Counseling a Problem Employee

Meeting with and counseling a problem employee is your first step toward correcting unacceptable behavior. For most organizations an employee counseling is the least form of progressive disciplinary action. Some like the government may not even consider it discipline at all. The entire purpose of disciplinary action is to correct behavior therefore; it is wise to take the least form possible.

Now of course there are certain behavioral problems that would merit a written warning or even termination on the first offense. As an example you most likely should not consider counseling a problem employee if the offense is sexual harassment or insubordination. This should all be written out in your employee handbook. Not having an employee handbook will spell trouble for you at some point in the future based on normal statistics.

This may include deciding on any additional training …

Counseling an employee should be an opportunity to use the moment to teach the employee what your expectations are. As an example if you are counseling the employee for excessive tardiness, this would be your opportunity to clearly point out what your employee handbook policy states. This should all be written out in the counseling itself. This way there is absolutely no question that if the employee is tardy again you will have to issue a written warning.

Another reason for counseling a problem employee would be for poor performance. Again, setting down with the employee and making your expectations clear. This may include deciding on any additional training that may be necessary. Prior to doing this you may need to determine if the poor performance is due to “Won’t” of “Can’t”. If it is “Won’t”, then it should be handled as a behavioral issue. If it is “Can’t”, then it should be handled as a training issue.

Is it a systems problem or specific only to that employee?

If the reason for counseling a problem employee is based on a performance issue you should also take a close look at why the poor performance exists. Is it a systems problem or specific only to that employee? Sometimes when one employee leaves that performed outstandingly and another comes aboard we expect too much. Be fair and treat everyone equally! Not doing so will end you up in a courtroom!

Animated picture of a boss firing an employee

Again, whether you are issuing an employee counseling, a written warning, or even terminating an employee make sure you have a well written employee handbook. An employee handbook will go a long way to protecting your business from an employee lawsuit. Just to help you understand and put things into perspective the average settlement from an employment lawsuit is somewhere between $100,000 and over $1,000,000. This will shut down most small businesses at once!

Difference Between Counseling a Problem Employee and a Wrriten Warning Letter

The primary difference between a counseling and a written warning letter is that one is temporary and the other is permanent. Of course that depends a lot on your company policy; however, that is the industry standard.

When it comes to counseling a problem employee you must be firm and the employee must be left with no questions in their mind about what they did wrong and how to do it right going forward.

As an example if the employee has been tardy you must make sure they understand what is considered tardy (generally anything after their scheduled start time) and the consequences of being tardy again. A written counseling generally will be held by the supervisor for approximately six months or so and then removed and destroyed. Of course this depends again on whether the employee violates another rule or policy in accordance with your employee policy manual.

On the other hand a written warning letter may stay in an employees file forever; although you may choose to keep it active for only three years or so.

Don't ever be afraid of counseling a problem employee and the best advice is to do it as soon as a problem surfaces. Don't wait!

Good Luck and May God Bless You!

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