Sometimes it is necessary to have difficult conversations with employees. Counseling conversations should be developmental and provide employees with clear goals to improve performance and/or behavior, these meetings are not disciplinary. Disciplinary conversations are meant to address and enforce College policies and to correct and deter problematic performance and/or behavior. Please contact the Employee Relations team before counseling or disciplining an employee.
When deciding if counseling is necessary, supervisors should consider the following:
- severity of incident or behavior and impact on workplace;
- employee’s work history; and
- circumstances surrounding the incident or behavior
Supervisors should provide early constructive feedback to employees when job performance or behavior becomes a concern. These conversations should include specific examples of deficient performance and/or behavior, the impact it has on the department, and clear expectations for improvement. The supervisor should listen to the employee, and seek to understand the employee’s situation. These meetings should be held in a confidential setting.
When established performance standards are not met, for example:
- Missing deadlines
- Pattern of errors
- Low productivity
- Poor judgment
- When a pattern of negative behavior or poor work habits develops, for example:
- Absenteeism/unscheduled absences
- Unprofessional conduct
- When one incident is severe enough to warrant counseling
- Promptly after an incident
- View the session as supportive and problem solving
- Don’t threaten or punish
- Be prepared
- Review facts and define objective(s).
- Conduct in private
- Schedule adequate time
- Be direct and candid
- Listen to the employee’s view of the incident
- Remain calm and in control
- Ask the employee how the situation can be remedied
- Focus on behavior, don’t make it personal
- Be an active listener
- Keep an open mind
- Define next steps - re-prioritizing tasks, additional training, etc.
- Consider recommending EAP
- Especially if personal problems appear to be the cause
- Reach an understanding on corrective action
- Set follow-up date if applicable
- Thank the employee
- Send an email to the employee that summarizes the counseling conversation that clearly defines goals going forward so there is no confusion about expectations
- Avoid going into the conversation with preconceived notions about what has occured
- Do not let your personal opinions interfere with the counseling session.
- Failing to listen to the employee
- Do not be concerned about being liked, as this is a professional, not personal, conversation
- Do not use phrases that could be perceived as discriminatory
- Failing to recommend or provide resources and training
- Do not remove and re-delegate any of the required job tasks from the employee, as this only enables poor performance
- Do not over-emphasize or under-emphasize the problem
The counseling session is a private meeting to provide constructive feedback. The only individuals who should attend the initial counseling session are the employee and supervisor.
If a pattern of poor performance continues, the Supervisor will need to document the concerns in a record of conversation/verbal warning, or if the conduct is severe, a written warning, or other appropriate disciplinary documentation.
When you document the concern with a Record of Conversation, inform the employee that the incident/problem will be documented. Work with the employee relations team to prepare the Record of Conversation promptly.
Performance Improvement Plans
When verbal coaching and counseling has not been successful, Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) or performance action plans may be a useful tool to give employees with performance deficiencies the opportunity to be successful in meeting specific job goals. PIPs include weekly check-ins for the length of the PIP (30,60,90 days). PIP’s are intended to improve performance and employee success, clear expectations are set with regular feedback. Contact the employee relations team to determine whether a PIP is the appropriate action for the situation. The employee relations team will help administer and provide ongoing guidance to the manager and employee throughout the plan.
If a pattern of poor performance does not improve, the Supervisor may engage in the discipline process. The College maintains a progressive discipline process. The discipline process is designed to support the enforcement of College policies and to address and correct conduct or performance concerns.
When the College decides to take corrective action, the disciplinary process may include some, none, or all of the following:
Record of Conversation/ Verbal Warnings are appropriate for minor instances of Misconduct.
Supervisors and managers should adhere to the following guidelines in issuing Verbal Warnings:
- The supervisor notifies the employee of the issues with their conduct, providing specific examples
- The employee has the opportunity to respond to the issue(s) raised.
- The supervisor makes concrete statements about expectations for the employee’s conduct, emphasizing in a constructive manner the College’s expectations that the employee will refrain from further similar conduct.
- The supervisor informs the employee of the possibility of further action if the conduct reoccurs.
- The supervisor documents the discussion with the employee, including date of the Verbal Warning, the issue(s) and/or conduct discussed, and recommendations made
Written Warnings are appropriate for more significant initial incidents of Misconduct, or for recurrent incidents of Misconduct.
Supervisors and managers should adhere to the following guidelines in issuing Written Warnings:
- The Written Warning should be reviewed by the employment team prior to issuance.
- The Written Warning should identify the conduct issue, providing specific examples; make concrete statements about expectations for the employee’s conduct; emphasize in a constructive manner the College’s expectation that eh employee will refrain from further action if the conduct reoccurs (further disciplinary action up to and including termination).
- The Written Warning should be reviewed with the employee during an in person meeting with the supervisor.
- The employee should have the opportunity to respond to the issues raised.
- The Written Warning should be given to the employee directly following the discussion.
Suspension or final written warning is intended to indicate to the employee the seriousness of the infraction and the employee can reasonably expect that the next steps if there are further actions of Misconduct is Termination of employment.
Supervisors and managers should adhere to the following guidelines in issuing Suspension:
- Notice of Suspension or Final Written Warning should be reviewed by the employment team prior to issuance.
- The notice should identify the conduct issue, providing specific examples; make concrete statements about expectations for the employee’s conduct; emphasize in a constructive manner the College’s expectations that the employee will refrain from further similar conduct; and inform the employee of the possibility of further action if the conduct reoccurs (further disciplinary action up to, and including Termination)
- The employee should review the notice during an in person meeting with the supervisor and member of the employee relations team
- The notice should be given to the employee directly following the discussion.
Supervisors must consult with the employee relations team prior to any disciplinary action. Documentation memorializing disciplinary action will be maintained in the employee’s personnel file.
The College’s progressive discipline process does not require that each type of disciplinary action be administered in each case. Depending upon the relevant circumstances, the College has the discretion to take any disciplinary action, up to and including termination. The College reserves the right to terminate the at-will employment of any employee at any time, with or without cause or notice.