In HR and Management Opinions Can Get You in Trouble

by Michael Haberman on April 3, 2012 · 2 comments


I am certain it is no shock to anyone that having an opinion and expressing it can get you in trouble. It has happened to most, if not all of us, at some time. As a result of that experience many people avoid expressing their opinions to avoid conflict while others embrace the conflict and vociferously express theirs for all to hear.

We are all entitled to our opinion(s) and can exercise whatever restraint we wish. However, I want to counsel you on when you SHOULD NOT express your opinion. Care to guess when this is? I will give you a moment…… (tick, tick, tick)… ok time is up.

Opinion should not be expressed in employee performance documentation. That documentation requires recording OBSERVABLE BEHAVIOR related to job performance and when and where it varied from required standards. Saying that someone is not performing because they are “lazy” is not an observation it is an opinion. Saying someone is slowing down because they are getting older is not an observation, it is an opinion, which in this case could cause you legal problems. Saying someone is crazy is an opinion not an observation. I am sure you get the point by now. So stay away from the opinions and record the behavior. Better than “lazy”, is stating that Max did not perform the number of required transactions in the allotted time and has not done so for the past three days. That is observable behavior. That can be defined. That can be defended. “Lazy” can cause you problems.

Here are some other tips to help your documentation of performance:

    1. Include the good and the bad. Don’t assume the good is always what performance is and thus should not be noted.
    2. Date your notes. Let me repeat…. Date your notes. How else are you going to establish a timeline that is defensible if you do not date things?
    3. Be brief, be succinct but be thorough.
    4. Don’t just record behavior; correct the behavior if that correction is needed. After all we supposedly want to have good employees.

If you follow these steps and watched the opinionated, also generally interpreted as BIASED, verbiage you will improve the quality of your documentation.

By the way, pass this on to a supervisor, they might appreciate the training.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Hardy April 4, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Hi Mike,
Can you explain this a little?
“Don’t assume the good is always what performance is and thus should not be noted.”

Thank you,
Lisa Hardy

Reply

Sheritz April 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Lisa,

If I may, I think what he was trying to say is that one should not take good performance for granted and therefore not make note of it because it is considered to be the expected standard. Rather, the good and bad should be included for the sake of a balanced review.

Reply

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