Monday, June 30, 2008

Would you happen to have a pen handy?

My mom is a firm believer in the reminder note. She'd scribble one before going to bed to remind herself about something I needed for school or an item to pick up at the grocery store. We always had stacks and stacks of scrap paper by the telephone in the kitchen, with the handy coffee mug stuffed with pens (some of which didn't write, but that was beside the point), just in case inspiration struck.

Years later, I find myself frequently employing Mom's reminder system. I have two different stacks of jot-able paper on my desk, another pad beside my office phone, a pad in my car (no, Mom and Chris, I don't write while driving!), a couple by the computer at home, and the ever-important magnetized one on the refrigerator. Why? Because I've found that if I don't write my thought down, I don't remember it. It's as if the thought never happened.

Okay, all my HR friends out there - you saw that one coming. Anyone who has attended a seminar where attorneys talk about HR issues knows the favorite phrase by heart: "If you don't write it down, it didn't happen." Can I get an, "Amen!"?

Attorneys can be pretty creative people, so don't think we repeat that mantra just because we don't have anything else to say. (The documentation saying, not the "Amen" saying.) It's because we've seen the scars from employment terminations, charges of discrimination, and lawsuits. Those are the rare situations where you wish you were, in fact, bleeding because the employee counseling form detailing all the shortcomings of the plaintiff gave you a paper cut. Often, though, the bleeding is from the jabs plaintiff's counsel has thrown at the employer for failing to document.

Yes, documentation takes time. Yes, employees frequently refuse to sign the counseling forms. Yes, it can be a struggle to come up with the verbiage for the forms. And yes, your attorney will love you even if you don't document. After all, defending a charge or case without documentation means that you and your attorney will probably get to spend more time together than would otherwise be necessary.

Write on!

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