By Casi Jewett, MAOD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, The Personnel Perspective
One of the most challenging aspects of running any business is managing employee performance issues. Due to the busy nature of the wine industry, especially now during the harvest and tourist season, it is easy for this task to be the last item on a supervisor’s priority list. Unfortunately, this means issues are not addressed until the behavior or performance becomes an issue that can no longer be ignored.
Consider this scenario: Max is a Tasting Room Manager who is ready to fire his employee, Tina, who pours wine in the tasting room on the weekends. Tina has been with the winery for five years, and has exhibited the problem behavior for most of that time aside from the glorious introductory period when she was on her best behavior. Tina has received three performance reviews over the years, receiving a rating of “satisfactory” each time. According to Max, he has had occasional conversations with Tina over the years regarding her behavior, but has found it difficult to do because of their schedules, and has not documented any of these conversations. In addition, no formal corrective action has been taken. Max has now “had it up to here” and wants to fire Tina.
This is a very common scenario. Often, supervisors that have reached this point often react in one of two ways. Either they have “had it” and want to move straight to termination, or they assume that it is too late to deal with the issue. While it is typically not the time for termination, it is never too late to take action.
In the above scenario, by not taking action Max has given Tina the message that her performance is acceptable (or that he doesn’t care). Terminating Tina now would be unfair, since Max hasn’t given her clear feedback or an opportunity to correct the behavior. But again it is not too late! It is time for Max to “draw the line in the sand” with Tina. He needs to give her clear feedback and describe his expectations of her moving forward. He may also want to share the responsibility and tell Tina that he should have addressed the issue previously. Candid honesty will go a long way with building trust and credibility with employees. The most critical piece of this step is the action to follow. Max must hold Tina accountable for immediate and sustained performance improvement. A continuation of the past behavior cannot be an option. Tina has now come to a fork in the road. She has two choices. She can go one way and correct the behavior, or she can go the other way and face formal corrective action and eventual termination. She cannot be allowed to stay on the old road.
Working to constantly put out fires caused by employee performance issues can be time consuming and frustrating. The best way to avoid spending too much time on performance management and corrective action is to give consistent, ongoing feedback to every employee about their performance. Do not wait until an annual performance review or until the fork in the road when the problem has become so bad you can longer stand it.
During these short check-ins make sure that you clearly communicate expectations and consequences. Employee discussions should be two-way and should allow the employee to identify anything that might be getting in the way of success. Document conversations related to performance improvement, even if it is a short note with the date and time of the conversation and what was discussed. Hold your employees accountable for their performance and hold yourself accountable for providing ongoing feedback to help your employees succeed.
The goal of performance management and corrective action is not to punish people. It is to provide feedback, develop employees, and correct undesirable behavior. When done effectively it can have a positive impact on you, the organization, the employee, and their co-workers.