Quiz: How to track employee performance and behavior

You’ve heard it before: Document, document, document your employee’s performance—both good and bad—to support your decisions as team leader. Not only will good documentation help you provide more direct feedback to employees, your copious records could help save the organization in case of an employee’s lawsuit.

Take this quiz to see if you know what makes for good performance documentation. For each item, choose the best option—A or B.

1. On a performance appraisal:

A. “Alexis has had difficulty meeting established expectations for speed and accuracy among employees in her position.”

B. “Alexis does not work fast enough and makes too many errors.”

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2. On a memo after a counseling meeting with an employee:

A. “When I noted that Jeremy had not turned in his weekly reports, he replied that he didn’t have time to ‘waste on busy work.’”

B. “When I noted that Jeremy had not turned in his reports, he became defensive and hostile.”

3. In your own records, such as in your planner:

A. “Talked to Charlene about status of project. May be late. Should follow up.”

B. “Talked to Charlene about project. She says problems communicating with other location may delay project. Should follow up.”

4. On a performance appraisal:

A. “Drew’s customers have consistently given us the highest ratings on satisfaction surveys.”

B. “Drew has consistently exceeded expectations for customer service and routinely outperforms other reps in this area.”

5. After an oral warning:

A. “Elise understands the importance of good attendance and will try to be on time.”

B. “Elise says she understands that good attendance is important. She committed to try to be at work on time from now on.”

What do your answers mean?

1. Both A and B are subjective, but B is more direct. Avoid clouding your meaning by writing in “businessese.” Either statement should be followed by objective measures—how quickly and accurately does Alexis work, and what does the job require.

2. A is better because it puts down on paper what Jeremy actually said, not the manager’s interpretation or reaction to what Jeremy said. Jeremy may not think his reaction was “defensive and hostile.”

3. B puts down on paper not just when, but why Charlene thinks the project might be late. This helps you follow up. You can send a memo or call the other locations if Charlene still has problems, and you’ll have a record of exactly when she first reported those problems to you.

4. A defines Drew’s performance in terms of a specific measure that can also be used to evaluate one employee’s work against another’s.

5. B is better. Though the difference is subtle and A is shorter, it doesn’t make it as clear as B that Elise actually said and agreed to those things—they’re not just the manager’s perceptions.