How to Document Employee Behavior

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Documenting both the excellent and poor behavior of your employees is important for easing the stress of the yearly performance appraisals. After all, you may have five, 10 or even 20 employees you have to evaluate every year, and remembering the behavioral nuances of each worker is challenging without any consistent note taking. So, make the time to develop solid documenting skills for more detailed and accurate employee reviews.

Take daily notes about your employees to serve as a reminder during yearly performance appraisals, according to Kathryn Claytor, author of “Document Employee Performance Daily” on the University of New Hampshire Technology Transfer Center website. Record both positive and negative verbal conversations, as well as your employees’ body language during those exchanges. Record, for example, "May 17, 2010, 3:15 p.m.: Publications manager heard Cathy being rude to her co-worker, Lee. She said, 'It's not my job to help you compile the directory' after Lee asked for her help, and our office policy is that we help others when they ask. Cathy folded her arms in front of Lee in frustration." Discuss the behavior with the employee, documenting her response: "May 17, 2010, 3:30 p.m.: Discussed with Cathy her response to Lee when she asked for help compiling the directory. Cathy smiled, appearing to agree to help Lee, and said she would apologize." Consider the matter closed if the employee responds favorably to your meeting with her. If the rude behavior continues, however, or if she appears defiant in your meeting, warn her that you are placing a memo in her employee file.

Make an effort to look for even the smallest indicators of positive behavior and reward them immediately, according to an article titled, “Documenting Employee Performance,” on the Proactive Practice Management website. Record, for example, "June 12, 2010, 10 a.m.: Tom received five compliments in the sales meeting about his friendly interactions with customers on the phone. Rewarded Tom with a customer service certificate of excellence." Continually document and recognize excellent behavior regularly throughout the year to boost office morale and ease the strain of remembering every detail during upcoming performance evaluations.

Discuss both excellent and poor behavior on the written evaluation, says Claytor. Compliment employees on excellent behavior, such as politeness or friendliness, or any behavior that has improved over time. If you've documented poor behavior that hasn't improved, however, remind your employee of the written memos you've placed in her file, as well as your meetings to discuss these matters. If the poor behavior persists, terminate the employee promptly.

Keep only application materials, job offer letters and employment agreements in an employee’s personnel file according to an article entitled, “What Employers Should and Shouldn’t Keep in Employees’ Personnel Files” on the HR Hero Line website. Don’t put anything in the file that you do not intend to use for evaluation purposes, including health records and personal cards as well as letters. Keep letters from customers and awards if you’re going to use them to evaluate the employee.