How supervisors conduct counseling and disciplinary sessions has a lot to do with their success.
First, the meeting must be held in private, in a quiet, uninterrupted setting. The supervisor may wish to include a witness, such as a trusted associate or the HR manager. Do not use a departmental peer of the employee being counseled.
Second, the tone of the session should match the purpose.
- If the session is for counseling, the meeting should be less formal, more comfortable, and supportive. The conversation should focus on constructive criticism, problem discovery, and proposed solutions. While this should be done in a supportive way, it is also necessary to communicate to the employee the negative consequences of continued problems.
- When the purpose of the meeting is disciplinary, the session should be formal and the tone serious. The idea is to impress upon the employee the serious nature his actions, the impending consequences if he does not improve his behavior or performance, and the issuance of the disciplinary report, suspension, or discharge, as the case may warrant.
Third, the investigation of any incident or documentation of a series of problems must be thorough and detailed. Supervisors must not go off half-cocked to write somebody up before investigating. Supervisors may have an incomplete picture of what happened and be embarrassed when the full story comes out.
Fourth, after telling the employee the reason for the meeting and relating the incident or allegations, the supervisor should give him a chance to tell his side of the story. He may have mitigating circumstances or a very different version of what happened. His story may require further investigation or corroboration. The supervisor may need to call other people in as witnesses or to contradict his version.
Fifth, after hearing his side of the story, the supervisor will decide what action to take and prepare the Record of Employee Counseling, CRI Form 103, describing the incident or problem, allowing the employee to offer any response, and providing a summary of the counseling or disciplinary action.
Last, the supervisor will present the employee with the Report and ask for his signature. If he chooses not to sign, so note it. Make sure the Report is complete. Provide the employee with a copy; send one to the HR manager for inclusion in his Personnel File, and save one for the departmental files.
The key to successful disciplinary actions is good documentation. Supervisors have two documentary tools at their disposal – Staff Notes and the Record of Employee Counseling.
- Staff Notes are daily or weekly notes made about staff performance. They should contain instances of tardiness, absences, failure to follow instructions and procedures, complaints, arguments or disputes with other staff, instances of outstanding performance, etc. These brief notes are invaluable in helping a supervisor reconstruct circumstances, give details in review sessions, or document continuing disciplinary problems of a minor nature.
- Records of Employee Counseling are used for formal documentation of problems when the supervisor wishes to give the employee a copy. These reports must be filled out completely and accurately. If the supervisor fails to enter a date, fails to sign it, fails to present it to the employee, or fails to get his signature or note “chose not to sign,” the record may be useless as documentary evidence.
Right to Respond. Each employee subject to a disciplinary action or unsatisfactory performance review has a right to respond. Such response should come within 7 days of the report or review. Supervisors should consider the response, amend the report or review if warranted, and attach the response without alteration to all copies of the disciplinary report or review (personnel file copy and departmental copy).
Choosing Not to Sign. Employees are requested to sign all disciplinary reports and performance reviews, but have an absolute right not to sign. The absence of the employee’s signature will not affect the validity of the document, so long as the supervisor notes that it was presented to him. If an employee chooses not to sign, the supervisor does this by writing “chose not to sign” and the date on the signature line. The words “refused to sign” should not be used as this connotes coercion or lack of choice.
One of the questions posed by supervisors with any employee disciplinary issue is “OK, so he cleans his act up for a time, but then at some later point, it starts up again. What do I do then?” The answer as usual depends on circumstances.
If his behavior has been exemplary for a number of months and then there is one instance of the offending behavior without a reasonable excuse, you may decide to give him the benefit of the doubt. Certainly you may do this, but don’t miss the opportunity to sit him down again, remind him of the consequences should he do it again, and document the session.
You may also decide in light of any number of issues – poor attitude, sloppy work, lack of teamwork, unwillingness to go above and beyond requirements, complaints received, member feedback, lethargic work performance, etc., that you’ll discharge him. This is also defensible, though the longer the period of time between this and his last offense, might cause the reasonable person to consider another, fresher warning.
If during the same period the employee had other documented incidents of misconduct and generally unsatisfactory performance, this would provide all the necessary cause to discharge the employee.
If in doubt, you should always seek the advice of the Human Resources Manager or General Manager.
- excerpted from Employee Development and Discipline on the Go
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