Employee Counseling... Use it as a Training Tool

Generally issuing an employee counseling letter is the very first step in a good progressive discipline program.

Remember what the ultimate goal is - to correct behavior - increase productivity - build a team - increase customer satisfaction - and not to terminate employees. Sometimes that happens but it is through a properly run progressive discipline process. Most importantly it is in Good Faith.

Every organization will be a little different on what a minor infraction is and what needs to jump immediately to a verbal or written warning - and worse case scenario even immediate termination. Make sure you cover your policy in the employee handbook.

The following is a real life successful example that I had where I used an employee counseling process to correct behavior.

I was part of a very large organization that had a policy on abusing sick leave.

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progressive discipline process

Complete the Open Blocks to Prepare an Employee Written Warning Notice

Sample Sick Leave Policy...

Here is how the policy basically was designed. If you were sick for any reason you could call in to an identified telephone number. This telephone may or may not be answered when you called in. When you left a message the only thing you were required to do is state that you were ill and would be taking Sick Leave for the specified time you would be out.

If you were sick for less than four days in a row - you would be able to return to work without any questions being asked provided you had enough sick leave to cover the time you were out.

If you were sick for four days or more you were required to bring in a release from a medical professional stating that you could return to work.

And finally - if you developed a pattern over a three month rolling period you could be placed on a sick leave watch by issuing an employee counseling. This meant that if you took another sick day that fell into that pattern in the next three months you would then be placed on sick leave restriction for six months. If this occurred you would then be required to bring in a doctors verification that you were indeed sick no matter if it fell into the pattern or not. If you failed to bring in the doctors verification - you would be charged for an unexcused absence. Appropriate discipline would follow based on where an individual was in the process.

That was the policy.

It was a very liberal policy and some employees were very close to violating the pattern all the time. It was very frustrating as a manager to know what is going on but can not do anything about it - based on the policy.

Well you just have to do your homework. If you don’t check the patterns often enough - you can guarantee that the policy will be abused. Remember to be fair. Check everyone - not just the ones you think are abusing it. Keep records of the checks you have made on everyone. Those records will pay big dividends if you are challenged later.

What is a Pattern...

Well as luck would have it one of our long time employees fell into the pattern. So you ask - what is a pattern?

For us - we established in writing that a pattern could be at least three common days in a three month period such as…

…calling in three times on a day prior to - or immediately following a day off.

…calling in three Tuesdays - or any other day of the week in common.

…calling in one time every pay cycle in a three month period no matter what day of the week.

Point is - be consistent.

So we issued them an employee counseling. Keep in mind that this employee was sick a lot - but had finally fell into a pattern. I say finally because I truly believed they were abusing the system - which had a direct impact on productivity.

Although they were not happy with the employee counseling - which shouldn’t surprise anyone - their attendance dramatically got better. In the following three months they only were out sick one time - and it did not fall into the pattern. Following the three month period the employee continued to have good attendance.

This is only one example - however - countless times I issued an employee counseling - and got the same results.

We accomplished what we set out to do by issuing the employee counseling.

Remember it is the least severe form of discipline. In most cases - some organizations would not even count it as part of the progressive discipline process.

I also know that some organizations would consider sick leave abuse as something deserving a verbal warning. In one international company I worked for - on the third unscheduled absence in a 12 month rolling calendar you were issued a verbal warning - and on each additional unscheduled absence you received a written warning - until you reached the 7th unscheduled absence at which time you were terminated.

Point is that you can establish your own process - but again - be consistent - and follow through.

Thank you and May God Bless You!

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