After writing about my friend who got dumped on in her performance appraisal it got me thinking about the incident in which she was accused by a co-worker of not being “cooperative” and thus got dinged by her boss for not working well with people. Four months later my friend hears about the incident. What sense does that make? She could barely remember the incident much less work through what she could have done differently.

Prior to taking any discipline or dinging someone in their performance review it is paramount that you investigate the incident. It seems basic but managers often fail to take this important step. Never assume what you are hearing is correct. There are always two sides to every story….and you need to get both of them.

In the case above, the manager should have spoken to my friend and told her what the complaint was and asked for her side of the story then made a decision if she felt she had the facts needed. Or…what I find works really well…is to ask the person with the complaint to come over and meet with the person they have the problem with and the manager together. I find this eliminates lots of problems because complaints that have no basis often simply disappear when the person has to face the person they are accusing. I find it very effective to get both parties in the room together and force them to communicate. Then…based on the information I learn I decide on a course of action.

There are several benefits to getting people face-to-face. 1) Weak accusations tend to disappear 2) It forces communication 3) The person who works for you knows you are investigating and that you care about what has happened. It also sends the powerful message that you respect them enough to want to hear both sides of an issue.

Unfortunately…most bosses I see tend to accept the word of people who are outside of their department and automatically jump to the conclusion that the person who works for them made a mistake. NEVER do that! It is a sure way to destroy morale, trust and loyalty of your people. ALWAYS investigate before taking action! If you do you will become known as a manager that is fair and listens before making decisions…which is exactly the reputation you want to have.