Many women do not report incidents of bullying, harassment or discrimination in the workplace. A large part of that is a lack of proper documentation. Employees can’t report what they don’t document. While it may be nerve wracking to bring work discrimination documentation to HR, that is literally what they are there for.

Whether you are logging accomplishments, progress on goals, or unprofessional and problematic behavior, work documentation practices are critical. Work documentation is a means of protecting and advocating for yourself at work. It allows you to chronicle your current experiences and challenges while documenting your work activities.

Here’s a look at why work documentation is so important and how to do it properly. 

Why Documentation Matters

Cierra Gross, the founder and CEO of Caged Bird HR, explained that the role of HR is to assess reports, conduct neutral and impartial investigations, and determine policy violations. Reporting abuse or mistreatment of any kind is your right as an employee.

“Most employees don’t have any understanding of their rights or HR in the workplace,” she told 21Ninety. “There are people out there right now who are experiencing something they know in their gut isn’t right, but they don’t know what to do about it or who to talk to.”

While impartial investigations might be the role of HR on paper, in real time, many employees view HR as inherently biased. Many believe that HR prioritizes the company’s interests over employee well-being. This thought process makes many employees, especially women of color, opt to suffer in silence. Thirty percent of Black women have not reported anything to HR when they reach out to Caged Bird HR, Gross added. 

What to Document

If an employee comes forward to HR to report workplace mistreatment, bias or harassment, it is critical that they have a paper trail. Documentation might include keeping notes about the details of the nature of the mistreatment or bullying. It might seem silly at first to write these things down, but it will be essential if you do decide to escalate the issue to HR.

Keep notes of times, dates, location, witnesses, and what was said or done. Keep copies of documents that showcase the person’s behavior or that might contradict any retaliatory accusations brought against you. 

How to Document Properly

Don’t overthink the “how” of workplace documentation. It can be as simple as documenting your work activity through Microsoft Word or Google Docs. You can write email summaries or record events on a notes application about incidents of harassment. The key is that documentation should be organized and shareable.

You can also utilize project management tools, like Trello or Asana, to record dates and times of incidents of harassment. Be sure to save any screenshots, secret audio recordings and emails to yourself or others that highlight the behavior you are reporting. Do your best to write down incidents as soon as possible. This way the details are fresh. Send copies of documentation to your personal email. This way there is no chance of these records being lost.