Importance of Documenting Verbal Conversations
Colleagues, customers and business associates often communicate with one another through assistants, voice mail, text messages and group meetings. The context of conversations has the potential to be diluted or skewed through shorthand communication and verbal dialogue. Documenting in writing the nature of a discussion ensures key issues are formally identified, and it can help ensure accurate communication in a workplace environment. The key is to make sure everyone involved in the conversation receives a copy of the documentation and signs off on it as an acknowledgement of receipt, review and agreement.
Documenting verbal conversations is one way to make sure that everyone involved in a discussion are in agreement with the content of the conversation. Colleagues who are taking on cellphones with poor reception, in groups with numerous participants, or who are involved in a heated debate can often lose or misunderstand pertinent details. Documenting the key elements of the conversation and simultaneously distributing them to all interested parties can help clarify the exact nature of the conversation. Recipients can be instructed that, “If any points of the discussion summary are unclear, or disputed, please clarify as soon as possible.”
A document of a verbal conversation can serve as written confirmation of the terms of a spoken agreement or arrangement. This avoids confusion or disagreement at later dates. For example: “Per our conversation of October 25, you will have a completed graphics layout of the annual report available for the printer by the close of business on November 1.” Using this example, a graphic designer who then fails to meet deadline by saying he misunderstood the timeline can be shown the written documentation of the conversation in which he agreed to the date.
Managers who document verbal employee performance reviews, reprimands and salary negotiations are able to retain a written record of employee interactions. Using this example, an employee who agrees to a 10 percent raise and later disputes the raise should have been 15 percent, the manager can refer to the documented conversation as evidence of the lower number. Likewise, an employee who disputes the number of times he has been late can be shown written proof of his tardiness if the verbal reprimands have been documented.
Documentation of verbal conversations is a vital element to fighting claims of workplace discrimination or harassment. Managers who encourage employees to document such incidents create a written trail of evidence that can prove or disprove allegations of workplace conflict. This serves as a protective measure for employees charging the violation, and it can also serve as a protection of employers when they document steps taken to investigate and appropriately address any such claims.