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Employer Success Story

It is softball season for my fourth grade daughter. Last year, at many of the games, one of the dads and I talked about problems he was having with an employee. Although we discussed a number of things he could do, there was a reluctance to take action.

At the first game this year, the issue of this one employee came up again. But guess what? The employee is still there, with much improved conduct, performance, attendance and attitude. What did they do?

When I asked that question, my daughter’s classmate’s father told me they ran an ad for this employee’s job. And the employee saw it. Since then, she has become a much better employee.

There are a couple of interesting lessons from this employer’s story. First of all, when you have an employee that is not working out, the employee knows it. It is not working out for the employee either. That is why in this instance, the employee was looking at job listings and saw the employer’s ad.

Second, when you call an employee on poor performance, some employees will improve. Although this employer was reluctant to confront the employee directly, they lucked out. Their job listing, when viewed by the employee, was essentially a confrontation. The employee thought about it and decided to improve.

There are other methods of confrontation that are more likely to catch an employee’s attention. A misconduct investigation is one way. Another approach I like is the use of a “Final Written Warning.”

If you use a Final Written Warning, be prepared to do what you say you are going to do. If the employee’s conduct or performance does not improve, discipline or terminate the employee. Otherwise, you are telling your workforce that you really will not do what you say you will do.

Also, do not use a “Last Chance Agreement.” This is a union contract concept. You are not required to and do not want to follow some of the provisions negotiated by unions. A proper Final Written Warning will serve you much better.

I am currently working with a few employers on a new way to get the attention of problem employees. It is what I call a “Considered For Termination” notice. You sit a problem employee down and let them know you have considered terminating their employment. State what it is they are doing wrong and that if it continues, they will be terminated. Follow this up with a nice but firm written notice (email, letter, memo…) confirming the discussion.

Remember getting sent to the corner as a kid to think about what you did wrong? I sure do...You can do something similar with a problem employee. Tell the employee what he or she is doing wrong, send them home and tell them to think about whether they want to continue working for you. Several clients have experimented with this with success.

Each of these approaches is for employees with problems that have progressed to the point where change is needed or the employee cannot continue to work for you. The employee knows he or she is not doing a good job. The only thing that may catch an employee by surprise is the fact that you are actually willing to do something. Any of the methods discussed above can convey the need for immediate corrective action or possible termination.

Let’s face it, the employer discussed above lucked out. You do not need to rely on luck when dealing with problem employees. You can make your expectations known, make the consequences known and, if necessary, take action. Now, back to the first year of girls, kid pitch, fast pitch softball…

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Reader Comments (1)

That sounds pretty good Alan. But what if the employee, because of the stress of possibly being terminated or replaced, goes to their physician and makes a stress related claim? The work enviroment is now so stressful that I can't do my job well. To much pressure. My boss doesn't like me. The staff around me don't like me. Now the employee has FMLA or an ADA law behind them with no chance of termination. Ever run across one of those anyone?
June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaryl

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