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It happens to every manager: You sit down to prepare a staff member's review and realize you can remember only what the person has done the past few weeks. Or you allow only a single incident (good or bad) to color your assessment.

If you're relying solely on your memory to evaluate employee performance, you're making appraisals far more difficult than necessary. That's why it's best to institute a simple recording system to document employee performance.

Develop your system with these easy step-by-step guidelines in How to Conduct Motivating and Legally Sound Performance Appraisals. This audio-visual training CD comes complete with printed guides. Ideal for solo or group training. Learn More

The most useful, easy-to-implement way is to create and maintain a log for each person. Performance logs don't need to be complicated or sophisticated. They can simply be sheets of paper in a folder or files on your computer. Choose whatever means you're comfortable with.

The key is to establish a system that you will use regularly. No matter how you take notes, make sure to keep them confidential.

Recording performance: 6 tips

To begin the process, create a file for each employee you supervise. Include in each file a copy of the employee's job description, job application and résumé. Then follow these steps for recording performance:

1. Include positive and negative behaviors. Recording only negative incidents will unfairly bias your evaluation. Make a point to note instances of satisfactory or outstanding performance, too. One way to ensure a balanced reporting is to update employee performance logs on a regular basis, instead of waiting for a specific incident to occur.

2. Date each entry. Details such as time, date and day of the week help identify patterns that may indicate an underlying problem before it becomes more serious.

3. Write observations, not assumptions. In all log entries, be careful about the language you use. Performance logs can end up as evidence in a lawsuit. Your log comments should focus only on behavior that you directly observe. Don't make assumptions about the reasons for the behavior or make judgments about an employee's character. Keep out any comments that border on personal comment or that show personal prejudice.

Many employee lawsuits can be quickly dismissed if performance logs can clearly demonstrate a history of performance problems leading to the firing.

Maybe you don't want to upset a top performer who's been making a few mistakes. Or perhaps you don't want a consistently poor performer to get tearful or angry. You don't want anyone to misinterpret what you're saying. And you certainly don't want a lawsuit!

No, you simply want to help people improve. That's what How to Conduct Motivating & Legally Sound Performance Appraisals is all about.

4. Keep out biased language. A good rule of thumb: Any statement that would be inappropriate in conversation is also inappropriate in an employee log. That includes references to an employee's age, sex, race, disability, marital status, religion or sexual orientation. Don't suggest reasons for employee actions or make connections between events without direct evidence.

For example, you may know that Dan's wife recently filed for divorce, but don't suggest in the log that his personal problems are the reason his work performance has slipped.

5. Be brief, but complete. Log entries should use specific examples rather than general comments. Instead of saying, "Megan's work was excellent," say "Megan has reduced the number of data entry errors to fewer than one per 450 records."

6. Track trends. If you begin to see patterns, make notes in the log or flag prior incidents of the same behavior. You don't need to discuss every entry with your staff members. Bring your observations to the employee's attention only after you've defined a specific problem.

In just 60 minutes, this training CD – an interactive slide presentation with audio narration – will make any manager a better employee evaluator, with all the tools you need to give an effective and legally safe appraisal every time. The complete program includes:book cover
  • A 28-topic course that helps you focus on what matters most, from establishing expectations to setting the right tone to providing feedback – so your employees stay focused on their appraisals, not on you.
  • 3 quick quizzes to amplify and reinforce your learning: expectation goals vs. standards, how to improve ratings documentation and a final overall quiz.
  • 3 printed guides – a User's Guide, Discussion Guide and Participant's Guide – to complete and expand upon the training. You get a hard copy, so you can get started right away, with PDFs on the CD so you can print all the copies you ever need.
The User's Guide includes 4 helpful documents to make group training easy: an invitation memo, attendance roster, proof of attendance form and certificate of participation. We've thought of every detail, so you can concentrate on making your employees better.

Get your copy today!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

hostile work environment February 22, 2014 at 6:05 pm

I work for a government entity. The staff are vindictive and corrupt and they tend to bully and intimidate lower paying staff (clerical). Most do not speak up in fear of retaliation, but I do and this makes them retaliate more against me by lying about my customer service to my supervisor , my tone, my attitude…I have been threatened, harassed, called names, gotten threatening phone calls,my car scratched, had objects thrown at me etc..I reported every incident and documented it..yet they don’t do anything to them but they continuously call me in. You see I follow policy and procedure and they do not-nor do they have respect for management.. The morale is bad and staffs conduct worse. Management is aware of the culture of the department and the staffs conduct and has had several training, cabinet meetings, seminars, executive management come and speak to the entire department, they are even in the process of changing policies every time a staff does something…but the problem is they are NOT holding anyone accountable for not following policies…they blow it off! sooo since I am the stickler for following policies and they cant intimidate me I get the most complaints from staff. I have documented every incident and spoken to HR, OOD ( Dept. of Diversity) and NOTHING, upper management…I’m tired of getting called in and told someone did not like my tone etc..I also was told I am the common denominator even though they know the staff is not following policy…I don’t know what to do -I was told that if they have an investigation about me and my conduct and they call in people not one would have anything nice to say about me-because of their “Perception”…What about my perception and the bullying and abuse I have endured for over 6 years..we are losing staff because of this continuously and I have to pick up the slack of others work plus do mine and only get paid for my work but not the extra work. this is a witch hunt and how does one go about with this..how can they have an investigation knowingly the victim reports every incident…no matter what its them against me..please advise is this legal? Can they fire someone based on staffs “perceptions” (written or verbal)-what about my perceptions there are 2 sides to every story.. How am assumed as the “problem” when they know the entire department/staff is the problem -the culture as they claim…I have never been written up -I am a great employee, I show up on time,never late, don’t abuse my time off, my work is always complete before deadline etc…what is the problem help please…

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