No matter what your industry, you need to be savvy on how to stop performance issues. While it may be easier to ignore minor problems in the short run, they are then perceived as acceptable behaviors. This, in turn, can lead to major morale and productivity problems when high performers witness a lack of discipline, or tire of covering for the problematic employee.
Remember: the goal in using effective corrective action is to modify performance, not to punish the employee. For more information, please see the links below.
Setting Clear Expectations
Employees need to have a clear understanding of work rules and internal procedures. This begins with having a well-written handbook that outlines the company’s expectations. A manager should explain performance expectations during the new hire process.
After hire, a manager should hold regular performance evaluations throughout the year to help guide the ongoing development, and maintain or improve the productivity, of the employee. When the employee has a successful track record, performance evaluations may be moved to an annual basis.
Managers should continue to hold one-on-one meetings with each employee – even high performers - throughout the year. These meetings may help discover unknown factors affecting morale and productivity, such as ineffective equipment, a lack of training, unclear standards, behavior problems of coworkers when the boss isn’t around, or other things that could lead to misinterpretations or unclear expectations.
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Using Progressive Discipline
When trying to change problem behaviors, the idea is to use the least severe action necessary to correct the problem. This provides an opportunity for the employee to try to improve, which reinforces consistency and fairness. If the less sever steps fail, then move on to the next level.
The most common discipline progression is as follows:
- Oral warning (Make sure to include documentation in the employee’s file that you gave an oral warning, and include what was said.)
- Written warning
- Suspension without pay
More serious offenses may warrant moving immediately to suspension or immediate termination. Just be sure you are consistent among employees with how you treat each behavior. For example, tardiness should always follow the same discipline progression. If you treat two employees differently, there may be grounds for a discrimination claim.
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In the event of a lawsuit, you must show proof that counters an employee’s claim of injustice. Otherwise, the claim will prevail. The best defense you have in the hot seat is thorough documentation.
When you are in the midst of a course or progressive discipline, create a paper trail that outlines the facts, clarifies your reasoning, and restates expectations. Keep copies of all warnings (written AND oral), findings from investigations, and performance evaluations in the employee’s file. Don’t leave any room for later interpretation in the courtroom!
If you want more information, or need assistance, contact us.