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How to Document an Incorrect Behavior in the Workplace

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Proper documentation can help you prove that a co-worker, subordinate or boss is behaving inappropriately. Documentation provides a record of the incident as well as details that will help management investigate and verify your claim. It’s important to understand what details should be included before you begin documenting incidents of inappropriate behavior.

Be Specific

Some companies provide employees with forms for incident reports or grievance claims. If your company provides this type of form, use it to document your complaint. If this form isn’t available, create your own form. Start your report with the date, time and place that the incident incurred. Write the names of everyone who was present at the time. This information is very important, as witnesses can help corroborate your account of the incident. Write a heading that summarizes the problem, such as “employee theft," “sexual harassment” or “failure to follow procedures.”

Details Make Your Case

Provide a detailed description of the inappropriate behavior. For example, if you saw an employee steal company equipment, you might write, “I saw Jane Doe enter the break room and take the coffee maker. She hid the coffee maker under her coat and took it to her car.” If your subordinate refused to comply with a directive, you might write, “I told John Smith to leave the sales floor at 11:05 a.m. and open an additional cash register. He refused. I told him again, and he replied, ‘No. I’m going on break.’” The Community Toolbox website suggests that you use a step-by-step sequence of events when you write the description of the incident.

Provide Supporting Materials

Supporting materials can help strengthen your complaint. Include emails, memos or other documents that back up your version of events. A copy of John Smith's time card for the date in question might show that he clocked out for break at 11:10 a.m., five minutes after you asked him to report to a cash register. Phone messages and texts also can be important. If someone makes a derogatory, abusive, sexually or racially inappropriate comment, a saved message or text can offer very strong supporting evidence for your complaint.

Submit Your Report

Find out who should receive your report. If your complaint concerns a co-worker, you might submit your complaint to your supervisor, or to both your supervisor and your human resources department, if required by your company. A complaint about a supervisor might go to HR or your supervisor’s boss. Consult your employee handbook before you file your complaint to ensure that you follow the proper procedure. Keep a copy of your complaint in case your supervisor or HR loses it. It’s a good idea to keep a copy at home, particularly if you’re afraid a vindictive co-worker or supervisor might destroy the copy of your report or delete it from your computer.


Working at a humane society allowed Jill Leviticus to combine her business management experience with her love of animals. Leviticus has a journalism degree from Lock Haven University, has written for Nonprofit Management Report, Volunteer Management Report and Healthy Pet, and has worked in the healthcare field.

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