Disagreements between co-workers are nothing new. But when a disagreement turns into a heated argument, someone needs to take action. Whether you are a colleague or manager, you might be asked to document the incident. If the situation escalates into claims of harassment or discrimination, it's in the company's best interest to have a record of what happened.
The first step is to find out whether your company has any policies in place that dictate what you should do when dealing with this type of situation. Your employee handbook might have information or forms you're supposed to fill out. Your company's human resources staff might also provide guidance on what to document and how to do it.
What you Witnessed
As soon as the incident happens, write down what you witnessed personally. Document who the argument involved, what happened, when it happened, where it happened, and why it happened if you know the cause of the argument. State the facts as you saw them without injecting your own judgment of who was right or wrong.
If you are a manager, get a statement from each person who was involved -- especially if you think the incident involved harassment or discrimination. Get a tape recorder and inform each participant that you're going to be recording the conversation. Have a private interview with each person involved, asking each one to share her version of what happened. Following the interviews, type out a transcript of what was said. Print out a copy of the interview and have the interviewees sign it as proof they said what you wrote.
If other employees were around during the argument, initiate a similar process with them. If any of the employees were asked to write down what they saw, gather their written reports. After that, ask each witness to participate in an interview, during which you ask questions about what they saw. Type and print the transcripts and have the interviewees sign it. Save all of the interview transcripts and written statements in a secure file. Make sure every interview transcript also includes the date the interview was conducted, who was in the room during the interview, and who drafted the transcripts of the interviews.
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