Important fields that an employee performance log should contain – Beginner Level

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In my previous post, I provided five reasons a manager should keep a log that documents an employee’s behaviors and performance.  The log does not have to be exhaustive, but having a log is better than not having a log.  The easiest way to get started is to use a spreadsheet.  If you can handle creating your own spreadsheet, here are the fields that you should add to the log.  This is the beginner version.  In my next blog entries, I’ll provide some intermediate and advanced fields.

Item number/event

This way you create a unique identifier for the item you’re logging.  It’ll come in handy if you need to make a reference back to a prior log entry.

Date of incident

This is the date of the incident in question, not the date that you entered it into the log.  This will come in handy if you need to look up emails or other artifacts related to the incident.

Name of employee

This log is focused on individual performance management, so obviously, each entry should be focused on a particular employee.  If the same entry affects multiple employees, then copy the same info for the other employees.  Expect to customize the other entries for each employee, lest you make the mistake of conflating all employees to have the same behavior, generating many of the negative aspects that what I call “public feedback” creates.

Title of employee

Not absolutely crucial, but it is a good reminder about what the employee ought to be doing in their day-to-day job.  If all of your entries documenting the performance are not really related to the job title, then this is less about the employee, and more about the work you’re expecting the employee to perform.  For example, if the job title is “Software Developer” and all of your entries are about how the software developer didn’t do a good enough job pitching ideas to executives, this may not be about the developer’s performance, and more about your assignment of job tasks.


This is a big field, but try to keep this short.  This serves as a reminder of what this was all about. (“Executive Review”, “Kick-off meeting the new product design”)

Observed behavior

This is where the bulk of the writing ought to be.  The idea with this field is to document what you read, saw or heard the employee do.  Do what you can to use behavior-based language.  I provide many tips on improving your behavior-based language in this blog.  Keep reading!  If you do this badly (i.e., use value judgments and generalizations), then this will defeat the purpose of keeping a performance log and reflect poorly on your ability as a manager.  The more objective and behavior-based it is, the better.    You shouldn’t be afraid to show this log to your employee or Human Resources.  That’s how objective it needs to be.

If the behavior is hearsay (you weren’t there), then it needs noted as such.  It would be more judicious not to include any hearsay at all, and instead focus on directly observed behavior.  After all, you’re just getting started on your log!  It’s best not to mess up your log at the start with hearsay, rumor or non-verifiable information.  Consider hearsay-type situations a “complex feedback situation.”

Preferred behavior

As discussed before, if you provide performance feedback, you need to at least attempt to identify the preferred behavior you want to see from the performer.   If you cannot articulate what it is, then you need to consider having an open discussion with the performer what could be preferred actions.  Of course, if the performer is doing exactly what you think is most effective, then indicate “same” in this column.

So here is your beginner-level employee behavior log:

Item num-ber Date Name Title Context Observed behavior Preferred behavior

It’s nothing to amazingly complex, is it?  But what is amazing is how infrequently managers actually use any tool to track employee performance and behaviors.

Starting this log allows you to practice documenting issues and great work in behavior-based terms.  Re-read what you’re writing to see if you are describing the behavior.  Are you describing what you directly observed?  Are you describing their behavior, and avoiding value judgments and generalizations?  Great! Then this is good preparation for providing feedback to the employee, an important job task for any manager.    Future blog entries will provide some good and bad examples of what it could look like filled in.

My next blog entries will provide some intermediate and advanced fields that you can use to further enhance the value of your employee performance log.

Related articles:

Helpful tip for managers: Keep a performance log

Behavior-based language primer for managers: Examples of how to improve employee corrective feedback and how to get rid of damaging adverbs

How to use behavior-based language to lead to evaluation and feedback

Behavior-based language primer for managers: How to tell if you are using behavior-based language

Behavior-based language primer for managers: Avoid using value judgments

Behavior-based language primer for managers: Stop using generalizations

Why the annual performance review is often toxic

When an employee does something wrong, it’s not always about the person. It’s about the system, too.

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


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  1. […] my previous blog posts, I provide some beginning, intermediate, and advanced fields for a manager to maintain in tracking performance and behaviors […]

  2. […] details and examples about what each of these column headings mean, see my article on Important fields that an employee performance log should contain—beginner. Note that you should not plan to show it to the manager, but if it does accidentally get into the […]

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