Corrective Action Documentation

Corrective Action Documentation: Save Time and Money for Your Company

Documenting corrective actions for employees is vital for any organization. Proper documentation provides a record of conversations with an employee regarding their behavior and performance and can serve as a follow-up to feedback sessions for the employee’s own records.  

Further, it can provide protection to the employer if the employee challenges the corrective action or takes legal action if termination is involved. Termination should not come as a surprise to the employee, and documentation ensures you have a trail to show why termination was needed.

 Ensuring there is a performance management system with a formal documentation process in place will reduce any surprises to employees.  

Why is Documentation Important?

With proper documentation, employers can reduce the risk of an overly emotional termination and potential legal consequences following a termination. Documenting the corrective actions taken before a termination demonstrates legitimate reasoning for the decision.

A documented corrective action process also provides protection against claims of adverse employment actions such as discrimination. A progressive discipline process can take time, but it can ultimately save time and money during a discrimination or retaliation claim.

 Documentation provides proof of the fairness of your company’s corrective procedures.

Completing and Documenting Corrective Procedures

When completing a corrective action with an employee, it is important to include clear information related to each item discussed in your documentation. This includes:

  • The infraction that occurred
  • The goals set for dealing with the infraction
  • The expected outcomes
  • A timeline for improvement

The goal of this documentation is not to capture every performance issue from the past. Instead, focus on key improvement areas from current performance. You want to pay attention to the issues with the greatest impact.

Remember, more is not always better. Nit-picking, or adding every possible item, can create the perception of discrimination or retaliation which adds potential risk. Keep your documentation simple.

Use straightforward but detailed wording in describing the infraction. Focus on the specific employee behavior. Reference only facts while leaving out emotions, interpretations, personal impressions, and hypothetical outcomes.

If the employee disagrees with the information being shared, listen briefly, acknowledge the comments, and quickly bring them back to the performance issue of discussion.  If the employee brings up relevant items, note them and commit to follow-up with them by a specific day. Review the draft of the documentation for professionalism and accuracy.

Encourage Performance Improvement

Permanent changes in performance may take some time and planning. This often requires follow-up conversations gauging progress. When you need to take corrective action, always follow up after the initial meeting to verify and discuss improvements in the employee’s behavior.

It is a best practice to also document these follow-up conversations, often in the form of an email or addition to the performance document. This follow-up documentation should include a recap of progress, any improvements still needed, and a reminder of expectations for improvement timeframes.

Corrective Procedure Guidelines

When working with an employee on a corrective action, it is important to do the following:

Proactive Performance Management:

Daily performance management will drive improvements better than quarterly or annual reviews. Approach the employee when an issue first arises. Be upfront about what you will discuss and why. Be direct but positive, creating an environment of trust and open communication.

  • Your first contact can be a verbal discussion based on the performance problem. If this is the case, a follow-up email should be sent to the employee stating, “as per our conversation…”. If the infraction is more egregious, the first contact should be a written discussion/warning.
  • Review the policy, performance metric, or behavior involved and discuss the challenges the employee is having with meeting these metrics. It’s important to tie the behavior or performance issue back to the business impact. Be direct, give specific examples, numbers, or situations, and provide expectations for improvements (what and by when).
  • When an issue continues, additional contacts with an employee should include a written warning. Be sure to reinforce expectations around needed improvements and a timeline for these improvements. Make sure to also set a follow-up meeting.

Provide Feedback:

Corrective action is about more than pointing out issues. This should be a real conversation with the employee that gives them plenty of chances to give and receive feedback.

Be prepared to discuss not only the issue but also seek suggestions and input from the employee on what they will do to improve and meet the communicated expectations. If needed, provide suggestions on how they can make sought-after improvements.

Focus on the Behavior:

All documentation should remain objective, focusing on the employee’s behavior. It is important to not draw conclusions or focus on personal feelings. Describe specific behaviors that need to be addressed.

Focusing on specific behaviors will help to set a plan and outline actions for the employee to improve.

Set Goals:

Corrective action is about helping employees improve. Make sure to set realistic and achievable goals that help the employee enhance their performance.

You can also provide additional training or education if needed. Document and follow up on any support provided.

Remain Approachable:  

When providing feedback, create an atmosphere where the employee will feel comfortable and safe sharing concerns or needs with you in their attempt to improve. Let them know the feedback is for their benefit.

Encourage continued communication while the employee is working on their goals. Make sure they know support is available where needed during the corrective process.

Set Clear Timelines:

Create a clear and documented timeline for employees to meet the agreed-upon goals. Make sure to create an achievable timeline.

Communicate Corrective Plans to Affected Management:

Communicate the plan you develop with all members of management affected by the employee’s behavior. Provide written updates as needed to share progress. This guarantees all involved management are aware.

Clearly Define Consequences:

Corrective action only works if the employee is willing to make the needed changes. Discuss and notate the potential consequences if the employee chooses not to follow through with the plan set forth.

What if the Employee Refuses to Cooperate?

Providing a written warning can often be challenging, especially if the employee indicates they do not agree with the feedback. A written warning is an important document that provides a record of the corrective action taking place and the steps provided to resolve the issue.

If the employee refuses to participate in a plan of progressive discipline and refuses to sign the written warning, an employer can take steps to still complete the documentation.

  • At the bottom of the document write “employee refused to sign” followed by the signature of whoever witnessed the refusal.
  • Allow the employee the opportunity to write a rebuttal, which would allow them to share their objections, including information that may be unknown to the employer. Giving the employee the opportunity to provide a rebuttal provides additional documentation indicating the employee received disciplinary action.
  • If the employee made any legal claims during the discussion or in a written rebuttal, a follow-up on the claim needs to take place. Handle the follow-up in the manner you would with any employee legal complaint.
  • Send an email or provide a copy of the written documentation to the employee providing details about the meeting that took place and what items were discussed. Include any policy or infraction discussed and note if the employee agreed or disagreed. Document on the email that the employee refused to sign the warning at the conclusion of the meeting.

Just make sure you create a clear trail of the discussion involved and the actions attempted to help the employee improve. This documentation is your best defense against future disputes.

Create a Strong Performance Review Strategy

Consistently following a corrective action process with documentation is the best way to help an employee improve their performance. This process helps create positive relationships between management and employees. You can also save time and money in the future if you must defend decisions during legal actions.

Many disciplinary items can be resolved with small steps, clarifying communications, adjustment on the employee’s part, and a listening ear on the part of management.  This results in turning a negative situation into a long-term positive through increased retention.

This is all part of your performance review strategy. If you’re unsure of the effectiveness of your strategy, we can help. Check out our Performance Management Solutions available to help your employees shine.

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