I recently conducted a webinar titled Difficult Employees: How to Turn Them Around or Turn Them Out, after which I received a slew of questions. Here’s one I found interesting:
How would you recommend discipline be enforced in an environment where no formal evaluations are conducted?
The general answer is to start conducting formal evaluations. They provide a baseline upon which to start your discussions with an employee concerning expectations for the work and how he or she has exceeded, met or failed to meet your expectations.
Performance discussions don’t have to be complicated or difficult. Start with asking every employee to assist in the development of his or her job description, thus making it an agreement that both you and your employee understand and can support. Employee’s need to be part of developing expectations to ensure that they will support them.
Then, develop a simple form that contains a section for tracking the employee’s results in writing. Rate the results exceeded, met and not met as set out in the job description. It should also include a section that describes the employee’s developmental needs and that you expect him or her to continue exceeding or meeting expectations, and/or a plan to correct those areas where expectations have not been met.
If you click on Free Forms, you can download the forms I use. They break the job into three categories of expectations:
- Duties (from the job description.)
- Goals (as determined between you and the employee.) and
- Professional Practices (the rules of engagement and professional standards that exist in your work place.)
To answer your question specifically, if you don’t have a formal evaluation system, you should still have a conversation with the employee concerning his or her lack of performance or inappropriate behavior. I recommend the following format (I call it the Six Step Conversation®):
1. Describe the problem specifically – Include examples.
2. Explain your concern – Include the impact the problem (non-performance or negative behavior) is having on the organization, the team, and the employee’s career
3. Listen & acknowledge his/her view – He/she may have a good reason for the problem and/or offer a reasonable solution.
4. Ask for, and agree on a solution – Be clear that the problem must get resolved, and that it is the employee’s responsibility to resolve it. Describe the consequences of the problem not getting resolved, i.e. disciplinary action and/or termination. Set a time table that will measure positive or negative progress. Do not let it continue forever.
5. Express confidence in the employee – You’re more likely to get a productive and positive response from the employee if he feels like you have confidence in his ability and willingness to resolve the problem. But be realistic if he or she is not on a path to succeed.
6. Document the conversation and stick to the agreed upon time schedule. Follow-up in a reasonable time period to see if the problem has been resolved. If resolved, or there has been an acceptable amount of progress, let the employee know how much you appreciate his willingness to deal with it. If not, proceed with the disciplinary actions you described in the first Six Step Conversation. Be sure that you have the backing of your HR professional, your manager, and any legal council your organization employs to make sure you are doing this according to the laws of your state and any union rules and other guidelines that might apply.
Of course, all this is easier if you start with a well-developed Performance Plan and Review document that spells out the expectations you have of the employee. So again, I strongly recommend you put one in place if your organization doesn’t have one.