EB117 - Managing Your Risk With A CEN Journal © Question:
There are far too many workplace events which could have legal or ethical consequences.  With all of the dishonesty around us, what can we do to protect ourselves from liability?

Larry:  In today’s increasingly unethical business environment it is more important than ever for an organization to be diligent about gathering and maintaining accurate records to protect its assets and manage its processes.  It is equally as important to remember as individuals that there will always be people who want to take what we have or harm what we are doing.   Almost everyone will encounter someone whose lack of ethical restraint could entangle us in wrong-doing.

Sometimes, having a strong personal ethic may not be enough to keep us completely free from the consequences that inevitably follow unethical decisions made by our peers or superiors.   That is why I so strongly recommend that everyone make a habit of carrying a C.E.N. journal.   The "Contemporary Extemporaneous Note" is a powerful tool that is recognized in both business and legal circles as an effective and reliable means of recording facts.  Let me give you an example of how a C.E.N. journal might be used in today’s business environment:

In the case of an unethical superior who is asking you to take an improper action the use of your C.E.N. journal can clearly signal “No” by saying “Yes” with administrative precision.   Simply write a note, in the person’s presence. Be sure to say, as unemotionally as you can, that you want to make sure to have an accurate record of his or her requirements.   Ask them to repeat the order so that there will be no mistake in what he or she expects you to do.  Then carefully write down everything he or she tells you.  Most people will quickly terminate the conversation.  Except for a few hardened criminals that I have known, people generally have an intense fear about the prospect of someone having a written record of their wrongdoing.

Even in our day to day interactions with peers, subordinates, customers and vendors we must always be prepared to take sound administrative action and make an immediate and accurate record of what we see and hear.  This discipline could be the difference between employment or unemployment or worse yet - legal liability.

The C.E.N. is also a wonderful tool that allows you to look back over time to see how events have unfolded or recalling facts that seemed minor when they were recorded but may now have significant impact on a particular situation or event.  Remember, when we immediately document and explain our actions in the light of what any reasonable person might do in the same situation, it is called a “contemporary extemporaneous note.”  Also, don’t forget to diligently date and time each new note as you are making the entry and always keep your C.E.N. journal handy!