Because of the many varieties of performance issues, we will not discuss how to handle each type in detail here. Instead, we present a model that can be used to develop policies around performance, for fairness and consistency.
We can view performance issues in one of five areas. First, the mandated issue is serious and must be addressed immediately. Usually, the mandated issue is one that goes beyond the company and could be a law. Examples of mandated issues might include an employee sharing information that violates privacy laws, not following safety procedures, or engaging in sexual harassment. For example, let’s say a hospital employee posts something on his Facebook page that violates patient privacy. This would be considered a mandated issue (to not violate privacy laws) and could put the hospital in serious trouble. These types of issues need to be handled swiftly. A written policy detailing how this type of issue would be handled is crucial. In our example above, the policy may state that the employee is immediately fired for this type of violation. Or, it may mean this employee is required to go through privacy training again and is given a written warning. Whatever the result, developing a policy on how mandated issues will be handled is important for consistency.
The second performance issue can be called a single incident. Perhaps the employee misspeaks and insults some colleagues or perhaps he or she was over budget or late on a project. These types of incidents are usually best solved with a casual conversation to let the employee know what he or she did wasn’t appropriate. Consider this type of misstep a development opportunity for your employee. Coaching and working with the employee on this issue can be the best way to nip this problem before it gets worse.
Often when single incidents are not immediately corrected, they can evolve into a behavior pattern, which is our third type of performance issue. This can occur when the employee doesn’t think the incident is a big deal because he hasn’t been correct before or may not even realize his is doing something wrong. In this case, it’s important to talk with the employee and let him know what is expected.
If the employee has been corrected for a behavior pattern but continues to exhibit the same behavior, we call this a persistent pattern. Often you see employees correct the problem after an initial discussion but then fall back into old habits. If they do not self-correct, it could be they do not have the training or the skills to perform the job. In this phase of handling performance issues, it is important to let the employee know that the problem is serious and further action will be taken if it continues. If you believe the employee just doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to perform the job, asking him or her about this could be helpful to getting to the root of the problem as well. If the employee continues to be nonperforming, you may consider utilizing the progressive discipline process before initiating an employee separation. However, investigating the performance issue should occur before implementing any sort of discipline.