Employee Performance Concerns

An effective performance management process enables managers to evaluate and measure individual performance and optimize productivity by:

  • Encouraging a culture of ongoing coaching, feedback and recognition
  • Setting goals and expectations that motivate
  • Planning for professional development
  • Advocating for recognition and growth through balanced self-assessment
  • Evaluating past performance and clarifying expectations for the future
  • Creating an ongoing dialogue between employees and their supervisors by revisiting goals and performance expectations frequently throughout the year

Performance Counseling

Supervisors are involved in the day to day management of their departments, work groups, and teams. It is important for all supervisors to create an environment where feedback is routinely provided as well as solicited, through formal and informal performance counseling. Feedback, counseling, and evaluating employees is an important part of the supervisor’s job. Failing to address an employee’s performance deficiencies can lead to more serious issues and decreased morale. Timely action is necessary to maintain a productive working environment.

Performance Counseling is especially important when an employee exhibits poor work performance, poor work habits, or unsatisfactory conduct. Supervisors can solve most work performance or behavioral problems by appropriately counseling an employee. When a supervisor recognizes the need to address a work performance or behavioral problem, he or she should consider the following:

  • Have a confidential meeting with the employee to discuss the performance issue
  • Outline the problem and explain how it affects department operations
  • Explain how the employee’s actions fail to meet performance expectations
  • Provide the employee an opportunity to explain his or her behavior
  • Clearly outline what the employee is expected to do and how he or she is expected to perform
  • Clearly outline the consequences of failing to resolve the problem
  • Establish a timeline for improving performance/behavior
  • Give the employee a written summary of the confidential meeting, including the performance improvement plan
  • Offer reasonable support for a successful outcome
  • Follow up with the employee to determine if the situation is resolved or if further corrective action is required

Serious Conduct Problems

More serious conduct problems could require a supervisor to impose stronger and immediate corrective action than counseling, including, but not limited to removing the employee from the workplace. For instance, if an employee’s conduct is considered a threat to the health and safety of other employees, a supervisor should impose the corrective measure and contact HR as soon as possible. For any questions on how to address a serious conduct problem, please contact HR.

When Performance Counseling is Not Enough

It is important to address a performance or behavioral problem as soon as possible. If poor work performance or a behavioral problem continues after an employee is given a reasonable amount of time and support to correct the situation, supervisors are responsible for employing the Disciplinary Process to address the problem.

Supervisors should be familiar with all forms of progressive discipline and should consult with HR about when and how to correctly apply each form of progressive discipline. In addition to counseling, there are several forms of progressive discipline available per the Employee Manual:

  • Verbal Notice
  • Written Notice
  • Final Written Warning/Probation
  • Termination

Verbal Notice: The initial step in the progressive discipline process. Most “discipline” problems are solved at this stage.

  • Be friendly but firm
  • Identify the problem with the employee
  • Seek input from the employee about the cause of the problem
  • Ideally, jointly identify a solution to the problem
  • Clarify to the employee your expectations concerning the situation
  • Let the employee know that more disciplinary action will follow if improvements have not been made
  • Try to get a commitment from the employee to solve the problem
  • Schedule a follow-up with the employee. Provide feedback and let them know how they are progressing

An example of a verbal notice write-up has been provided: Sample Documenting a Verbal Notice

Written Notice: The written warning summarizes the problem with a history of the interaction you had with the employee and includes a statement about the employee’s future status if the problem persists.

An example of a written warning write-up has been provided: Sample of a Written Warning

Final Written Notice/Probation: When improvement is absent after a written reprimand or reoccurrence of a serious violation, the supervisor may impose a final written warning and place the employee on probation. The employee is usually given a period of time (30 – 90 days) to either improve their performance or modify their behavior before more severe measures are used which would be termination after the final written notice was given.

Termination: This is the last step of any progressive discipline system. When other disciplinary measures, including warnings and/or probation, have been unsuccessful in addressing performance or behavioral issues, supervisors may find it necessary to consider terminating an employee. Occasionally, terminations may need to occur without progressive discipline.

Involuntary terminations typically fall into two categories:

  • Termination for poor work performance
  • Termination for cause

Termination for poor work performance or work habits may be warranted when an employee fails to successfully complete a probationary period. Termination for poor work performance after receiving corrective measures and guidance from management requires review from HR before a supervisor takes action.

Termination for cause may be part of a chain of progressive discipline; but may be imposed without prior discipline. This may be appropriate, for example, when the employee’s actions, in the university’s judgment, significantly interferes with the workflow or demonstrates a disregard for the well-being of others. This type of termination also requires a review from HR before a supervisor takes action.