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I’ve had to address a few concerns with HR and my manager regarding possible discrimination and unethical practices. My initial contact was made via email, and meetings were had almost immediately.

At the conclusion of meetings, I email, thanking them for meeting with me and ask that they send a recap of issues addressed and the explanations/solutions they provided, but they will only call or ask me to come to the office to address... Not leaving any form of concrete evidence of such matters. What steps can I take to get this to happen?

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    If these are formal meetings why is no-one taking minutes? It's been said that without minutes from a meeting there was no meeting - or at least no decisions worthy of action being made.
    – Charemer
    Jan 16 at 0:44
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    Hi, generic reminder about engaging with HR: "HR is not your friend" (they work for their employer) inc-aus.com/jt-odonnell/…
    – Offirmo
    Jan 16 at 10:52
  • Re "come to the office to address": Address what? Something seems to be missing. Jan 16 at 21:05
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    Any chance you could write up YOUR notes from the meeting, email them and ask them for any corrections?
    – DaveG
    Jan 17 at 1:13
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    @bob Of course the OP could. It does put the other people in an awkward spot, and maybe there's a reason to not do it. But waiting for the other people to commit to writing sounds like a lost cause.
    – DaveG
    Jan 17 at 1:48

4 Answers 4

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If you want an e-mail trail, which is understandable, you should summarize the meeting and send that summary to the supervisor, asking whether there is anything they would have worded differently. If they choose not to respond, your presentation of the meeting results is obviously correct :-) If they request or suggest a change, whether orally or in writing, you may re-word your summary and go through the process again.

You can't force your manager to write down meeting notes, but they can't really prevent you from doing it.

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    I agree with this answer in principle and was about to write something similar. But at least in the context of the US legal system saying "your presentation of the meeting results is obviously correct" is probably going too far. There are definitely ways to explain a failure to respond that do not imply endorsement. Still, it does create real evidence of what was said and if the other side wants to dispute it, it does put the onus on them to explain both what was incorrect and why they didn't correct the record. This is the right way to go, it just isn't absolute. Jan 14 at 19:54
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    @TimothyAWiseman - note the smiley after "obviously correct"
    – Llaves
    Jan 14 at 23:08
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    @TimothyAWiseman: If they don't correct you, that doesn't prove that what you wrote is correct. However, what it does do is provide a reasonable basis for you to then act on the assumption that it is indeed correct. If at a later time, the supervisor claims that OP did something completely wrong, OP can point at the email and respond that they were working based off of the meeting notes that were sent to the supervisor ages ago which they did not provide a correct for.
    – Flater
    Jan 15 at 2:17
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    @TimothyAWiseman: In other words, when facing scrutiny for your actions, the legal system is less about what is provably correct, and more about what you had good reason to believe was correct. If your belief was not unreasonable, then your behavior was not out of line (obviously restricted to reasonable meeting minutes in the first place)
    – Flater
    Jan 15 at 2:18
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    This is the solution I would have proposed, and I have used this in the past. However, I've found it usual that I simply get no replies to such e-mail messages, and they appear to be ignored. Depending on the situation, you may want to bring up the lack of a reply in your next face-to-face meeting to try to force a response (whether it be, "you're wrong," or "I accept that"). This additional pressure can also backfire, simply making the counterparty more annoyed and less likely to deal with the situation in a way beneficial to you. You'll have to make a judgement call for your situation.
    – cjs
    Jan 17 at 15:04
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You can't dictate to your boss how they communicate. However I would agree that when you are talking about ethical and discrimination practices, not getting a written record is a red flag (meaning a warning that something is not right). Your boss can say something and then deny that they said it later. Usually I would expect there to be written communication.

There's a couple of things you can try. First, take explicit notes in the meetings yourself. Openly write down everything that is said as it is said. If anything isn't clear read what you have written back and check it is accurate. Don't worry if this makes the meeting go slower - you are entitled to have accurate records in circumstances like this. Make sure you phrase this as "I want to make sure I'm remembering everything that is said" not "I want an accurate record for my lawyer", even if the latter is true. If possible, or if the boss objects to the time taken, ask if you can audio record the meetings instead. I would expect some pushback on this. Bosses don't like to have every little thing they say recorded, especially if they want to be able to deny some things later. Under no circumstances attempt to record meetings without their permission.

As well as this (and even more so if your boss doesn't allow you to take notes at your own pace) write yourself a written summary of what was said, send it to your boss, and tell them to get back to you if anything you wrote was inaccurate. If they don't reply ask them specifically at your next meeting if your summary was accurate.

Assuming HR is involved (and HR should always be involved in discussions like this) also send your summary of the meeting to HR. If there is no HR, send it to your boss' boss, or someone else in the company who has some authority.

The point of this is a) when your boss denies he promised you something, you have the email where you told him that you thought he had promised it, and he didn't correct you (and hopefully even agreed in writing). Copying HR will also flag things for their attention if you boss promises something that can't be delivered.

By aware that these are somewhat confrontational. You can and should use them in cases like this, but not in everyday interactions with your boss.

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    "not getting a written record is a red flag." It's not a red flag. It's standard procedure for any HR of any company. HR's role is to protect the company first and foremost. Jan 14 at 10:30
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    It means that HR/boss don't want to be held accountable. So in that sense it's a red flag, even if it's also standard procedure. Something can be both "very bad for the employee" and "standard procedure". Jan 14 at 13:59
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    @DJClayworth, I guess we both have a different definition of what "red flag" means. To me, a "red flag" means that you shouldn't be working at such a company. Unfortunately, this "red flag" behavior is so common, it would eliminate 99% of the jobs out there. Jan 14 at 19:05
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    Yes, there's two ways "red flag" is used. One is that a warning sign that something is not right. The other is that it's a deal breaker, and you should get out at all costs. I mean the first. (Please don't anybody use comments to tell me that you think it should be the other way.) Jan 14 at 19:50
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    @Stephan You seem to have been working for a whole lot of pretty awful companies, because this is certainly not standard in my experience. If the only way HR can "protect the company" is to ensure there is no papertrail something is horribly wrong (and almost certainly going to achieve the opposite of protecting the company in the medium to long term).
    – Voo
    Jan 15 at 18:06
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Always remember HR is a last resort. Lower your expectations to the ground. They are not on your side. They exist to protect the company from problem employees, and no matter which employee is the perpetrator and which is the victim, both are considered problem employees.

The perp is a problem because they make employees complain about them and consume company time dealing with it.

The victim is a problem because they can't suck it up and instead complain and consume company time dealing with it.

From the company's point of view, the actual problem is that company time has been consumed without producing product.

At some point in time, someone mistakenly thought HR stood for "Human Relations" and that mistake frequently gets repeated. But, no, it stands for "Human Resources". You are one of the company's resources, just like iron is a resource in a foundry. That's all you are to HR—except unlike iron, you might get uppity when someone beats you down.

Also, we're keen to say HR protects the company first, but the real truth is that HR protects HR first, which is why it's hard to get a paper trail from them. The company comes second, and you ... miiight be on the list somewhere, if they feel like they can't fire you without hurting the bottom line—at least not too much—or creating a legal liability risk.

If you want a paper trail (or an e-trail), you have to make it yourself. State in writing what happened during the meeting in terms that clearly state what you heard and therefore expect from the company going forward, e.g. "Thank you for addressing my concerns in the meeting we just had. I was glad to hear that Pat is no longer allowed to light campfires in the office." CC everyone present at the meeting and print it out for your own records.

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    I know that this sentiment about HR is very common, especially here and in other social media; and it is of course easy and safe to use this in advice. There are definitely companies out there where HR is not the enemy of humans, and where HR knows that the people in the company are, in fact, more important than some wasted hours. -1 for using 4x the space on the usual "HR bad" line (compared to a final paragraph with the actual advice) which is completely irrelevant here.
    – AnoE
    Jan 17 at 8:27
  • @AnoE - Yes, there are of course exceptions to the rule, but they should be treated as such. Expect the worst and be happy if you find something better. It's just safer that way. And, to be fair, it doesn't usually take very long to figure out which kind of HR you have, so starting out wary doesn't mean you have to stay wary for very long if you get a kind/sensible HR rep. I just always remember an HR person who told me that because I had vacation days scheduled for the same time two days the office was closed due to inclement weather, I had therefore used up those two vacation days. 🙄
    – Aiken Drum
    Jan 24 at 9:54
  • @AnoE Actually, now that I read your comment again, I realize you're being abrasive. I come to SE to seek & share wisdom. If I share more than was asked, I don't think that's a problem. People need to know about HR. If I can warn them in passing while talking about their specific case, that's a good thing. People can lose their job, ruin their reputation, or end their career by dealing with a malignant HR department unknowingly. I'm not going to be miserly with my wisdom, which was hard-won in similar situations, just because you think I spoke too long. Yours was not a helpful comment.
    – Aiken Drum
    Jan 24 at 10:04
  • The comment is not intended to be overly abrasive. I'm in the habit of commenting whenever I downvote. If it came over annoying, then it could just be me typing fast inbetween doing other stuff. That said, this is how SE should work IMO - people vote based on many aspects, not the least their opinion (especially in "soft" areas like Workplace). You are free to do with the comments whatever you please, including ignoring them. ;) (In this case, my issue ist mostly the relative length given to the different topics - the "HR issue" could be done with a single short sentence IMO).
    – AnoE
    Jan 24 at 12:37
  • @AnoE Sometimes the answer to a question is to tell the person they're asking the wrong question, e.g. a woman asks how to cover up the black eyes her husband gave her; the advice she wants is the not the advice she actually needs.
    – Aiken Drum
    Jan 25 at 15:16
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You won't.

If someone, despite multiple requests, continues to communicate only verbally and not in writing, they have a good reason for doing that, and they have already clearly shown you that they are unwilling to put anything in writing.

Especially if these are HR people or supervisors, this is almost certainly an intentional move on their part.

What you can do, as a weak replacement, is to send them an e-mail yourself summarizing the points. Don't ask them to confirm - if they avoid writing as obviously as they seem to do, they won't do that. Instead, at the end of the mail ask them an innocent, unrelated question. Such as confirming the follow-up meeting date or asking for one, or something else. You want them to respond to that, which at least gives you a small proof that you actually sent and they actually received and read your mail. This is probably the best you can get. If they're responding to that by calling you, then you need to start writing a diary or logbook, because something serious is up.

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