COPE CopeLine Supervisor

December 2015

A newsletter for supervisors and line managers

Documenting Your Work With Care

Have you ever sent a message in a moment of exasperation, then regretted it moments after hitting the send button? Are you fond of writing handwritten notes on office documents or attaching a Post-It with a quick thought? How often do you send an email that is short on the facts and long on opinion, and are you sure you know the difference? Each of these situations can easily occur when dealing with a difficult and disruptive employee. How you communicate and document the situation may have a very real effect on its outcome.

Nancy Singer, founder of Compliance-Alliance LLC and a former attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, regularly consults on matters of corporate communication and compliance. She counsels employees how to communicate effectively and to avoid common pitfalls. Here are a few of her pointers:

Determine if you need a written record. Eliot Spitzer, the former Attorney General of New York, once famously warned never to write anything down that you don't want known (of course, Spitzer had other failings, which eventually destroyed his political career). Off-hand observations made in anger or recorded carelessly can look quite different in a court of law, and all documents are subject to rules of discovery in a lawsuit. Additionally, excessive email is a burden to those who have to read it and can undermine the effectiveness of important communication. Before you hit the send button ask yourself, "is this a necessary message?"

If you have an opinion, but have neither the responsibility nor authority for the issue, express your idea orally. Written, unsupported opinions--even those scribbled on a seemingly innocuous Post-it note--can be damaging if discovered. A strong opinion can offend or compromise your relationship with colleagues and superiors. And remember that an opinion is strongest when informed through research and supported by credible sources.

Follow the "Need to Know" rule. We've all heard stories about the hastily-written, ill-conceived and even nasty email that is mistakenly sent to "Reply All." The fewer that have seen it, the easier it will be to delete and the better chance you have of getting out in front of it so as to avoid a major misunderstanding. Occasionally, writing an angry email can be therapeutic. If this is the case, get it off your chest, and then delete the email.

But what do you do if it's too late and the message is traveling at the speed of light through your office and beyond? "Time to close the loop," says Nancy Singer. For instance, if an e-mail reaches you that seems problematic--a colleague alleging that a government regulation is being violated, for instance--Nancy recommends closing the loop by replying, "Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We'll take a look at it," then forwarding it immediately to the appropriate manager and no one else.

If you are struggling with a difficult situation in your workplace, contact us at

Want to know the Impact of Marijuana Laws in Other States?

COPE was a founding member of the Workplace Collaborative, a national, invitation-only, collaborative of EAPs established in 1994. The Collaborative is composed of independent organizations representing the best-in-class approaches to employee assistance. This group of innovative thinkers are passionate about excellence in the EAP field and committed to being a model for the industry.

If you are interested in knowing how marijuana laws may be impacting employment policy in other states, contact us at We'd be pleased to put you in touch with a Collaborative member.

Cope Incorporated