How to Manage Employee Performance Issues

Group of professional adults talk about managing employee performance issues
By: Dee Brown
2 Minute Read

A practice we work with recently reached out to us with a problem: Over a three-month period, a longtime high-performing employee had been demonstrating a significant decline in the quality of her work. The practice had not discussed the issue with her or provided any documentation. The practice is located in an “employment-at-will” state and was strongly considering terminating the employee.

In these situations, providers must take into account mitigating circumstances. The case above involved a long-term employee and a recent issue. Other considerations a practice should ask include:

  1. Is this a case of ill-health or conduct due to medication?
  2. Are there issues related to disability, for example where the condition can influence behavior?
  3. Are there exceptional pressures upon the employee?
  4. Is there serious personal trauma?
  5. Does the employee appear to have been acting out of character? Particularly where they have an unblemished record.

Before taking any disciplinary action, we recommend that practices schedule a private one-on-one conversation with the employee to find out the cause(s) of the performance issue. Then they should ask the employee about the situation. Once this “verbal discovery meeting” is over, the practice can decide next steps and determine if corrective disciplinary action is required.

If the practice is located in an “employment-at-will” state, as in the case above, there are additional factors to consider. “Employment-at-will” means that, absent an agreement to the contrary, an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason at all, so long as there is no violation of applicable federal or state law.  Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences.

One factor to consider is that a practice that terminates an employee under employment-at-will may be affected in their ability to find and retain high-quality employees in the future. An employer’s reputation can change very quickly with the spread of comments about unfair treatment on social media. Practices should also consider policies and past practices in order to avoid liability.

To learn more about the corrective disciplinary action process, including documentation, performance improvement, and moving forward with a termination, members are encouraged to view our webinar on the subject here.

For more information or more detailed guidance on handling employee disciplinary situations, Curi member practices may also call 1.888.HREXPRT or email me.

Dee Brown
Dee Brown is Curi’s on-call human resources consultant. Members may contact her directly at dee.brown@callhrexperts.com or 919-431-6096.
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