Employee relations is not many HR leaders or managers favorite part of their job, but it is mandatory. One issue that has shown confusion amongst many managers is the difference between poor performance and a discipline issue. One requires an action plan or PIP (Performance Improvement Plan). Another requires disciplinary action to meet the offense. So how do you know which is which?
A performance issue is when an employee is not meeting company standards in performing their job duties. For example, a sales professional who isn’t meeting a predetermined number of sales per month. A recruiter who isn’t finding qualified candidates for an open position or taking too long to fill them.
A discipline problem would be an employee who is constantly late for work, acting insubordinate, or lying. According to Kate Bischoff in “Discipline vs Performance – Spotting the Differences and Finding Solutions,” “Here’s a simple way to spot the difference: you may be able to train away poor performance, but you can’t train an employee to get to work on time, not lie to you, or not steal from you.”
Knowing the difference is a great start, but how do you handle these situations appropriately?
As mentioned earlier, a PIP is a great way to improve performance issues. Tim Gould in “Poor Performance, bad behavior: Handling 2 very different problem employees” give a great lay out of what should be included in a Performance Improvement Plan. The following is his section suggestions:
- The Deficiency Statement
- The Overall Action Plan
- Specific Goals
- The Time Frame
- Specific Measurements
- Specific Consequences
- Feedback Sessions
With this great layout, a manager or HR leader can easily train, track improvements, and have open dialogue with the employee to fix the performance issue. Not only does this help the employee with performance issues, it helps keep moral around the office up by showing others you’re willing to help them improve.
A discipline problem is handled much differently. It starts with Documentation! Depending on the severity of the problem/incident, will depend on the severity of discipline. For example, if an employee steals, that is usually grounds for immediate termination. If an employee is consistently late, then you probably want to have a verbal conversation first, yet document this for the employee file. Based on your company’s policies will determine the discipline process. Common practice is a verbal warning, a written warning, suspension, and finally termination.
By training managers in the difference between poor performance and discipline, HR leaders can help improve employee morale, and create a lot less headache for the managers.
Shelly Wallace Johnson, aPHR