Monday, October 12, 2009

Magic in Non-Disciplinary Corrective Letters

I have always been amazed at how supervisors chase employees to improve performance, stomp their feet to get them to work on time, or scold workers to curtail their inappropriate behavior. When none of the usual, emotional wrangling to to correct employee performance works, and a major incident occurs, out come the big guns - disciplinary action. What happened to the art and science of managing employees with an effective non-disciplinary corrective letter?

The missing piece of armament that very few supervisors seem to ever master well is the non-disciplinary corrective letter. A non-disciplinary corrective letter is a management tool and supportive measure to call an employee's attention unsatisfactory job performance and motivate him or her to make corrections to satisfy standards. These tools can salvage employees, reduce risk of behavioral issues and acting out, and help preserve a more effective relationship with the supervisor.

Effective corrective letters utilize potential reward and fear of loss to match the motivational psyche of the employee. (Some employees become motivated by reward. Other by fear of loss. It is the equivalent of being either left handed or right handed. And, of course some employees are both -- call it "motivation-ally ambidextrous."

Here is a "classic" non-disciplinary corrective letter. Print this model, because it can be a good one in your desk draw to share with supervisors in your one-on-one consults with them.

To: Sally Smith, Machinist
From: John Doe, Supervisor
Subj: Attendance and Performance Problems
Date: 1-1-2006

Last week I reviewed the sick leave records and discovered that you have taken nine days of sick leave in the past year. Each of these days occurred on a Tuesday following a holiday weekend, or on a Friday preceding a three-day holiday weekend. I discussed my concern about this pattern with you last August 12, 2005. Since then, I have grown increasingly concerned. Your last such absence was on Dec. 27, 2005.

As you know, sick leave is a benefit to be used when necessary. The frequency of your sick leave is too high and affects your ability to perform essential functions. On February 15, several overdue widget projects caused a loss of their sale the day you were out. This cost the company $50,000. Your absences also negatively affect clerical staff. I would like to see your performance improve and your absences reduce.

You have excellent skills, and are a valued worker on the assembly line. But, if your use of sick leave remains high I will take additional steps to intervene, which could include administrative or disciplinary action.

Please provide verification of any future illness in which you lose work time. Please see me if you have any questions with regard to this request or the contents in this memo.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. As you know, the EAP is always available to assist you in the event a personal problem is contributing to your attendance problem. You can reach the EAP confidentially at 555-1234. I will review your use of sick leave in one month on Tuesday, February 1, 2006. Please plan to meet with me at 3:00 PM on that day.

cc: next level supervisor