• Karen Williams

Why Written Documentation Really Does Matter – The Dreaded Performance Evaluation



If you work in Human Resources, you have lots of fascinating stories. Here is a real situation where the names have been changed to protect the company.


Carly runs your office, keeping track of the day-to-day details as well as dealing with the staff. You are very busy with big picture issues, meeting on a regular basis with higher-ups in your company, and you don’t have time to micromanage all the problems you consider trivial.


Carly has been your office manager for five years. Your company requires you to do performance evaluations on everyone. In order to minimize the amount of time spent on evaluations, you make sure to set up Carly as your only direct report. She takes care of the evaluations of everyone else in the office, and you never look at them. You may sign them every year, but you don’t recall. It doesn’t really matter to you, because you consider them to be completely unnecessary.


Every year you ask Carly to complete her own evaluation. Carly always gives herself the highest evaluation possible. You just sign it.

In February 2020, some of Carly’s staff started bugging you in the hallway complaining about Carly. They told you she was mean to them, making snide comments about their work, and that she wouldn’t work with them when they requested time off. They were really ticked off because Carly didn’t seem to work the required 40-hour week. They said she came in late on a regular basis and left work early very often.


Now that so many people are working from home because of the pandemic, more of Carly’s staff have started to contact you directly to complain about her. You’ve called and emailed Carly to tell her to get her staff under control, and she is really slow getting back with you. You are starting to think that maybe Carly really isn’t the office manager you need.


You call Layla, your Human Resources person, and tell her you need to fire Carly ASAP. Layla looks at Carly’s evaluations, sees that she appears to be a perfect employee, and sees no other documentation in her file. Layla asks you if you have any other written documentation. You say no, but it doesn’t matter because Carly needs to go. ASAP!


  • Is it time to terminate Carly?

  • How does your documentation support Carly’s termination?

  • Might Carly challenge her termination?

  • What documentation would make the decision to terminate Carly defensible?

  • How do you put documentation in place?


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