I was told off for taking Verbatim meeting Minutes.

(36 Posts)
Oblomov Thu 16-May-13 16:53:13

I have done accounts for 20 years. My new job, for a small business, I was also asked to do HR, which I had never done before. They have an HR consultant, that I run all my letters, questions past, she okays all my work, before I present it to Director. I do offer letters, contracts. I have been asked to sit in on meetings.

Then I was asked to do minutes. Of a particualrly difficult meeting.

I am not a trained secretary and do not do shorthand.
I know that minutes are supposed to be about the salient points, and agreed actions. However, they are also supposed to be an actual and factual record of what has actually been said.

My last job, I had to go to meetings as an employee. These were recorded. I was given minutes - a dictation of it, word-for-word, verbatim, record.

The lady who previously took minutes for my present company, dressed them up, all flowery, and people have said they bore no resemblance to the meeting they actually attended.

So I wrote the minutes. as verbatim as i could.
And I included poitns , verbatim, where I thougt it was important to record what someone had actually said. The language that they, and only they would use.

For example, the woman said she "had really been struggling". Thats she appreciated that she nneed to "up the anti". It required "banging on a few more doors".
So, I included those exact words, to personalise it.

Now this is speak that someone actually uses. Rather than a professional letter writing style, of say a dismissal letter where you use professional wording and recognised phrases :

"given the circumstances, a decision was reached that ......"

When I presented my minutes. They were literally scoffed at. I was told they were too literal and needed to be totally re-written.

If they wanted Jack-anory, then maybe they should have not asked me to do it, but written their own fluffy version , after wards, of what they wanted to pretend had hapened.

Jokes were made about my BA and MA , how did I get those, with no 'presenting' skills, and I felt a right twit and totally humiliated.

What do you think?

allmycats Thu 16-May-13 16:59:49

They asked for the minutes of the meeting not a bloody novel !!. In the past I was P.A.to the M.D. and minutes were 'what was actually said' and not 'however the script taker wished to interpret them'.
It is the previous person who was presenting them incorrectly, now that they have been presented correctly they are showing their ignorance.

motherinferior Thu 16-May-13 17:02:51

I think there is a bright side in that they probably won't ask you to do it again.

adagio Thu 16-May-13 17:08:33

I think you are right and they are wrong, as I think this is a HR matter you are minuting?

My experience only goes as far as managing teams, and particularly around 'HR aspects' i.e. disciplinary or capability proceedings, I was taught (by HR and external training providers) that minutes should be as accurate as possible, in case of any future appeals or tribunal. As a manager, I would be a plus one to other managers taking minutes as the need arose, and would also need to sign off the accuracy of minutes someone else took for me when the need arose.

I would always try to catch them as verbatim as possible (a good memory helps).

In contrast, at say a PM at a project meeting I would capture the minutes in a very different way - I would use the agenda as aide memoir and put summary (of agenda item), i.e. 'The data migration in the finance stream is progressing on plan, one concern has been identified with the offshore team relating to x and action to address identified as a or b, implications of a are blah blah', then log decision and or action, owner and by when.

ChunkyPickle Thu 16-May-13 17:10:03

My MIL has been taking meeting minutes in her various roles for more years than I've been alive, and the minutes she takes aren't usually completely verbatim (she doesn't do shorthand either), but often include the more colloquial language because that gives a better view of how something was said/intended. All meeting minutes I've seen (official ones - usually local council or whatever, beyond the simple actions coming out of a meeting style) have been in your style.

You were doing it right. You're not there to interpret, you are there to record.

I would ask them which part of the minutes did they not agree with, and what they would have written instead as you too the minutes in a professional manner, reporting the facts and statements as was heard in the meeting. Any minute taking course will tell you that minutes should be and outsiders view of a meeting, with no personal interpretation by the minute taker. I have done minutes before and even if I wanted to couldn't
T have placed a personal viewpoint on them because I literally had no fecking clue what they were talking about.

I wild ask them to give you a template on which they would like the minutes presented. As obviously, your previous experience of minute taking differs to they way they wish them.

They sound like they have no clue tbh!

JeanBodel Thu 16-May-13 17:11:52

Minutes are not generally supposed to be verbatim.

I have worked as a minute-taking secretary. The second, professional example you gave is correct. Using the slang phrases the people actually said is not.

Sorry to sound harsh, but you are asking.

Oblomov Thu 16-May-13 17:13:01

Thanks cats. I was begiing to think I was over-reacting. But I am quite cross and offended.
And I feel incompetent.
Motherinferior, I suppose that is the only plus side. winkI found doing it quite draining. I don't wnat to write fluffy minutes.
But, the HR support is a new part of the job, as the old accounts lady was initially a secretary, who then did acounts, and then HR. So it is part of 'my' job description.
Oh dear. I don't want to do what they want me to do.

The type of meeting you are minuting also matters. If this is an HR type meeting over performance, I think using the colloquialisms used is important to convey the tone of the meeting, especially if this is to placed on a staff members record as an accurate account of the meeting.

MisForMumNotMaid Thu 16-May-13 17:16:23

I would ask if you could see some samples of minutes in the style they would like them presented and then agree a template for future meetings.

As for humiliating you and joking about your qualifications they're demonstrating fantastic interpersonal skills there, like the instruction you received on how to do minutes, it begs the question as to who actually has a skills shortage.

K8Middleton Thu 16-May-13 17:21:24

Minutes of a meeting should be quite formal with summaries and actions - bullet pointed preferably. I imagine that is what Jean is describing.

Minutes of a capability meeting, disciplinary or grievance hearing should be an accurate record of what was actually said. This is really important should a matter go to to arbitration or a tribunal. They do not need to be verbatim but should be accurate and I would have included the key phrases you mention.

You are right in this instance. Perhaps have a chat with the HR consultant and get her view to corroborate yours? I would be very surprised if she said anything hugely different to the above.

Oblomov Thu 16-May-13 17:23:00

Jean Bodel, not harsh at all. I am all ears.

What about when minutes are recorded on a recording machine then?

You are not supposed to record what someone actually said? I thought that was the whole point of recording minutes.
You then follow it up with a professionl letter, using the correct terminology.
I must have missed the whole point of minutes.
I thought i was supposed to record what was actually SAID at the disciplinary meeting. Incase you get an unfair dismissal claim?

If I am totally wrong, I don't mind, but please could you clarify.
You do not see is as that?

I know from experience, certain types of manager don't like minutes to be recorded as it means they cannot get away from what was actually said. Could this be the issue here?

I second what K8 said and speak to the HR consultant on their view on the style of minutes for this type of meeting.

I would also bring up the "joking" about your qualifications, and how unprofessional it is to belittle someone. That might put the shiters up them a wee bit.

EarlGreyTeabag Thu 16-May-13 17:32:12

I've worked as a minute taker, taking notes at different kinds of meeting and I have to say I agree with you OP.

There are two types of minutes - resolution minutes which just record the main points and decisions and are used for example for committee meetings, and narrative minutes which are a detailed, almost verbatim record of everything that was said at the meeting and which are used for example for disciplinary hearings. Sometimes a verbatim record is essential if the meeting is particularly sensitive & contentious.

In your shoes, I would've done the same thing and taken as verbatim a record as I could of what was said at the disciplinary hearing. I would probably also have recorded the meeting as a back up.

kotinka Thu 16-May-13 17:35:53

the minutes are supposed to represent what happened. I think your version sounds about right OP. if you start putting your own interpretation on what was said, surely that could be misleading?

flowery Thu 16-May-13 17:36:06

Hi Oblomov

Exactly what K8 said. A disciplinary or similar meeting is not the same as a normal meeting and the exact words can be quite important.

I also fail to see what your BA/MA have to do with it - I certainly didn't learn to take minutes as part of my higher education and it didn't seem to hinder me in any way!

Agree with EarlGrey.
In my last job a new manager did away with minutes altogether for most meetings. It was quite refreshing, there was a list of action points produced what / how / who / when and that was enough.

In this case it sound as though they just wanted a summary but actually if it was a disciplinary meeting I think you did the right thing.

Wishiwasanheiress Thu 16-May-13 17:46:16

For hr matters its VIP its an accurate reflection of words used. I thoroughly agree with your version op.

Your bosses are tools, but then you knew that. Agree with others suggestions too. Just wanted to add to agreement group to help u feel better smile

Oblomov Thu 16-May-13 18:09:38

Thank you All.

I left work. Due to the time, I was forced to agree, that the minutes I had prepared, would be edited by the manager chairing the meeting and the Director and THEN sent to the HR consultant for approval.

Obviously I am not happy with this, becasue it is my name that is listed as the minute taker. And the final version of the minutes are not what I produced, nor are they something that I wish to put my name to. And I do not think they are correct .

But I am not sure what to do.
When it is next bought up, next week, when I do the payroll and calculate the persons notice pay and holiday entitlement, do I say something then about how i am uncomfortable with my name being on the minutes of something I did not produce?
And what about he jokes re my presentation skills. Not really funny, was it? Or do I just let that go too?

kotinka Thu 16-May-13 18:16:18

how about keeping a copy of your version in case you need it in future?

the comments on your qualifications and skills are irrelevant, I suspect thrown in to belittle you. was there a witness?

I'd let that go but you probably have grounds for a complaint. be careful with this bloke.

jelliebelly Thu 16-May-13 18:20:17

There is a difference between taking minutes at a meeting and being a scribe to record what was said during a meeting. Minutes would be for team meetings or board meetings. Anything HR related should as accurate as possible - any employment tribunal will want facts not fiction...

lljkk Thu 16-May-13 20:28:42

With minutes there is usually a house style and you need to ask carefully before you vary much from it.

No harm done, though, some lessons learnt. Don't know why you're so bothered.

EnlightenedOwl Sat 25-May-13 10:38:21

It depends on the meeting. For a general team meeting bullet points of agreed actions is fine. But for a meeting say a disciplinary meeting verbatim notes are essential. And that includes exactly what someone said.

LoveBeingUpAt4InTheMorning Sat 25-May-13 17:25:21

For hr meetings I always did this, the small differences make a huge difference

Floggingmolly Sat 25-May-13 17:33:08

You don't need "presenting skills" to take minutes hmm.
You are totally correct; they are supposed to be a complete verbatim account of what took place. You could probably add a separate sheet with the main gist set out in bullet points, but what you did wasn't wrong at all.

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