Monthly Archives: March 2016

Best Practices: Dealing with Performance/Discipline

What should you do when talking to employees about behavior they need to correct?

Every day, you need to make wise decisions about speaking to employees who aren’t performing or who, potentially, need discipline. What are the best decisions you can make?

1. Even though we live in an at-will employment state, best practice is to have a documented reason before firing an employee.
In the office: You decide to fire an employee for “no reason,” after all, that’s your right.
What happens: The employee sues, claiming that he or she was fired because of [insert race, gender, religion, age, or other protected basis here]. On the witness stand, you are going to honestly say, “No, I fired him for no reason.”
And the jury thinks,  I doubt it.

2. When employees aren’t performing – don’t wimp out and be “nice.”
In the office: You really like one of your employees. He’s a good guy and you have lots in common with him. At performance time, you don’t have the heart to tell him he isn’t performing so you tell him that the position is being eliminated and he is being laid off.
What happens: You fill the position with someone else. Then the “laid off” employee sues, claiming that since the position wasn’t eliminated, he or she must have been fired because of [insert race, gender, religion, age, etc. here].
On the witness stand, you say, “Well, I told him that, but that wasn’t the real reason. The real reason was poor performance.”
The jury thinks, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

3. Ignoring discipline or performance issues
In the office: You think: “He’s just blowing off steam, he’ll be back to normal shortly.” Or “She’s having a tough time right now, if I ignore it, she’ll get back on track herself.”
What happens: Every time you ignore inappropriate behavior, you condone it. At some point, you realize that you need to take action and terminate the employee. But, now there isn’t documentation. The employee says, “No one said anything about that. They know that’s just how I am. So I don’t think that’s why they fired me. I think they fired me because I [complained about wages or am a member of a protected class].”
In addition, you are sending a message to your other employees that the performance or behavior isn’t a big deal.

4. Document, document, document
In the office: You decide that you don’t have the time to document the specific incidents that are occurring and since there isn’t a law that says you must have documentation before firing an employee, you don’t.
What happens: On the witness stand, you try to remember the incidents and sound like a fool.

Best Practices:

Document, Document, Document.
Ideally, your documentation will show three things:

  1. The employee knew of the rule that was broken or the performance standard that was not met.
  2. The employee was aware that his or her performance was below standard.
  3. The employee was given the means and the opportunity to improve.

Documentation doesn’t need to be extensive or take a lot of time. If you need help developing a disciplinary action form or a performance system to help you manage your employees, or if you just want talk through a situation, email or call me (760-218-6960) today and let’s work together to set up something that works for you.