5 Reasons You Must Get the Employee’s Explanation

It’s critical to get the employee’s explanation for performance problems and to include it in your documentation, says West, principal at Employment Practices Specialists in Pacifica, California. Her suggestions came at SHRM’s annual conference and exhibition, held recently in Las Vegas.

Yes, West admits, when you ask for explanations, many times you’ll hear some stunning—sort of amusing—responses:

“I didn’t know the policy meant all types of alcohol were prohibited at work.”
“I didn’t realize I had to get approval for a flexible schedule.”
“I didn’t know my practicing the Heimlich maneuver on my co-workers could be offensive and unwelcome.”

All humor aside, West explains, including the employee’s explanation in your documentation is important. It does several things, she says:

1. Ties the employee to his or her “story.” From a legal perspective, that’s important, West notes. If you don’t pin the employee down to a specific explanation, a clever attorney may later come up with another explanation that could be plausible to a jury or government agent.

2. Shows two-way communication. Including the explanation indicates that you want to find out if there’s something positive that you can do to improve the situation.

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3. Demonstrates your fairness. Remember that juries are often more motivated by their sense of fairness than by the specifics of the law in question.

4. May help you correct employee performance. Again, you are not out to punish or find fault, you want to help the employee improve and be a productive member of the staff.

5. May reveal a reasonable explanation. It’s normal to assume that there is no reasonable explanation, but there may be. For example, perhaps materials run out at certain times and that’s interfering with production, or perhaps there’s a child with a terrible illness, and that’s responsible for an employee being 10 minutes late.

Dealing with documentation—a critical task, but certainly not your only challenge. In HR, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. Like FMLA intermittent leave, overtime hassles, ADA accommodation, and then on top of that whatever the agencies and courts throw in your way.

You need a go-to resource, and our editors recommend the “everything-HR-in-one website,” HR.BLR.com. As an example of what you will find, here are some policy recommendations concerning e-mail, excerpted from a sample policy on the website:

Privacy. The director of information services can override any individual password and thus has access to all e-mail messages in order to ensure compliance with company policy. This means that employees do not have an expectation of privacy in their company e-mail or any other information stored or accessed on company computers.

E-mail review. All e-mail is subject to review by management. Your use of the e-mail system grants consent to the review of any of the messages to or from you in the system in printed form or in any other medium.

Solicitation. In line with our general non-solicitation policy, e-mail must not be used to solicit for outside business ventures, personal parties, social meetings, charities, membership in any organization, political causes, religious causes, or other matters not connected to the company’s business.

We should point out that this is just one of hundreds of sample policies on the site. (You’ll also find analysis of laws and issues, job descriptions, and complete training materials for hundreds of HR topics.)

About me
Creative-Enthusiastic-Positive and People oriented HR Professional. My 10 years in HR as an assistant, then generalist, and now manager, have allowed me to grow and develop professionally and as a leader. Currently I am working as a Sr. Human Resource Consultant with few Start-ups. I am helping them Strategically in building best HR Practices. I have experience in below areas of Human Resource – Talent Acquisition (Recruitment & Selection), HR Policies & Procedures, Talent Management (HR Generalist), Performance Management System and Training & Development.
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