A Guide for Managers and
Supervisors of North Idaho
College in Managing
Corrective Action for Staff
Presented by Wade Larson
This material is provided to managers and supervisors as a guide to assist you through
the corrective action process. Specific application of corrective action measures should
be discussed with human resources should you have any questions. As with all
employment actions, should there be any discrepancy between the information provided
in these materials and college policy or procedure, college policy and procedure
supersedes. For additional information specific to corrective action measures, please
consult the North Idaho College policies and procedures available on the web via
www.NIC.edu. Nothing in these materials constitutes a contract or agreement pertinent
to the terms and conditions of employment for any employee at North Idaho College.
Corrective Action Guide 2 North Idaho College
CORRECTIVE ACTION: INTRODUCTION
Purpose of Corrective Action
The primary purposes of corrective action can be summed up as:
To correct performance problems
To correct behavior problems
To help the employee achieve success
As supervisors and managers, it is our responsibility to achieve goals and objectives
through the combined efforts of the employees and resources that are within our scope.
As such, we must manage our employees and their performance to help them attain the
greatest level of performance possible.
North Idaho College strives to provide its employees with an employment structure that
helps individuals grow and improve in their careers. NIC personnel are expected to
meet certain standards of performance on the job, to adjust to changes in work
assignment and schedules when necessary, and to be willing to learn new skills and
apply them where they are most critically needed.
The corrective action process is intended to improve the employee’s performance to a
sustained acceptable level and to provide a process that allows supervisors and
employees to work together.
Your Focus is Improvement, NOT Termination
To be effective at corrective action supervisors must realize that their intent is to
improve performance, not simply to fire an employee. If your intent is to fire the
employee, then we need to take a different approach. However, we must realize a few
things about employees:
You hired them for a reason, or at least somebody hired them for a reason. At some
point in time they appeared to have the talent and capabilities to be the best
candidate. If they are no longer performing or behaving in a manner that is at an
acceptable level, there's probably a reason why.
If you are in the same situation how would you like to be treated? What we find is
that most supervisors would want to be treated with respect, be given a chance to
improve their performance, or to otherwise fix the performance or behavior problems
that are observed.
The cost of replacing an employee is considerable. A conservative estimate to
replace an employee is 50% of their first year salary. Is that so high? Take into
account all the costs that go into replacing employee. There is the last performance
Corrective Action Guide 3 North Idaho College
while they are on their way out or the positions vacant, the direct expenses of
advertising for the position, the cost of time that it takes to recruit and interview new
candidates, the ramp up time for the new hire to get up to speed in the new position,
etc. Once you take the actual cost of this into account, it is easy to come up with
If your intent is to fire the employee, then we really do need to take a different approach
and you should review the materials that are included in the termination section of these
materials. However, termination should not be your first choice. It should be the very
last choice where nothing else that you have tried works or where the behavior or
performance is so severe that it calls for such drastic action.
Corrective Action Guide 4 North Idaho College
Let’s Start with Performance Management
Because our focus is on employee performance and behavior, it is important to
understand the nature of performance and managing performance.
One equation that can describe the components of performance is:
P = f(KSA)
K=Knowledge (Know how to do the job)
S=Skills (Ability, competency, and capability to do
A=Attitude (Desire and motivation to do the job)
Because performance is a function of knowledge, skills, and attitudes, we need to
understand each person is different and each of these components of performance
differs within each person. As it relates to performance issues, though, here's what we
understand: people do not perform for one of three reasons...
They don't know how to do the job (knowledge)
They are unable to do the job (skills)
They don't want to do the job (attitude)
An employee who has the desire to perform and has the capabilities to do the job, but
lacks the knowledge to do a specific task, is a frustrated employee. They are missing
the key resource to do the job which is the knowledge base. If you have an employee
who otherwise performs well and has the desire to perform the job, but lacks the
knowledge, then you and the employee should work together to identify where the
knowledge exists and how the employee can obtain it.
Solution: While it is not a one-size-fits-all approach to solve the problem in every
case, the typical solution to knowledge issues is training opportunities.
Training can be in the form of on-the-job training, book training, courses
and classes, and other means for the employee to learn.
Skill issues can be a little bit trickier to manage. It is a simple situation where the
employee is not sure of the process or procedure, but has the capabilities to perform the
Corrective Action Guide 5 North Idaho College
work, but this can typically be resolved through training and development. As the
employee learns new skills, they are then able to implement the knowledge that they
have and perform to acceptable levels.
In some cases, a person may have the knowledge and the desire to perform, but does
not have the capabilities to perform. For example, there may be physical disabilities that
get in the way of the employee being able to perform the essential functions of the job. If
this is the case, then you can discuss the matter with HR to decide whether there is
some kind of accommodation that can be provided. However, if they can't perform the
essential functions, then they are not qualified to perform the job.
The other factor is capability. Let's take a mechanic for example. Somebody can be
book smart and have the desire to be a mechanic, but if they do not have any kind of
mechanical inclination, there really isn't any training or schooling out there to resolve
this. Sure, you may have some schooling that could help a little bit, but if the person
does not possess the fundamental capability to perform the skills that are required for
the job, then it really does make it a challenge to get them up to the level of
performance that is acceptable.
Solution: Again, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. If it is a situation where the
person needs to simply learn the processes, and possesses the capability
to perform the job, then this need can be met through training. If it is a
situation where they are physically unable to perform the essential
functions of the job, then we need to take a look at how we can
accommodate them or help them find a different position that they are
qualified for. If it is a capability situation, then we really need to identify
what we are requiring from the position and to see what we can do to help
the employee. However, if ultimately they cannot perform the job, then we
need to come up with different options.
Of all three reasons why people do not perform effectively, this is probably the most
common. There are a multitude of reasons why people do not want to perform the job,
and it is our responsibility as the supervisor to find out what it is. If there are some
things that we can accommodate, such as physical environment and other factors that
are related to the workplace, those are easy to fix. However, if the issues become
personal, interpersonal, or deal with private or emotional issues, then we need to take
some different steps to correct their performance. Ultimately, we need to find out how
the employee feels and why they are not meeting their expectations.
Solution: Without a diagnosis of the problem, it is impossible to come up with a
solution. Therefore, the solution must begin with you as the supervisor
finding out why people do not want to perform. If it becomes a personal
issue, you can resolve that through corrective action. It is something more
than that, you should use appropriate tact and diplomacy to resolve it.
Corrective Action Guide 6 North Idaho College
Performance Management Model
The following model can be used to identify the key components and criteria of
managing performance. It basically breaks down to four parts:
Corrective Action is a form of feedback to
the employee on the execution of
Set Expectations: Employees cannot meet performance expectations if they
do not know what those expectations are. It is up to you as supervisors to
ensure that expectations are clearly established. This involves more than
simply handing the employee the job description. It involves goals and
specifications that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to the job,
and time specific. In short, employees must understand what is expected in
order to meet those expectations.
Give Feedback: Once expectations are established, you must also provide
feedback on a regular basis. This includes both positive and corrective
feedback so that the employees understand both what they are doing well
and what needs correcting. Not only do you need to point out what is in need
of correction, but you should also provide guidance and coaching as to what
should be corrected and how to go about it.
Performance Appraisal: The appraisal process is an important part of this
model. It is a time where you can bring the employee together with the goals
and expectations that you have, clarify expectations, provide additional
feedback other than what you have given on a regular basis, and set the tone
for the upcoming year.
Corrective Action Guide 7 North Idaho College
Culture of Performance: As you engage in the three steps listed above, you
begin to create a culture performance. A culture performance is established
as you set expectations and hold employees accountable for their
performance and behavior. The combination of responsibility and
accountability are key factors to ensure that employees can perform at their
best levels and to create this culture of performance. This is ultimately up to
you as the front-line supervisor to develop this culture performance through
continual setting of expectations and the feedback process.
Corrective Action as a Part of Performance Management
We must see corrective action as part of the performance management process. It is
simply a tool that you have in your toolkit to ensure that performance and behavior are
at expected levels. While it is a tool that you don't necessarily need to use on every
employee all the time, it is a tool that you have available to you when changes need to
be made and steps taken to bring performance up to expectations.
The challenge is for you as the supervisor to understand the role of performance
management and lay the foundation first before jumping into corrective action. However,
if you're in need of engaging in corrective action measures right away, do not think that
you have to establish a culture performance before you can engage in the tools. It is just
a matter of effectiveness where employees understand their expectations and are given
feedback, and the steps of corrective action are used when standard performance
management procedures don't work.
Corrective Action Guide 8 North Idaho College
BEFORE Corrective Action
Assess the Expectations
What we find is that most people do not meet expectations or perform badly because
they do not know that what they are doing is inappropriate. In most cases, simply
coaching the employee and providing feedback to them about the situation will correct
the issue altogether. Corrective action steps should be used once we ensure that the
employee understands expectations and has been provided feedback in the past
regarding their performance of those expectations.
Before jumping into formal corrective action steps you should ask the following
Have I clearly communicated expectations to the employee?
If you do not have a clear and definite "yes" as a response, then you should probably
take a moment to determine a different approach to fix a performance situation.
As the supervisor you start to set expectations for your employee even before they
begin working for you. Potential employees begin to assess expectations of a job while
they are going through the hiring process. Your ability to clearly communicate to the
new employee through the recruiting process just what is expected will help you to
establish a solid foundation upon which to build your performance management with
Some of the other opportunities to communicate expectations may be found in the
Employee Orientation: Employee orientation involves much more than just a
couple of hours that your new employee spends with human resources. It involves
the first week, first month, and even the first year that they spend with you in their
new position. It is important that you take an active role as a supervisor with your
employee during this initial employment period so that employees can know clearly
what is expected from the position. This is your chance to mold them and help them
Organizational Policy: Organizational policy communicates several of
expectations. However, it is important for you as the supervisor to emphasize for
your employees which policies matter most and are most relevant to them. It is also
important for you as the supervisor to interpret policy compliance as it pertains to
your area. For example, regarding attendance, it is up to you to dictate what "on
time" means. You can help the employees to understand specifically what is
expected within the realm of company policy.
Corrective Action Guide 9 North Idaho College
Department Procedures: Within each department there are different ways to do
things. We can title these "Department procedures". Even if they are not formally
within the policies and procedures manual, there are just certain ways you do certain
things within your department. It is up to you the supervisor to ensure that the
employee understands what those procedures are so they can perform them to your
Individual Expectations: Finally, it is important for you to spend enough time with
individuals so that you can set specific expectations pertinent to that person and
their job. Some of the sources of these expectations for the employees can include:
o Performance Evaluations
o One-on-One Meetings
o Coaching Sessions
o Team or Group Meetings
o Prior Corrective Action Meetings
It is really up to you as a manager and supervisor to make sure that your employees
understand what is expected of them so that they can meet those performance
requirements. If you have reviewed these with your employee, and you're confident
in their understanding of what was expected, then you should take into account the
next steps to correct their performance or behavior.
Corrective Action Guide 10 North Idaho College
TOOLS IN YOUR CORRECTIVE ACTION TOOLKIT
Let’s discuss each of the steps you have at your disposal within the realm of corrective
action. Below is an overview of the different steps, what it involves, tips for the
conversation, and required elements.
Feedback Used continually to instruct employees on things they
do right and things that need corrected.
Coaching Used in those cases where instruction is needed to
improve minor performance gaps.
Oral Warning Used in cases where coaching and feedback go
unheeded or a first time moderate offense.
Written Warning Used in cases where the oral warning goes unheeded or
a first time moderate to severe offense.
Probation Used in cases where oral and/or written warnings are
not heeded, or in conjunction with a severe written
warning, suspension, or other denial of privileges.
Suspension Used in cases where oral/written warnings are not
heeded, or for first-time offenses that are significant in
nature. May be used during investigation prior to
Denial of Privilege May be used in conjunction with any other step. What
constitutes a "privilege" is primarily determined by the
Termination Your final option. This should only be considered in
cases where the employee has repeated offenses that
are not corrected or first-time offenses that are
significant in nature.
Corrective Action Guide 11 North Idaho College
CORRECTIVE ACTION FLOWCHART
The follow provides a guideline for considerations relating to corrective action measures
available to you as a supervisor. Please be sure to contact Human Resources to
discuss specific actions.
Does the Employee’s No Problem…
Performance or Behavior YES Continue to motivate, reward
Meet or Exceed Expectations? and recognize
Have I clearly communicated Coach
expectations? Are those NO Time for you to mentor, teach,
expectations documented? train, educate, facilitate
Consider the extent of
performance or behavior
First time offense, typically of
a minor level Coach
First time offense, typically of Coach or
a minor or moderate level Oral Warning
Second offense, or first
Oral Warning or
offense typically of a
moderate or serious level
Third offense, or first offense Written Warning
typically of a very serious Probation
Ongoing offenses without
improvement, or first offense Suspension
of a significant nature Termination
Corrective Action Guide 12 North Idaho College
The following are some general guidelines to consider as you begin the process of
considering discipline for an employee…
Start with clear disciplinary standards and evidence that employees were given
notice of them
Apply standards uniformly
Adhere to the timetable and procedures set forth in policy or guidelines
Use “objective” systems where possible
If practical, have another supervisor present as a witness during the disciplinary
Don’t wait until a problem becomes serious. Supervisors should review employee
When problems develop, supervisors should discuss them with employees and
suggest ways of correcting the situation
Consider the employee’s reasons for behavior and explain why those are
Make written record of:
o Verbal warnings
o Written warnings
o Specific problems
Provide notice of the specific requirements with which the disciplined employee
must comply to avoid further discipline or discharge and the timeframe in which
they must be met
Be especially careful when documenting information regarding an employee.
Make sure that all documentation is relevant to the performance and behavior,
not specifically to individual characteristics or personality of the employee.
Corrective Action Guide 13 North Idaho College
FEEDBACK – The First Step
This step should take place before corrective action steps are necessary. Most
performance and behavior problems come from the employee being unaware that what
they are doing is wrong. By providing ongoing and open coaching and dialogue, you
can prevent the need to discipline altogether.
This is by far the biggest step to success with your employees, but it takes the first
step…which is to simply talk to your employees.
Feedback is simply the process of communicating with your employees. This involves
your communication as to what is going well and what is not going well or what needs
correcting. Regular feedback can happen on a daily basis or at least a regular basis as
you communicate to employees about their performance. You can create regular
opportunities to provide feedback in cases such as the one-on-one meetings,
performance reviews, quarterly check-in, daily interaction, or a myriad of other
The key is to start communicating with your employees in an open and honest manner
so that they know that your feedback is sincere and on target. You should also create
an environment where the employee feels that if he or she is not receiving correct
feedback that they can come to you as the supervisor to correct your perceptions. This
will require specific listening skills and the ability to negotiate with your employees.
Corrective Action Guide 14 North Idaho College
PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT PLAN
An Accompaniment to Any Level of Corrective Action
The performance improvement plan is a document that you can use at any level in the
corrective action process. It may be used as a simple coaching tool that is informal and
"off the record", or you can use it in conjunction with any step of corrective action as
your source of documenting and communicating the terms of your feedback to the
The performance improvement plan has six steps to it:
1. Description of performance/incident: In this step you will clearly identify what
the problem is or the gap that exists in performance. Remember that you want to
be as specific as possible and focus on the performance or behavior, not
criticism of the actual employee. You want to focus on job related aspects which
may include one of the following elements:
a. Performance of assigned duties: These may be communicated within the
job description or other discussions that you have had with the employee.
The key here is to ensure that the assigned duties or expectations have
been clearly communicated and understood. If they have, and it is open to
b. Company policy or legal issues: As you review company policy violations,
it is important to be specific as to the nature of the violation and just how
the employee violated the policy that you are citing. The same standard
applies to the violation of federal, state or local laws.
c. Safety concerns: Any time that you get a situation where an employee
violates general safety protocol or puts other people in harm’s way, or
ultimately creates a situation that results in an accident or injury, this is
unquestionably subject to corrective action. You want to identify
specifically with the safety concern is and to the extent or scope of the
d. "Attitude" or Behavior: At any time that you identify attitude as an issue,
you will want to identify the objective and observable elements of the
attitude. You do not typically want to use the term "attitude" because of the
subjective nature of the term. Attitude can take into account several things
and factors that are not easily identifiable or that are subjective in nature.
For this reason, you will want to focus specifically on those things that are
documentable, observable, or specific enough to identify the impact that
they have on other people or the performance of the job.
e. Work flow impact: This covers the impact that the employee has to other
people. While the individual may be performing his or her duties to
adequate levels, if their performance or behavior hinders others’ abilities
to perform their work, this is subject to corrective action.
Corrective Action Guide 15 North Idaho College
2. Measurable improvement goals: You will want to clearly identify what the goals
are or expectations are that the employee is to meet. These should follow the
S.M.A.R.T. format of goal setting. In other words the goals and expectations
should be specific, measurable, attainable, related to the job, and time driven.
You should be specific in what needs to be done in order for improvement goals
to be met. Both you and the employee should be crystal clear on what
improvement criteria are.
3. Training and direction: As part of the improvement plan you need to identify
any specific training or courses or other direction that you want to provide to the
employee as part of the improvement process. It is important that you identify
whether these are simple recommendations or if they are required. Keep in mind
that if they are required, you pay for it. That is to mean that if you require them to
go to the EAP, specific training courses, etc. you need to provide them with time
during the workday to make that happen. Also, if you require a specific course or
other training application, then you must pay for it as well. If you only recommend
that they attend certain courses or take certain training, you cannot hold them
accountable for it if they choose not to do it. Ultimately you can hold them
accountable for their performance improvement, but if that improvement is
anyway tied to the trainer resources and you withhold those from the employee,
chances are good it will not look favorable in a wrongful termination situation.
4. Improvement timeframe: You must identify the timeframe within which the
improvement must take place. If the improvement is identified to take place within
30 days, it is important to set a specific date for you to check back in with the
employee and to evaluate progress. If the improvement. If it goes beyond 30
days, it is strongly recommended that you hold regular follow-up meetings and
you identify the times and dates of those meetings within the improvement
document. This way you document your intent to work with the employee to
improve their performance. Setting up the improvement plan without follow-up
meetings may just demonstrate that you're setting them up to fail.
5. Consequences: It is vital to identify what the consequences are if performance
improvement does not take place. Be sure to specifically identify what additional
steps will be considered or what future actions will take place if the employee
fails to improve. At the same time, you should also identify what will happen if
improvement goals are met.
6. Employee input/rebuttal: Whether the employee decides to take it or not, he or
she is given the opportunity to provide their input and rebuttal. If they would like
to attach it to the improvement plan, they should be welcome to do so. This is
their statement as to their perspective of the situation. It is important that we
demonstrate that we give the opportunity to the employee to share their
perspectives. It does not change the requirements put forth in the improvement
plan, but simply identifies their concerns that they may have as a result of the
Corrective Action Guide 16 North Idaho College
Performance Improvement Plan
Employee’s Name: Date: _____________________
Overview: The performance improvement plan is designed to provide the supervisor with a tool to
communicate with the employee about specific concerns regarding performance and behavior as per NIC
1. Description of Performance/Incident
Identify the current performance or behavior by the employee that does not meet expectations. Be specific
regarding the performance, behavior, policy in question, impact to others, etc. that pertain.
2. Measurable Improvement Goals
Identify specific, measurable goals to be obtained by the employee through the course of this plan. Be as specific
as possible in your objectives and description of improvement to be attained.
3. Training/Direction Recommended/Required (Specify)
Identify training and/or direction that you recommend and/or require. If training or remedial efforts are required,
please be specific as to the courses, projects, or efforts to be taken by the employee.
4. Improvement Time Frame
Identify the time period that the improvement plan will cover. The plan should not exceed 6 months. If the plan
extends beyond 30-days, periodic review meetings should be set below for future follow-up and communication
of progress regarding this plan.
Identify what further actions shall result…
a. If performance/incident is repeated during improvement period:
b. If performance improves by end of improvement period:
c. If performance does not improve by end of improvement period:
6. Employee Input / Rebuttal: (Optional)
The employee may respond to, provide input to, or rebut this improvement plan in the space below. If further
space or attachments are required, please attach copies of the response, input or rebuttal to this document.
X X___________________________ ___________________
I acknowledge the PIP I disagree with the PIP Date
X X___________________________ ___________________
Supervisor Witness (if necessary) Date
Corrective Action Guide 17 North Idaho College
Coaching is one of the best tools you have available to you in your toolkit. It can help
resolve many issues and challenges long before they become problems. The key is to
use effective coaching skills that are efficient, respectful, and achieve effective results.
When you think of the coaching process you may bring to mind the image of the coach
at athletic events. Let's take the football coach or basketball coach for our example.
During practice when an error is made the coach stops what he is doing, visits with the
employee in a one-on-one setting, and corrects the performance issue. He does not
wait for the end of the season to tell the player how he or she did. He has to correct
performance right away so that the player can learn, improve performance, and
ultimately impact the performance of the team.
The same goes in the workplace. However, many supervisors wait for a long period of
time before they actually coach their employees to correct the performance or behavior.
Because they wait so long, the performance problems grow and usually multiply,
resulting in bigger issues impacting the organization. The key for you as a coach is to
address issues as they arise, address them head-on, and manage the performance
improvement process to achieve key results right away.
If you are new to coaching you may ask what goes into the process of coaching your
employees to higher performance. Below is a model that we can use to guide us
through the process of working with our employees to achieve higher levels of
Establish Discover Plan the Remove Recap
Focus Possibilities Action Barriers
Corrective Action Guide 18 North Idaho College
Step 1: Establish Focus
The first step in the coaching process is to bring both you and the employee into focus
of what matters most in the expectations that exist. At this stage you identify where the
employee is at compared to where they need to be. This gap analysis is the first step to
correct performance issues. As you discuss the issues with the employee, chances are
good that you can clarify expectations and resolve any concerns that exist with the
employee. Once you find what the "current reality" consists of, you can then move to the
Step 2: Discover Possibilities
Once you have identified the gap in performance, the next step is to identify what needs
to be done or what needs to happen in order to improve performance. This may be a
clarification of expectations, a reiteration of goals and objectives, etc. The important part
of this step is to ensure that both you and the employee have the same understanding
of what is expected.
Step 3: Plan the Action
The next stage of effective coaching is to identify what steps will be taken in order to
improve performance. This action plan should outline the timetables, then metrics, and
other specifications involved in improving performance. It should be made clear what is
expected of the employee in order to achieve satisfactory levels of performance.
Step 4: Remove the Barriers
As you identify the goals to be met and the expectations that have been set, it is also
important for you to identify with the employee what barriers may exist in their
accomplishment of the goals and expectations. At that stage, you as the supervisor
must identify ways to remove those barriers and to help the employee overcome those
challenges. This may be through training, internal restructuring, provision of resources,
and other elements that you as the supervisor may have control over.
Step 5: Recap
The final step is to review and recap what is expected. This happens at two intervals.
First, at the end of your initial discussion you will want to recap with the employee the
gap that exists and the steps and expectations required to overcome the gap. You will
want to make sure that both you and the employee leave with a clear understanding as
to what is wrong and what needs to happen. The second point in which you will review
and recap the outcome is at the end of the of improvement process to ensure that all
requirements have been met and that performance is at an acceptable level.
Corrective Action Guide 19 North Idaho College
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER AT EACH STEP OF COACHING PROCESS
At each step of the coaching conversation model, consider these questions for both
yourself and the employee.
What would you like to get from this conversation?
What feels most urgent for you now?
Of all the issues, which one is your top priority?
What is the best use of our time together?
What do you need most for yourself?
What outcome do you want?
What is the best thing that could happen?
If you knew you wouldn't fail, what would you do?
What have you observed has worked for others?
That's one option... what's another?
Plan the Action
Of all the options, which is the most compelling?
What you need to do first?
Who or what do you need to include to succeed?
Who do you need to talk to?
How will these actions contribute to achieving your goal?
Remove the Barriers
What might prevent you from succeeding?
What resources do you need?
What are the roadblocks you expect or know about?
Who do you need to communicate this to in the organization?
Tell me what you are going to do and by when?
What are you taking away from this conversation?
What will you have achieved by our next meeting?
For our next meeting, what date and time will work best?
How would you like me to hold you accountable for your commitments?
Corrective Action Guide 20 North Idaho College
ORAL WARNINGS (Any level of supervision)
The oral warning is the first formal step in the corrective action process dealing
specifically with discipline. It should be understood that an oral warning is a serious
matter even though it is only deemed to be "oral" in nature. Because of the importance
of this as a first-ever for most performance issues, it is important that you apply it
appropriately and document appropriately so that if the problem does not improve,
additional steps can be taken.
Oral warnings are typically used in cases of:
Continued performance problems not resolved with simple coaching or feedback.
First time moderate offense.
While feedback and coaching are recommended to deal with most performance issues,
keep in mind that the oral warning can be used as a first measure if you need to pull out
a bigger tool to get the attention of the employee and help them understand what is
needed to be corrected.
Follow these steps as you apply the disciplinary process of oral warning:
Talk with the employee in private
As the saying goes, recognize in public and correct in private. Be sure to apply
discipline and corrective action appropriately so as to maintain respect for the
employee and to allow them to save face.
Have a third party there as needed or appropriate
Depending on the nature of the situation, you may decide that you would like a
third party to be with you as you administer discipline, especially for the first time.
If this is the case, then it is strongly recommended that you use your supervisor
as the third party. If you're supervisor is not available, nor is anyone else within
your immediate chain of command, feel free to use a peer to assist you. In no
way should you use a colleague or peer of the employee.
Applied for infractions of a relatively minor degree
If the offense or infraction is major or significant, there is no reason for you to
have to go through the oral warning before applying additional steps of
disciplinary action. For serious infractions, you may want to consider a written
warning or something stronger depending on the circumstances.
Even though this is considered to be an oral warning, you'll want to be sure to document
that this conversation took place. An effective way to do this is to utilize a performance
improvement plan in conjunction with the delivery of the oral warning. Even though it is
in writing, you can clearly identify improvement plan as being in conjunction with an oral
warning. Just because it is oral in nature does not mean that you should not write it
down. Documentation of this conversation can be held in your personal files and does
not need to be sent to HR.
Corrective Action Guide 21 North Idaho College
Sample Documentation of Oral Warning
The following can be provided to the employee via a memo, e-mail, or within the
performance improvement plan document.
TO: John Smith
FROM: Wade Larson
DATE: December 2, 2008
RE: Documentation of oral warning
This note is to document our conversation that we had regarding the oral warning I
provided to you about your tardiness. As I discussed, you have been tardy five times
over the past month by more than five minutes on each occasion. As we discussed and
you agreed to, this will no longer happen, but failure to make this improvement may
result in additional corrective action if you continue to be tardy on a regular basis. I'm
confident that you can achieve the standard of on time attendance. If you have any
needs or requests please let me know. I am happy to help.
Corrective Action Guide 22 North Idaho College
WRITTEN WARNING (Typically approved by manager)
Written warnings are more serious in nature and are intended to be a serious wake-up
call for the employee. While this is typically not used as the first step of corrective
action, depending on the severity of the situation it may be a tool for you to use right
away. However, written warnings are typically used as a second level disciplinary
Written warnings are typically used in cases of:
Continued performance problems not resolved with coaching, feedback or oral
First-time offenses of a more serious nature.
Follow the guidelines laid out for oral warnings and follow these additional steps...
Follow guidelines of due process when giving the written warning. Be sure to
outline the performance gap, expectations required, timelines for improvement,
and consequences that are involved if improvement does not take place. (The
specifics of these requirements can be met by using the performance
improvement plan document. You only need to identify within the improvement
plan that this constitutes a written warning, and you do not have to have a
separate warning letter in addition to the improvement plan.)
Be sure to obtain a signature from the employee that acknowledges their having
received the written warning. The signature does not necessarily require them to
agree with the warning but only to acknowledge that they have received it.
Applied for infractions of a serious nature. Written warnings should not be given
lightly. They go into an employee's personnel file within HR and become a
regular part of their file. For this reason, it is important that you seek other means
to address minor infractions before getting to the point of a written warning.
However, if the first-time infraction is serious enough to warrant a written
warning, then it is more than appropriate to use this the first time through.
However, most performance issues can be dealt with and resolved using softer
You can go ahead and use the performance improvement plan as a written warning if
you would like. If you do this, you'll need to specifically state within the documents that
the improvement plan constitutes a written warning. If that is the case, you do not need
to have a separate document or letter written up for the file.
Corrective Action Guide 23 North Idaho College
Sample Written Warning
The following can be provided to the employee via a memo or within the performance
improvement plan document. It is important that you follow due process, identify all the
criteria that are included, and that you obtain a signature that acknowledges receipt of
the following warning.
TO: John Smith
FROM: Wade Larson
DATE: December 2, 2008
SUBJECT: WRITTEN WARNING
Cite the incident or On November 1, 2008, you and I discussed concerns surrounding your
policy/rule violated. tardiness and attendance concerns. As a result of that conversation, I
had issued to you an oral warning at the time, indicating that continued
tardiness would result in additional corrective action. Since that you
have been tardy more than five minutes on at least three occasions.
This creates an inconvenience to others in the office as they have to fill
in for you until such time as you're at your desk. While you always had
what you deemed to be a good excuse, the fact remains that you have
been tardy three additional times. As a result, I am now obliged to give
you a written warning.
Corrective action Because of this incident, I am placing a copy of this written reprimand in
being taken your personnel file as a written and formal record of disciplinary action.
In addition, if you continue to be tardy in the future, I will be forced to
consider additional corrective action up to termination.
State the employee’s If you disagree with this written warning, or if you desire to refute these
options actions, please contact me in writing by December 10, 2008, so that we
can attempt to resolve these issues. If you seek further clarification as
to your options, you may consult with the personnel policies relating to
I hope this discipline will reinforce your understanding of the importance
of being to work on time. Please note that continued violation of
understanding of policies will result in stronger disciplinary action.
consequences cc: Rolly Jurgens, Vice President
By signing below, I acknowledge receipt of this disciplinary action.
Signed: _______________________ Date: ________________
Corrective Action Guide 24 North Idaho College
SUSPENSION, PROBATION (Typically approved by director or vice president)
In those cases where severe infractions occur as first-time offenses or an individual
does not correct his/her performance in earlier stages of the corrective action process, a
more severe step may be required. At this stage you may consider suspension and/or
probation as an option to you for consideration.
Suspension and probation are typically used in cases of:
The most severe first-time infractions.
Used when an employee continuously disregards prior warnings, one of which
should be a written warning.
Used as the final step before termination. This ultimately results in a last chance
arrangement with the employee to shape up and achieve performance
expectations or to leave the organization.
Follow these steps as you apply the process of implementing suspension or probation:
Follow the guidelines laid out for oral and written warnings and follow these
Remember that this is the final step before termination. Employee must
understand the severe nature of their infraction or performance problem. If you
believe that suspension of probation will not ultimately result in improved
performance or behavior, then we should probably consider final stages of
corrective action sooner rather than later. This step is reserved for those
individuals who you believe to have an opportunity to improve and have the
capacity to change for the better. It becomes the final stage of improvement
opportunity for the employee.
Because of how close suspension and probation are to termination, we need to
follow many of the same steps to ensure appropriateness of providing these
levels of corrective action. In other words, do not administer suspension or
Probation is identified within policy as the third step available to managers and
supervisors in the corrective action process. It may be used in conjunction with a
suspension, but does not necessarily require suspension. Probation is established for a
given period of time that is up to the supervisor. It is strongly encouraged that you
contact human resources to discuss the appropriate length of probation for the
employee. During the probationary period, the employee is considered to be at will,
meaning that they can be let go at any time and for any reason. While the duration of
probation is not specifically laid out in policy, it is necessary to consider the extent and
severity of the infraction when determining the appropriate duration. Probation that lasts
longer than one year period of time is inappropriate.
Corrective Action Guide 25 North Idaho College
It is important that during the probationary period the expectations be clarified and laid
out so as to clearly communicate to the employee what standards they must meet
during the probationary period. Further communication is required to clearly identify
what consequences exist if performance does not improve during the probationary
period. This information can be provided within a performance improvement plan
document, wherein you should clearly identify that the improvement plan accompanies
a probationary period.
Suspension may or may not accompany probation. Because of the severe nature of
suspensions, it is important that you seek direction from human resources to take into
account the severity and circumstances of the infraction. Depending on each case, the
terms and conditions of suspension may differ. While it is important to be consistent in
their application of suspension with probation, it is also vitally important that the
consequence match the offense. For that reason, it is important to seek direction from
human resources to ensure appropriate length and terms of suspension.
When an employee is suspended, we must identify whether that suspension is paid or
unpaid. If the suspension is an unpaid suspension, then it is just as harsh as a
termination so we must ensure that we do it appropriately. Most suspensions will be
unpaid given that they are a disciplinary measure.
There are many situations that may call for suspension, and it is up to the supervisor
and appropriate director or vice president to determine the parameters of the
suspension. For example, if you would like them to be suspended but allow them to use
vacation time, that can be an option. However, we can also dictate that vacation time is
not allowable to cover the time off during an unpaid suspension. This again should be
taken into account as you review the severity of the situation.
Corrective Action Guide 26 North Idaho College
DECISION DAY (Typically approved by director or vice president)
An alternative that may be successful in working with your employee is to offer them a
decision-making day. This is a paid day off where the employee is given specific
instructions to come back to work with a written plan of improvement that describes how
they are going to keep their job. This may constitute a paid day of suspension, but it is
really a day where you can communicate to the employee that you care about them and
want them to be successful, but ultimately they must provide you with a written plan as
to how they are going to improve their performance and keep their job.
This clearly demonstrates to the employee that you care about them and you are
invested in their success. At the same time, you clearly communicate to the employee
that you are serious about this. In cases of wrongful termination suits, organizations that
provide this kind of decision-making date as a last chance option proved successful in
demonstrating to juries that they did all that they could to help the employee succeed
and improve their performance.
It is ultimately up to the manager, director, or vice president as to the terms of this paid
day off for the employee and the assignments to be completed during this time.
However, it is vital that the employee be given specific instructions as to what is to be
completed and submitted the following day after they're finished.
Corrective Action Guide 27 North Idaho College
DISCIPLINARY ACTION CHECKLIST
You should never discipline an employee unless you can answer “yes” to all of the
PRIOR TO DETERMINING IF DISCIPLINE IS APPROPRIATE, HAVE YOU…
Determined that the employee knew of the rule or performance standard?
Determined that the rule or standard is reasonable, and that its enforcement would be
reasonable under the circumstances?
Reviewed all relevant materials including employee handbooks, contracts, policy
statements, the employee’s disciplinary history, evaluations and attendance records?
Interviewed all employees or third parties who may know of or were involved in the
Taken accurate notes from interviews/investigation about who, what, where, when and
Confronted the employee about the misconduct?
Given the employee a fair opportunity to explain/deny the misconduct?
Concluded that you are confident, based upon your interviews, records, etc., that you
know all the necessary facts of the situation?
PRIOR TO DISCIPLINING THE EMPLOYEE, HAVE YOU…
Reviewed the proposed disciplinary action to ensure accuracy, consistency and
Determined that the disciplinary action is consistent with how other employees have
been disciplined for the same or similar misconduct?
Determined that the disciplinary action is the proper corrective measure under applicable
policies and the employee’s disciplinary history?
Checked to make sure that the discipline notice/memo you have prepared is accurate
Had the proposed disciplinary action approved by HR?
Arranged to have reliable management witness present if you are concerned about how
the employee may react?
DURING A PRIVATE CONFERENCE WITH A SUPERVISOR AND THE EMPLOYEE…
Have you considered if this is a circumstance where a second supervisor should be
Has the supervisor reviewed the disciplinary notice/memorandum with the employee?
Have you reviewed the facts with the employee?
Have you explained…
The misconduct? Why it’s unacceptable? The penalty given?
What penalty will result if the misconduct is repeated?
How to improve performance/conduct?
If the employee is to be discharged, has the supervisor given the employee written
notice of the effective time and date of discharge?
AFTER THE DISCIPLINARY CONFERENCE…
Has the supervisor immediately made the necessary entries in the personnel file and
other applicable records?
Corrective Action Guide 28 North Idaho College
WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?
There are several situations that get supervisors into trouble when disciplining employees.
These are a few of them…
Focusing on the letter of the law only
Extreme action for offenses (offense does not match action taken)
“Zero Tolerance” as the general policy
Key factors to consider
Policy is not a straightjacket nor is it black-and-white
Applying progressive discipline calls for judgment and common sense
A “zero tolerance” approach can get in the way of good judgment
Avoiding the problem
Taking an “ignorance is bliss” approach to discipline
Having too kind of a heart and delaying appropriate action
Key factors to consider
You’re not doing anyone favors (yourself or the employee)
You must start early on in the process to get their attention and correct behavior
You may not get their attention or change behavior, but you must catch it early
Making frequent exception to policy
Create sense of favoritism
Being “Mr. Nice Guy”
Allowing personal grudges and emotions to get in the way
Key factors to consider
Progressive discipline is there for a reason
Apply similar level of discipline for similar offenses
While you don’t want to be inflexible, it’s not a good idea to make exceptions when
policy violations are clear
May result from personal preferences and dislikes
Need to consider “professional distance” to avoid situations like this
Corrective Action Guide 29 North Idaho College
Tend to rush through the steps of corrective action to get to termination
Tends to be used where an employee seems like an intractable problem that can
only be dealt with by getting rid of him/her
Key factors to consider
Stick to the steps of progressive discipline
If you plan to skip a step, check with someone else first (preferably HR)
Impatience and avoiding steps unnecessarily may result in demonstration of
Creating promises with employees that create promise of ongoing employment
Revises “contract” of employment
Key factors to consider
Avoid statements that could create contractual relationship with employee
Avoid statements in progressive discipline steps that create expectation of dismissal
Keeping disorganized documentation
Not keeping track of prior steps of corrective action
Not holding individuals accountable for infractions
Key factors to consider
Must be able to demonstrate that you are doing the right thing with employees
Must demonstrate that you took appropriate action at the time it was appropriate
You are proving to yourself, the employee, the organization and the courts that
policy was followed and fairly applied
If a supervisor has a problem with the employee that doesn’t seem solvable, the
supervisor may look around for reasons to get rid of the employee
Using progressive discipline as a way to build a case against an employee that
complained or engaged in other protected activity
Key factors to consider
Any time progressive discipline looks skewed or confusing, it may lend itself to a
charge of an ulterior motive
Avoid using progressive discipline to cover up illicit motives…you’ll get caught
Corrective Action Guide 30 North Idaho College
While North Idaho College does not specifically provide for employee rights through the
corrective action process, it is important to understand some fundamental rights that
they may have for you to take into consideration. While these are not all inclusive of any
and all college policies, state statutes and federal laws, they are considerations for you
to take into account.
While no specific policy exists that either allows or disallows representation for
employees, it is important to understand a few guidelines should an employee request
the accompaniment of another person during a meeting that may result in discipline.
Should an employee request the presence of another person in a meeting that may
result in discipline or action, they may do so with certain limitations. It is recommended
that you get a hold of human resources right away to discuss options. Under what are
called Weingarten rights, employees can request the presence of another person in the
room in any meeting that may result in disciplinary action. This person can be subject to
approval by the organization, and is not generally going to be an attorney or
representative from outside of the organization. It's typically involves a peer or
somebody with the need to know what is going on. That person does not have the right
to represent the employee nor speak on behalf of the employee. In fact, that attendee
may be restricted from speaking at all during the process. However, it is important for
you to know not to disallow the accompaniment of another individual requested by the
employee. Again, call human resources for specific guidance when it is requested.
Employees have access to the grievance procedure anytime they feel that a policy has
been violated or mishandled. If the employee chooses to grieve the application of the
corrective action policy, they may do so according to college policy.
Policy 3.02.23 states…
All college employees will have access to a standard method of processing a
dispute regarding a perceived violation of written college policies or procedures.
A grievance is defined as any substantial unresolved dispute regarding the
implementation of written college policies or procedures. This policy and
procedure does not apply to any disputes regarding a policy and its associated
procedures, which contain its own grievance procedure.
While the grievance policy will be administered generally as per the policy, there are
specific parameters set for application of the grievance process in the case of
termination. Should employees wish to apply the grievance policy, they should review
those themselves and follow the appropriate course of action. Supervisors and
managers should not provide specific advice regarding the application of the grievance
procedure. Should employees have questions about it, they can contact human
Corrective Action Guide 31 North Idaho College
The final step of the corrective action process is termination. This should be reserved
only for cases where the other steps of corrective action have proven to be ineffective or
in the case of a first offense that is significant, severe, or egregious in nature. Policy
3.02.07 clearly defines the grounds for dismissal or suspension. In most cases, anything
that is terminable would fall under these general guidelines. However, it is important that
you discuss the matter with human resources prior to discussing the option of
termination with your employees.
Because of the liability incurred in wrongful termination suits, it is vitally important that
all steps of the process are applied appropriately prior to the step of termination. Even if
you had good intentions, any misstep by the organization can lead to costly litigation
that can go on for years. Remember that it is the end result, not the intent that matters
Once you get to the step of termination, it will require the approval at the director/vice
president level. Prior to termination for any reason, you should consult human resources
to ensure that all steps have been taken and appropriate action is being followed.
Corrective Action Guide 32 North Idaho College
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR SUSPENSION
The following comes from Policy/Procedure 3.02.07
Any classified employee may be dismissed or suspended for any of the following causes that
occur during the period of employment:
1. Misstatement or deception of material fact in the application for NIC employment.
2. Failure to perform the duties and carry out the obligations imposed by NIC rules and
3. Inefficient, incompetent, or negligent performances of duties.
4. Failure to obtain or maintain a valid license or certification lawfully required as a
condition for employment.
5. Physical or mental incapacity for performing assigned duties.
6. Reporting to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
7. Refusal to accept a reasonable and proper assignment from an authorized supervisor.
8. Any activity that has the purpose or effect of disrupting the working relationships
between employees, employees and their supervisors, or employee groups.
9. Any activity that has the purpose or effect of disrupting the working relationships
between NIC or NIC employee groups and non-NIC cooperating agencies, such as
suppliers, other educational institutions, and state agencies.
10. Any verbal or physical conduct which has the purpose or effect of unreasonably
interfering with an individual or group's work performance or creating an intimidating,
hostile, or offensive work environment.
11. Habitually failing to report for duty at the assigned time and place, or to work the
assigned scheduled hours.
12. Repeated misuse of sick leave.
13. Absence without notifying the appropriate supervisor.
14. Careless, negligent, or improper use/unlawful conversion of NIC property, equipment, or
15. Unethical practices in an employee's official capacity at NIC, such as accepting personal
gifts, favors, or bribes in exchange for undue influence or special advantages.
16. Unauthorized disclosure of confidential information from official records.
17. Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude.
Corrective Action Guide 33 North Idaho College