Harold had been employed as a human service professional for over 20 years in a sheltered workshop for adults with developmental disabilities.

Harold had been employed as a human service professional for over 20 years in a sheltered workshop for adults with developmental disabilities. He was an effective worker and was well liked by his clients and colleagues as well by the agency’s administrators. Over the years, he had become increasingly lax in maintaining his paperwork. His documentation of client contacts generally ran weeks, sometimes even months, behind. Harold told himself and others that “this paperwork stuff just isn’t important. I’m too busy doing things that really matter to push a pencil for a bunch of bureaucrats.” A review of the agency by state authorities found many documentation deficiencies for which they officially cited the agency. As a result of this reprimand, certain components of the agency’s funding were even jeopardized. Upon closer examination, agency administrators found that many of the documentation deficiencies were Harold’s. When Harold’s next performance evaluation was done, his supervisor rated his work unsatisfactory in this area and recommended that he receive no pay increases at all until he improved his work habits. In fact, Harold was even issued a warning that he could be terminated unless he changed his paperwork habits. He was given 90 days to show sufficient progress. Harold felt angry and demoralized by his evaluation, yet there was little he could say in his own defense because his supervisor’s evaluation was based upon objective data regarding his performance. Harold had deluded himself into believing that the paperwork requirements of his job really did not matter. Clearly, they mattered a great deal to the overall well-being of the agency. In some situations, client well-being can also be affected by poor documentation habits, as the following example illustrates. Myra was a therapist in an adult mental health program that dealt with severely and persistently mentally ill clients. Myra had been working with a client, Carl, attempting to secure a placement for him in a long-term residential treatment program. She had made a formal referral to a particular program, which she documented in Carl’s record but did not identify by name.

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