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The Manager's Pocket Guide to Documenting Employee Performance

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This guide will help you document and change unwanted work behaviors before they become issues for termination. It includes information on a four-step progressive discipline process and how to apply it; clarifying gaps in execution vs. gaps in knowledge; behavior modification through corrective action; a process for documenting performance issues; and a look at the legal framework surrounding discipline. This guide provide a quick and valuable source for any manager or HR professional. If you are seeking an easy to read and comprehensive source for managing downsizing - this is it.

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Chapter 1. The Essential Definitions

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Documenting Employee Performance

1. DISCIPLINE

The word discipline has many meanings, some more positive than others. Most managers who panic at the thought of administering discipline do so because they immediately zero in on the word’s negative associations. This limited view is unfortunate, particularly when we consider that the root of discipline is the Latin discipulus, which means “learner.” Hardly a negative! And entirely important to our understanding of discipline’s practical application in the workplace.

Because there is so much misunderstanding about this word’s meaning in an organizational context, let’s take a moment to review the dictionary definitions of discipline and to clarify just what workplace discipline is not.

The Dictionary Definitions

The basic definitions appear below (see Webster’s

New World Dictionary, Third College Edition). The elements most significant to us are highlighted in bold italics.

Discipline is . . .

• A branch of knowledge or learning

• Training that develops self-control, character, or orderliness and efficiency

 

Chapter 2. Discipline: The Basics

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Documenting Employee Performance

hires, Susan. She has been nothing short of excellent since he hired her 10 months ago. Jim decides she has performed so well, he’ll promote her to a new position. Two months pass, and now he wonders if the promotion was such a good idea.

Her work has not been error free, and in accounting, perfection is a must. He can’t understand it.

He mentioned the problem to her over coffee a while ago, and her response was “Don’t worry, I’ll get it.” But her work hasn’t improved. He decides to meet with her again. Perhaps discipline is the answer. Here is how their conversation goes:

Jim: Susan, I’m disappointed. You were coming along just great.

Susan: I’m sorry to disappoint you. You’ve been a great boss.

Jim: Am I missing something here? What can I do to help?

Susan: I’m having some difficulty.

Jim: What kind?

Susan: It’s my new audit job.

Jim: But that’s a great position for you. A promotion for all your hard work.

Susan: I know, and I appreciate the opportunity. But I don’t understand the audit procedures. Auditing is a lot different than accounts payable. I’ve never had training in some of its requirements.

 

Chapter 3. Administering Discipline: The Rules

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Documenting Employee Performance

Some areas provide you with a set of behavioral rules to follow, while others inform you of rules that should be adopted as part of your organization’s employment policy and philosophy.

The Need for a Process

As I have mentioned earlier in this guidebook, you must have a process in place if you are to act consistently on discipline-related performance problems. This is one of the most fundamental ground rules of administering discipline. Another basic rule: Make sure anyone who is in the position to use discipline understands the process.

GROUND RULES: PROCESS

➽ Always use a standard process for administering discipline; if your organization does not have one, then develop one.

— A four-step process is recommended, including (1) verbal discussion, (2) written discussion, (3) final notification, and (4) discharge.

— The only exceptions to process are serious infractions such as fighting and drug use, which require formal investigation.

➽ Make sure those who administer discipline know the process.

 

Chapter 4. The Performance Counseling Session

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4. The Performance Counseling Session

4

The Performance

Counseling Session

THE PERFORMANCE COUNSELING SESSION is the most important and often least understood part of informal coaching and the more formal disciplinary process. The success of this meeting between the manager and the employee, in which verbal discussion of the issue takes place, relies on thorough preparation, the delivery of constructive feedback, active listening, and follow-up. Anyone who has effectively conducted such a meeting knows that the time and effort required by these tasks are worthwhile investments. They can mean the difference between resolving the performance issue quickly, right at the start of informal coaching, thus avoiding a move into the more formal disciplinary process.

In this chapter, we will take a look at the session’s purpose, whether you are coaching informally or using the disciplinary process. We will then focus on the more formal disciplinary aspects of:

• Session preparation, format, and follow-up

 

Chapter 5. Documentation

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5. Documentation

• Objectivity facilitates clarity. Keep to the hard facts, describing the problem via those facts. In good documentation, nothing is subject to interpretation. If you aim to be objective, you will more easily attain your goal of clarity.

• Completeness facilitates clarity. Include all the facts.

For example, a problem definition such as “Your tardiness is a concern” may seem clear, but not if we compare it to this:

Your continuing instances of tardiness, five in the last month on January 5, 10, 21, 27,and 28, strain the productivity of the department and your coworkers, and the tardy behavior cannot continue any longer.

The employee knows that the tardiness is indeed a problem and gets a complete picture of that problem: it is continual; it affects others; it cannot continue. There also is little room for interpretation, filling the requirement of objectivity. The meaning is clear to the employee and to any third party reviewing the document. It is just what you need to strive for in your documentation efforts.

 

Chapter 6. Termination: Procedure and Documentation

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6. Termination

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Termination:

Procedure and Documentation

TERMINATION REQUIRES the utmost attention to safe procedure and detailed documentation. Wrongfuldischarge lawsuits and charges of discrimination are common responses to termination, and they are costly in terms of litigation expense and negative impact on an organization. The ultimate goal of any company is, of course, to avoid termination by effectively facilitating performance improvement.

However, it is unrealistic to assume that improvement will always occur—not all employees will be dedicated to excellence. And even the best disciplinary practices cannot prevent offenses that require immediate termination. The most an organization can do is establish a consistent procedure for termination, such as the one in this book, and make sure it is meticulously followed and documented whenever termination is necessary.

In this chapter, we will initially focus on performance-related termination and its procedure and documentation; then we will turn our attention to immediate termination. A list of termination pitfalls and pratfalls is also included.

 

Chapter 7. Specific Problems and Solutions

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7. Specific Problems and Solutions

7

Specific Problems and Solutions

AS WE HAVE SEEN, employee behavioral issues tend to fall into either of two categories: the processamenable problem and the serious offense. The four-step disciplinary process is the best method for problems traced to a gap in execution; the training process is the best for problems caused by a gap in comprehension. The former (which have been our main focus in this book) include absenteeism, tardiness, poor performance, and minor work-rule violations. Suspension, formal investigation and, possibly, immediate termination form the course of action for serious offenses. They include fighting, theft, drug use, and forms of harassment.

In this chapter, we will focus on guidelines for managing two process-amenable problems, absenteeism and tardiness, and two serious offenses, fighting and harassment. We will also take a look at preventing problems by putting people first.

Remember: use the following guidelines, and any others in this guidebook, in conjunction with your company’s policy and procedure for such issues.

 

Appendices

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Documenting Employee Performance

APPENDIX B

Optional Exercises

These exercises will promote team building, idea sharing, and open communication among the members of your organization or smaller work groups. They will also reinforce, through repeated use, some of the tenets in this guidebook while also generating a sense of understanding about the disciplinary process.

1. 360-Degree Feedback

Develop a form you can use to ask your employees their opinions about your ability to communicate.

• Are you effective?

• Are you informative?

• Do you actively and regularly coach?

Have the employees respond anonymously. Consider using checklists or similar formats that do not require handwriting (thus better ensuring anonymity). Take the input and problem-solve any communication issues with employees.

2. Manager’s Coaching Profile

Use “The Manager’s Coaching Self-Profile” in

Chapter 1 as an assessment tool that employees can use to give you feedback on your coaching.

Their insights might point you in the direction of self-improvement.

 

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