Sunday, July 09, 2006

... On Disciplining Staff

Corrective action, disciplinary action, performance warning, whatever you call it - there are certain employees who take up more of our supervisory time than other employees. We've all experienced new hires who didn't quite turn out as expected and we've all had a once ideal employee whose performance suddenly went astray.

What's a supervisor to do - fix 'em or fire 'em?

Sometimes we have a choice how to handle our personnel problems - sometimes we don't. Your first task is to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the problem performer. Consider whether the performance issue is fixable. Ask yourself whether your investment in training or counseling can potentially resolve the issue and work your hardest to make the solution win-win. For example:

  • A new hire does not have the skills he sold you on in the interview, and those skills can't be acquired quick enough to meet your business needs. It may be appropriate to 'un-hire' this person, explaining to him the gap between his skills and the actual performance requirements of the position. A complete job description documenting the skill and experience level required will help back up this mis-hire and ultimate termination;
  • Another new hire's skills meet your requirements, but her product knowledge is poor. You probably can invest the time to get her up to speed on the products and services. Be sure to communicate the reasons for this training and set timetables for her getting up to speed;
  • One of your long-term employee's attitude toward the company has slipped. Her negative comments and slow work pace are affecting employee morale and customers. Counsel this employee to change her attitude at work, explaining the impact of her actions. However, attitude problems are generally reflective of a deeper issue. Explore this with the employee. Be flexible in solutions but also be firm about unacceptable behavior and performance. Some people will get the message and make the necessary changes - some will not. Keep the person who changes - let go the person who does not, documenting both for your personnel files.
Look at your policies. How are they written regarding correcting and disciplining poor performers? Are they structured formally where you must give verbal, written, and final warnings? Or do you have the flexibility to work with employees on a case-by-case basis? If your policy is too strict, change it. It will work against you in the long run. If you don't have a policy, you must work hard to ensure that how you treat each employee comparably. Keep good records either way, because in these litigious times, consistency in action and policy is vital for self-protection.


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8:55 am  

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