One of the most difficult, yet rewarding, responsibilities of a supervisor or manager is identifying when a subordinate is not performing up to the requirements of their position and taking the proper remedial steps to turn that sub-standard performance around. When an employee is not fulfilling the requirements for their position, the behaviors associated with that failure need to be addressed in a formal and timely manner.
When practiced well, employee coaching and counseling is an artform.
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The process of coaching and counseling includes verbal warnings, written warnings, final written warnings, suspensions, performance improvement plans and termination. These steps can be taken in any order and steps can be skipped, depending on the severity of the situation; however, you should be consistent and fair in your practices and ensure you are acting consistently within the organization as a whole.
It is important to document, in writing, any disciplinary action you take. This includes verbal warnings and informal conversations. Failure to properly document performance issues may result in a delay when you are ready to move to separation of employment. Employees deserve an opportunity to be made aware of your concerns with their performance and be provided an opportunity to make improvements.
4 Steps for Preparation of an Employee Counseling Session:
Identify and describe the issue using facts, quotes and observations without judgment or abstract language. Avoid language that is accusatory or attacks the employee’s character.
Describe the results of the behavior and why it is not acceptable in your workplace.
Describe what acceptable behavior would be and what is expected.
Explain what will happen if the behavior continues.
The coaching and counseling discussion with the employee should be handled in a respectful manner. Many times, employees are not aware of the impact of their actions and truly need “coached” to improve to an acceptable level of performance. You should ask for their input regarding how they will best be able to meet the standards for their position. The goal of coaching and counseling is to turn the employee’s performance around, not to get to the point of termination. If you truly believe the employee will not improve or does not have the ability to do the job, you should speak with your HR department (or if your HR department is Merit Resources, speak with your Merit HR Specialist).
These tips cover formal counseling documentation, but it is just as important to document informal performance conversations and verbal warnings. Keep good notes regarding these more informal types of counseling so you have an accurate history regarding your conversations with employees regarding their performance and behavior.
Merit has several performance management forms and documents available for your use if you're interested. Feel free to contact us if we can be of service to you and your organization.
Dennis Peterson is a Human Resource Specialist with Merit Resources.