Supervisor documentation issues

Hello! It's time for you all to give me some input on a product I am working on. (I'm a bit bummed that Don D is indisposed, so you will all have to tyr extra hard!) I am interested in knowing what issues related to providing proper documentation your supervisors stuggle with the most. For instance, do they have the most problems following your procedures, or do they follow the black and white but mess up on the particulars. Any input would be appreciated.

Anne Williams
Attorney Editor
M. Lee Smith Publishers, LLC


  • 19 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Anne, during my last quarterly audit review of the supervisor's files, I discovered both of the problems you related. I have some who do a great job of orally administering policy but fail to document anything. Then there are others who document everything but do not communicate to their employees. I composed and facilitated a seminar a few months ago on Keys to Leadership and the two main points were communication and documentation. Guess part of them slept through one part and the rest during the other part.
  • My problem with our department supervisors was getting them to put pen to paper. They think a two sentence statement with the date is documentation. Coming from a union environment, I learned the importance of detailed reports. What I have done, is to take notes when they are relating the incident to me, which most times is immediately after the incident. I then type up a rough draft and ask the supervisor to make any changes, additions, etc. This way they see how a report is put together i.e. witnesses, time, place.

    A few now come in with written documentation and that gets them a pat on the back. still have one or two who think having a secretary is great. #-o
  • Our supervisors were having the same problems, not documenting anything. When a serious problem came up and a write-up was in order, they soon found out that relying on memory alone was not adequate. Memory is often vague and they now realize the importance of keeping a personal log of all "talks" they have with their employees concerning either job performance of conduct. They were first educated on what to include in documentation. (1) date of talk and who was present (2) subject of talk (3) suggestions for improvement (4) when improvement was expected by; i.e. performance problems were given appropriate time to comply; whereas conduct problem must comply immediately. (5) consequence of noncompliance (6) what type of talk is this. i.e. verbal warning, 1st written warning, suspension, or termination.
    Note that a verbal warning still requires written documentation in the form of a memo placed in the personnel file. Employee has the right to see, read and respond to any write-up. This type of discipline is known as progressive discipline and is used as a positive tool to help ee's who are either having performance or conduct problems. If offense is major, any and all steps can be skipped up to termination.
  • I agree 100% with Ritaanz. Same dilemma exactly. Some have shown significant improvement...some have me considering videotaping myself and running a continual loop of the same message over and over!

  • Ours struggle with the more intangibles such as rudeness or attitude (otherwise known hereafter as behavior). We're working on documenting these type of incidents as how it impacts the work of co-workers and are looking to include a clear definition of teamwork at our organization.
  • After years of fretting over this and researching it in my head and through observation, interaction and corrective action, I conclude: Supervisors who do not produce useful and complete documentation fail to do so NOT because they don't understand how. Nor is it because they don't have time or fail to understand the procedure for doing so. It's also wrong-headed to think that 'That's just John. He's doing the best he can. He'll never be a good record keeper'.

    The only truth of the matter is that unless and until a manager or supervisor has his rewards system tied to providing you with the documentation you require, it will often not be done. Whether the reward that turns him on is his own internal recognition that he's doing what he was told to do, or your recognition of his doing it right, or tangible perks, good ratings or monetary, finding the reward that ignites his fuse and tying that to your needs will produce the result you want.

    We have banged our collective heads against cinder-block conference room walls for decades, struggling to inact change in this area. Most of it has not worked. Throw out the studies, the change-loop charts and the 'how to motivate supervisors' pamphlets. Follow the rewards trail.
  • Supervisor documentation is part of the job description. I disagree with Don. We cannot be rewarding the supervisor for doing what they rightfully are paid for!

    Yes, we are all facing problems with supervisor's little or no documentation. Perhaps it is time we start documenting the supervisor's performance on this area. If indeed documentation is part of his job description, issue oral and written warnings, leading to suspension and/or termination. Please do not consider this lightly. If s/he is not performing this part of his/her job function, then they should be disciplined accordingly. So, do you have a JD to include documentation as part of "Major responsibilities"?

    I am beginning to wonder why we have lived with this non-performance? Then again, if indeed this is part of the JD and we have known the handicap of the person before promoting him/her to be the supervisor, who is to be blamed? Did we promote right or hire right?

    On another note, we need to consider whether it is a training issue or s/he just cannot get it and will not ever be able to document, regardless of the amount of training we put them through. If the latter is true and the individual is excellent in his/her "Major Responsibilities" in the JD, I would propose that you hire an administrative person to help cover the administrative part of the job, this is to allow the supervisor concentrate on the main core functions of his/her job, be it sales, medical management, etc. Trust me, the department will be more productive with this arrangement.

  • I don't belive Don's post meant to give MORE to a supervisor who is fulfilling his documenting responsibilities. I understood his reply to mean that when it is his performance review time to give him low marks on poor documentation and adjust (decrease) his increase accordingly.

    If an individual is successful at his/her job as supervisor, they should be able to put words together on a piece of paper. It would be wonderful to be able to hire an Admin Asst who specializes in documentation. Not many budgets allow that luxury today.
  • Ritaanz is correct Gracie. I don't recommend at all paying off people to do their jobs or handing out sugar cubes to the horse who behaves best. By tying a rewards system to performance (which includes performing the documentation tasks) I favor the system which has positive feedback in whatever form that might take. It also includes negative feedback in the form of penalizing the supervisor on reviews, thus affecting the tangible factor of pay. If he does his job well and meets or exceeds expectations, he gets what he deserves in the form of a pay increase in line with whatever curve you establish. Nothing more, but, perhaps he gets less when he does not perform. Reduce a supervisors annual increase often enough for this reason and it will eventually either get his attention (and be corrected) or you'll deal with it as a performance issue and terminate him if it's serious enough. We pay people for doing their jobs every day of our lives. It's time we started diminishing pay for poor performance. And that includes supervisors.
  • My God, this is the biggest issue that I deal with! It is a lack of documentation in general. A supervisor wants to terminate, but has no documentation to back it up. Then is mad at me (HR) because I won't let them terminate and place the company assets at risk. Just because California is an at-will state doesn't mean a thing! Employees who are released still feel they have been discriminated against in some fashion. I do not believe that supervisor's should be rewarded for doing what they should be doing. However how to get them to do it is still an issue after 12 years in HR. I wish there was an electronic device that would not let them leave the building until they have documented any personnel issues. If you create that please let me know and I will be the first in line to buy it!

  • I have tried my best to identify for you THE ELECTRONIC DEVICE that will make this work. It's called your computer keyboard, upon which you or another person key in certain things; and the outcome is the supervisor's annual review. If he performs well, he gets only what is expected. If he performs poorly, his reward is either diminished or non-existent. Nothing else works in my estimation. But I only have 34 years of experience. Maybe somebody out there somewhere will come up with your electronic door device and make it easier.
  • I don't think we need to go high tech. How about a hammer? Boing!
  • My biggest problem is gettig the supervisor to make any documentation at all! They know they are supposed to and yet the don't!
  • I have started to "invite" the Managers and/or Supervisors to unemployemnt hearings with me. I get then all juiced up and nervous. After their first hearing, they learn the what's and why's'd be surprised at how much good documentation I get now.................
  • That's excellent advice Ann. Supervisors where I came from tended to always huddle and giggle when HR had to go to hearings. It was one of those things that "HR will handle - They'll get us out of this one". It does indeed make a difference when you try to find a reason to insist that a supervisor always accompany you to a hearing. Be sure he understands this is not a trip the park, but that he will have to prepare for it, sweat until he's called as a witness, give testimony and be cross examined by the party he did or didn't do documention on.
  • Don, that's exactly what I do. I also try and attend department managers meetings every now and then, and I'm sure to ask the most recent "guest" to recount their tale to the rest of the group. It really does work........
  • I battle this on a weekly basis but I have some thoughts on providing the supervisor the an "outline" of "how to document." A list of questions to answer to actually create the document. I work with a number of managers that have been "promoted" through the ranks without actual management training and in the 1 1/2 years with the company I constantly battle an attitudes of "We never had to do this before; why do we have to write EVERYTHING down now?" I thought by providing an outline of what information I need; date, employee involved, incident or situation, corrective action, signature, etc.; it may help keep them on track and focused on what exactly I'm looking for. Give me your thoughts.

    Dawn Weeks
    Finch Services
  • Good topic. Many of us are experiencing similar difficulties. We are an agency providing human services in our community. That tends to attract employees that are very touchy/feely and do not handle confrontation very well. Consequently, when they provide oral coaching, it is often misunderstood to be a call for corrective action on the part of the ee. Then as the problems continue and the next step in the progressive policy is initiated, the warnings are still understated and not specific enough. Finally, when the steps progress to written warnings, the ee may finally be getting that there is a problem, but they are often mystified as to how they got to this stage.

    We also experience the situation where all of the coachings and the disciplinary actions that have been taken were never written at all, not even notes in calendars. When the situation gets bad enough, they start scrambling to cover their rears and create the record.

    This responsibility is not specifically spelled out in our job descriptions, nor is it addressed in our evaluation process for supervisors. I'm going to shoehorn both of these suggestions into the documents right away. Now if I can just figure out how to get the supervisors to implement.....
  • OK Marc, it's about time you posted a profile. Anonymity after 100 posts is frowned upon.
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