In HR we preach that everything needs to be documented. We do this first because our lawyers tell us that to effectively defend ourselves in court it is much more important to have pieces of paper than to have spoken words. As an attorney put it once “I would rather have one page of documentation than 10,000 words of testimony. The other reason is that we have learned that memory has some difficulties associated with it and that is why documentation is important.
In a PsyBlog post called How Memory Works: 10 Things Most People Get Wrong, number 4 on the list was Recalling memories alters them. Most of us would probably say that memory decay and eventually fade. Research has shown that what is actually occurring is that recalling of memories in fact makes them stronger. The recall reinforces the memory making other memories weaker in comparison. Now this may make you think that this not support for saying we need to document. But…We alter our memories
Science has shown that we can create memories, even ones that did not exist. Psychologists have even experimentally implanted false memories. According to PsyBlog “false memories can be created by this process of falsely recalling the past. Sometimes that is referred to as selective memory. This certainly becomes problematic in a case that may drag on for years. What does the witness end up selecting or creating when on the witness stand.
Put it down on paper
There is a Chinese proverb that says “The palest of ink is better than the best memory.” The lesson here is that in order to provide the proper defense of the company every situation needs to be documented, be it on paper or electronically. Even brief notes work to help spur memory. It works well not only for defense, but in remembering good work and deeds, remembering things said by candidates, collecting thoughts on something read, etc. It is JUST SO EASY TODAY to record information that there is no excuse. Then there is always the fall back position that if they can remember to document you can’t remember to put their next raise through… oh wait you have used that before? Nevermind.
Further information can be found in this post: The DNA of HR Decisions: Why Documentation is Important
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