Steps You Can Take to Address a Problem Employee
Ask most managers and supervisors what part of their job keeps them up at night and they’ll tell you it’s when they have to discipline an employee that exhibits unacceptable behavior. Lacking proper guidance or effective protocols makes this job even more difficult. A progressive discipline policy, where increasingly more severe steps are taken if the problem is not resolved, is often the best way to make a positive impact on an under-performing employee.
Just remember, people problems do not fix themselves. The manager or supervisor must take an active role in solving behavior problems. So, if your organization does not have a policy already in place, here is a simple list of the steps you can take to fix the problem.
1. Have informal talks to discuss the situation.
2. Verbal warning occurs when you meet with the employee and let him/her know this is an informal warning. The purpose of this warning to let the employee know that the problem needs correcting. Also, let the employee know what will occur if the behavior continues.
3. Ask the employee what steps he or she will take to solve the problem. Don’t tell the employee how to solve the problem; let the employee come up with the action plan.
4. Keep a written record of the informal or verbal warning. It is important for you to document corrective or disciplinary action that you have taken. Follow your organizational guidelines in documenting the actions you’ve taken.
5. The written warning is the next step if the action or behavior continues after the verbal warning. Prepare carefully for this interview by knowing the behavior or action that needs to be changed. Have the employee help create a written action plan with specific dates for completing the change in behavior or action. The written plan is documentation of the steps that you as the manager have taken to resolve this situation.
Writing an employee up is more serious than the first two steps because the formal letter goes in the employee’s personnel file. This letter or document should outline the specific offense and steps you have taken to solve the situation. This letter needs to indicate the company standards or policies that were violated, so there is something concrete to reference to in this situation.
6. Probation occurs if the above steps haven’t worked. The employee will need to be officially put on probation. The employee will be given a specific plan and amount of time to complete the probationary period. If at the end of probation the situation isn’t resolved, then you must go to the next step. This should also be put in writing.
7. Suspension is the next step after probation. This may be for a few days or longer depending on the seriousness of the offense. Again, this all needs to be documented and conducted according to the policies of your organization.
8. Termination is the last resort and again has to follow organizational and union guidelines. You must follow these guidelines in order to protect yourself and the company in case of a lawsuit.
Word of warning! Check your organizational policies, union rules and any other entities that might have an impact on these disciplinary steps. The human resources department will need to be involved, and usually there is a specific company policy to govern situations that require formal actions to solve.