The employee view of the paper trail

Sections of this topic

    In a previous post, I mentioned the concept of the “paper trail” in organizations. Regardless of your position in your organization, the likelihood that you understood this term is high. The conversation in that blog post between the manager and HR professional is also very familiar to both managers and HR professionals. At some point in their career, most supervisors and HR pros have probability participated in a similar dialogue and it most likely ended in a feeling of frustration for both parties.

    What about Bob?

    In the fictitious dialogue in my previous post, Bob is the employee. According to Bob’s manager, he is not performing to expectations. However, even though he feels like he has had multiple conversations with him, Bob most likely feels like is doing a good job. His feeling is probably not the result of an oversized ego; but rather, it comes from a lack of consistent honest performance feedback.

    So what happens when Bob’s supervising manager finally decides to give him a corrective action document? Bob sees it as the beginning of the “paper trail.” The “paper trail” is something that Bob has heard about. For him, it’s the beginning of the end. It is what managers give employees when they are trying to get rid of them. Bob’s emotions at this point could vary depending on multiple factors, but most likely include one or all of the following: frustration, anger, defensiveness, or sadness. Ultimately, most of the parties involved want the same result. The supervising manager wants Bob to do a good job. The HR manager wants Bob to do a good job. Bob wants to do a good job. Further, the company wants Bob to do a good job. The solution is finding a way to help everyone get what they want.
    I will discuss this further in my next post. What ideas do you have to accomplish this? What has worked in your organization? Does your organization have a performance culture or does it resemble the
    fictitious scenario discussed here?


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    Sheri Mazurek is a training and human resource professional with over 16 years of management experience, and is skilled in all areas of employee management and human resource functions, with a specialty in learning and development. She is currently employed as the Human Resource Manager at EmployeeScreenIQ, a global leader in pre-employment background screening.