The Second You (Formally) Document An Employee, Consider Them Gone
What is the actual purpose of writing up an employee?
Ever been written up at work? Your employer may call it “formal counseling”, a “performance improvement plan”, a “warning with terminable action” or any other corporate nonsense. I don’t care about the lingo — it’s formal documentation. If you are among those who’ve been written up, you’re probably not likely to admit it.
I’ll help by going first and saying I’ve certainly been documented by my employer before, and we’ll get into that a little later. But for now, I want to focus on one thing and one thing only:
What is the actual purpose of documenting an employee?
You’ll find the answer to this question differs from company to company and even from manager to manager within a given organization. The problem is this, though: if the purpose is anything other than getting the employee to leave, the company doesn’t understand what formal documentation actually does.
The only thing a formal write-up is correlated to is the receiving employee being gone within the next 12 months. I’ve seen zero evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, to indicate they actually improve job performance in anyone over the age of say, 25. Just the mention of them going around the office deflates morale, let alone receiving one. And it leaves an open wound on the employee-employer relationship that won’t heal.
Realistically, if you’re going to write an employee up you might as well save some time and just fire them. Your legal team won’t allow that of course, hence the need for documentation, but that’s the road you’re heading down. Better embrace it.
A morale-killing, productivity-draining exercise
As a manager, all you need to do is browse forums and articles to see what the real-world effects of a write-up are. Examples range from incredulous bosses asking why their “top” employee quit following formal documentation to people being told that they had better leave immediately subsequent to their own write-up. It’s obvious that the second you print that document, you’ve started a clock on your relationship with…