No one looks forward to confrontation.  But holding employees accountable is what holds a business to its goals and purpose.  In a small business environment, have a systematic process for disciplining and even releasing employees is critical.  

Our strategy actually includes steps before the discipline/termination process begins. I believe it should be normal for people to know where they stand in the company and know how they are performing.  I believe the biggest cause of the tension during termination or discipline process is one feeling like he or she is misunderstood or their efforts are not acknowledged. When someone is blindsided, it is more likely that they will defend themselves aggressively. I believe by communicating well and establishing a process people can depend on, most of the misunderstandings go away.

Here is an outline:

  1. Establishing a scorecard that the employee agrees to before they start. Every position in our company needs a scorecard. This shows an employee how they are performing. This helps remove discussions like “I feel like you are not doing a great job”. Basically it helps us manage without drama.
  2. Having an every other month meeting with an internal coach (one’s supervisor). The agenda is fixed – here scorecards are reviewed (the objective side of management) as well as the core value test (where the coach provides feedback related to our core values). The coach’s role is to give feedback and find out how to remove obstacles that are hampering performance.
  3. Having an every other month meeting with a mentor (an upper management person that you do not report to, preferably someone from a different area of the company – for example, head of sales mentors project managers). This meeting agenda is set by the mentor.
  4. By executing the above items well, the employee is well informed about their performance. This diffuses the misunderstandings about performance. When a situation arises where a person is under performing, we execute the following strategy:
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    • Issue a written “Performance Improvement Plan” which outlines what improvements are needed and what a successful improvement will look like, and the amount of time given to make the improvement.
      1. Issued by head of HR and manager.
      2. Once issued, manager and HR touch base with the person independently at pre-determined intervals.
      3. It is clearly outlined what consequences will be if not met.
      4. It is clearly outlined what benefits will be experienced if they are met.
  1. If someone is released, the discussion is not about them not performing well – they are well aware of this because of our process. Rather, the discussion is about their strengths. The positives of them and demonstrate that there is a role in companies where their strengths are most attractive for that position.