Do your supervisors allow problem employees to drift along until they are " shoved down termination falls" ?

That' s what Mike Deblieux calls terminating an employee without proper documentation and disciplinary steps.

" An employee makes a lot of little mistakes but thinks everything is fine. Suddenly the person does something that costs money or loses customers and the supervisor says I' ve lost patience; you' re fired. The employee is able to come back and say you never told me this was a problem. It' s unfair and often ends up with a lawsuit," says Deblieux, president of Mike Deblieux Human Resources, a management training firm in Tustin, Calif.

To avoid this scenario, Deblieux developed FOSA Plus--Facts, Objectives, Solutions and Actions Plus. The HR role is to coach supervisors, helping them create proper documentation and prepare for discussions with problem employees.

" HR has to be positive and constructive. Too often HR says, you can' t do that because you don' t have enough documentation. HR should say let' s sit down and build the documentation."

The FOSA Plus Approach

Facts: Define the problem without drawing conclusions or making subjective statements. Often a supervisor will say an employee has a bad attitude, Deblieux says, instead of giving concrete examples of customer complaints.

Objectives: Give the employee specific complete instructions on what results are needed to fix the problem. " Often the supervisor says something like `I would like you to try to meet deadlines.' That translates into ' if I get around to it I will.' It has to be stated as a requirement, not as a request or suggestion."

Solutions: The manager should give the employee help in reaching the objective, such as recommending a class or giving the worker a coach. Solutions are suggestions; the employee is accountable only for meeting the stated objective.

Actions: Three kinds of actions communicate the seriousness of the problem to the employee. With " follow-up action" the supervisor checks back to see if progress is being made toward meeting the objective. " Present action" is an oral or written warning. " Future action" communicates the consequences--discipline or termination--if the employee fails to meet the objective.

Plus: The purpose of discipline is to create an opportunity for the employee to improve, Deblieux says. " Don' t discipline to get rid of somebody, discipline to help somebody succeed."

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