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Frontline Supervisor: Taking Disciplinary Action

Frontline Supervisor: Taking Disciplinary Action

On 2 Jun 2015, in Frontline Supervisor, Management, Workplace

Each month, "The Balance Sheet" provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that's important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people.

Q. I fear taking action to correct performance with some employees because being too determined could lead to dismissal, thereby causing me to incur the anger and disapproval of top management. How can BJC EAP help in this situation?

A. BJC EAP helps supervisors feel more secure in taking action with employees to correct performance, even with the best and brightest, whose knowledge of the organization’s fear of their loss often leads them to resist change. Without an EAP, you have only persuasive skills to motivate your employee. Barring success, what comes next are threats of disciplinary action. A cycle of improvement and deterioration that may lead to dismissal then follows. BJC EAP establishes a new dynamic in performance management. Suddenly, employees consider self-referral, avoiding disciplinary action by going to BJC EAP (with or without sincere intention of accepting help) or accepting the consequences for ongoing performance issues. Most employees will visit BJC EAP when formally referred by the supervisor. Regardless of their motivation initially, most also accept help and return with better levels of performance.

Q. Can you suggest specific language to use to make a formal supervisor referral when a potential disciplinary action exists if performance doesn’t improve? I know to use BJC EAP in supervision, but I think hearing all the “pieces” to include would be helpful.

A. What you say to employees may vary depending on the circumstances of the referral, so consulting with BJC EAP regarding each referral is a good idea. However, the following is a good general approach: “In light of our discussion regarding your ongoing performance problems, I am formally referring you to BJC EAP because the problems have not been corrected. Your referral is based only on performance issues. You should know that a disciplinary action may (will) be imposed if improvement is not forthcoming. Here is the BJC EAP phone number. Please accept this referral and call to schedule an appointment. (Consider: You are welcome to use my phone. Would you like to do that?) Joe, your contact with BJC EAP is confidential according to our policy. Participation is not recorded in your personnel file, and I won’t be requesting to know or learning of any personal issues you discuss. I won’t be able to learn of your attendance or cooperation either without a release, so please sign a consent form for that purpose only.”

Q. I figure if I start dispensing progressive disciplinary action for my employee's performance problems, she will eventually quit. I would prefer this outcome. Am I obligated to make an EAP supervisor referral?

A. Although an organization's EAP policy is unlikely to include a mandate to force supervisors to routinely refer troubled employees, support of the program is usually expected. Consider whether you have an ethical obligation to make a supervisor referral. Would management support a disciplinary action and your omitting such a reasonable step in resolving an employee problem? Typically, disciplinary actions and terminations are the least desirable ways in which to solve employee performance problems. Consider talking with BJC EAP about your feelings concerning this employee, the issues associated with her performance and your supervision relationship. If your employee is qualified for her position but is not performing satisfactorily, there is probably a way to help her. BJC EAP may also help you resolve interpersonal issues that lead you to believe the work unit is better off without her.

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