Workplace Corrective Actions the Easy Way, Part III

It's been a long day.

In the previous article, we discussed the “how to” around corrective actions associated with performance and behavior gaps. This final article ties everything up by spending more time on the necessity of a properly documented and consistently applied, fair process for implementing corrective actions. This text addresses a little of the “what to” for managers, by touching a on their role in the process.

In any situation where conduct in the workplace triggers disciplinary or corrective action, it is important to process each case consistently according to a defined process.  Call it “due process” if you want to be formal about it, but do your best to create a fair and unbiased approach to addressing corrective action.  Common practices include the following steps that can be constructed as a check-list to make sure you don’t miss anything:

  • The behavior being addressed was previously established in policy or in their job description and communicated to the employee in a way that can be verified.
  • The unacceptable performance/behavior is substantiated with facts or evidence.
  • A meeting is held to initiate the corrective action, where the supervisor notifies the employee (in private) the extent of the deficient performance or unacceptable behavior.
  • The employee has an opportunity to state or provide in writing his or her response.
  • The corrective action imposed for the situation is fair and consistent with policy, processes, and precedent.
  • The employee is given an informal or formal warning and written notice containing the relevant facts, as discussed earlier.
  • The supervisor verbally states the contents of the notice, including the standards of behavior or performance and the consequences for failing to comply.
  • The supervisor notifies the employee what will happen if violations of performance or behavior occur subsequently.
  • A regular schedule of follow-up meetings is set to reinforce acceptable behavior and ensure progress towards any goals set for performance.

Arguably, the most important part of a corrective action process is when confronting an employee who has engaged in unacceptable behavior. Create a respectful conversation with the employee; it is the behavior you are addressing as unacceptable, not the person. For that reason, hold a meeting with the employee as soon as possible but not while you are still in an anger response. A calm, respectful approach will help you get to the necessary first part of a meeting to initiate corrective action; gaining agreement about the behavior or performance that is deemed unacceptable. Before you can get a commitment from the employee to change the behavior, he or she needs to agree that the behavior is wrong. Then, when you discuss in more detail what happened and why it failed to meet expected standards of conduct, you can also ask for commitment to change and get input from the employee about how he or she can change the behavior.

If the previous two steps, agreement and commitment, fail to engage progress, there may be an underlying cause of the behavior that requires additional support, potential through an EAP, “fitness for duty” assessment, or referral to external support professionals. No reason for unacceptable behavior excuses the behavior, so corrective action is still necessary if the employee refuses to comply with expectations. Most supervisors can guess at the response employees will have to the confrontation during a corrective action initiation. You should spend some time imagining variations on any expected reaction and how you will respond to various scenarios.  That will help you prepare and feel more confident during the meeting. The last tip about conducting a corrective action meeting is to be sure to document what goes on during the meeting. This need not be a word-for-word verbatim, but it should include the items discussed, specifics about why corrective action is being initiated, and any agreements or outcomes that occurred during the meeting. A copy of the documentation should be retained by both the employee and the supervisor.

At some point in reading the three articles in this series, you may have begun questioning the title, “Workplace Corrective Actions the Easy Way.” You may have thought, “There is nothing easy about this!”  And you’re right, I misled you: Corrective action is difficult and potentially problematic. If I titled it as, “Workplace Corrective Actions, One of the Hardest Things you will ever do as Manager,” it would be true, but you might have quickly clicked out.  So, I apologize and hope these articles give you some fodder for thought about how you can approach corrective actions in the future.  Do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions you have.  Also, if you are concerned about how you manage corrective action, seek help for the details from an HR consultant. JuvodHR has many HR Consultants in their Trusted Partner program that could help you navigate a difficult problem. They already know this stuff and will be happy to share their expertise, and you will be a better manager for it.

Our guest author is Doreen Petty, CEO of Coaching The Boss.

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