To be clear, I am a fan of using emails, letters, and memos to ensure both the manager and the leader are on the same page. Speaking broadly, within the performance management system, a documented discussion is generally reserved for more severe infractions. You would not see it listed under employee engagement strategy. And it comes with some negative or not so pleasant connotations around it. No one looks forward to receiving or providing a documented discussion. Even cold sounding verbiage of documenting the discussion can be casually termed around the workplace as, “getting a write up” or “letter to file”.
You may be thinking, “We’re good with that though! We need the employee to understand this is a serious matter!”
My thought is that the PROCESS of documenting discussions should not carry negative connotations and should be an objective often utilized performance management tool. The words, meaning, and content making up the letter should dictate the intention. In addition to ensuring transparency, this supports a leader’s need for documentation for performance appraisal time. This provides a culture of documentation that encourages open dialogue where no coaching is left unspoken, or worse, misunderstood.
Change the concept of the “letter to file” as a step in progressive discipline that is feared and begin documenting the discussions to build on the employee’s growth as they overcome challenges.
Leaders can be using memos as a tool to ensure clarity over what was discussed when coaching an employee. Instead of using “letter to file” as a step in progressive discipline that is feared, begin documenting the discussions to review and draft additional memos documenting progress. Refer to the document to showcase where they are gaining traction and where they still need to focus on improving. Transparency reigns when you give a copy to the employee for their own reference.