Failing to Document

A common failing of supervision and management in dealing with a problem employee is failing to document counsellings and verbal warnings issued concerning annoying or counterproductive, yet correctable, employee behavior. For example, tardiness, excessive breaks, excessive time away from working areas, etc. These behaviors, in and of themselves, are not serious enough to warrant discharge on their first or second occurrence, but they can have a negative impact on productivity and morale.

The good news is that these types of behaviors are correctable, but they are correctable only if managers are diligent in documenting the incidents of occurrence and communications with the employee regarding the issue and the need to correct it.

Not only does documentation help curb these minor annoyances that have the potential to become larger issues, but, in the event they do cause a larger issue, proper documentation is a very helpful tool in defending a wrongful termination case resulting from a serious incident or multiple “minor” transgressions.

Below are a few steps to help any business start a system of proper employee performance management:

  1. Train. The key to anything is ensuring that everyone is on the same page. This means training management employees to recognize improper conduct and understand the disciplinary tools at their disposal.
  2. Timing. In the same vein, managers should be trained to document incidents, witnesses to each incident, and all relevant content of any disciplinary conversations related to the incident as soon as possible after the incident occurs. This will ensure the incident and all related communications are properly tracked when they are fresh in the manager’s mind.
  3. How To. The next issue is how to track. Every business is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all tracking mechanism, and every business and every manager will have to determine what works best for their business and style. Some managers may choose to do this through hard copy documentation to the employee’s file or to the manager’s file. Some managers may prefer to track incidents through electronic notes corresponding to specific employee folders. If the business decides to use standardized forms to record and track incidents, managers should be trained how to use the forms and where to find the forms when they need them.
  4. Follow-up and Reinforce. It is also important to follow-up with management employees to ensure they understand the process and to make them feel comfortable asking questions if they do not understand the process fully or if they have questions. Employee conduct management is a team issue and it is important for managers to feel they are part of the overall management function. This also instills consistency among managers and HR and demonstrates the company’s overall commitment to performance management taking a top / down approach.


This blog post is published by Dickinson Wright PLLC to inform our clients and friends of important developments in the field of employment law. The content is informational only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. We encourage you to consult a Dickinson Wright attorney if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered in here.


About the Author: James B. Perry is a Member in Dickinson Wright’s Detroit office where he assists clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He can be reached at 313-223-3096 or