As a VP in a large resort operation, I was normally involved in those unfortunate situations when an employee was in the escalating stages of progressive discipline. This was the progression of how we handled not-good employee performance situations:
Stage 1 – coaching
Stage 2 – verbal counseling
Stage 3 – verbal counseling round 2 is documented
Stage 4 – verbal warning
Stage 5 – written warning
Stage 6 – suspension
Stage 7 – termination
Of course the goal was that you never needed to advance past Stage 1, but the reality of worklife is that it happens.
The suspension part never sat well with me, for if things had gotten that bad, I couldn’t see the value in sending someone into exile to stew on things and get more distressed about it without active coaching from us: My goal was always to return to Stage 1 with elevated levels of coaching, not to do my due diligence (legally correct and all that) to arrive safely as possible at Stage 7.
My HR director was my active partner in all these situations, for throughout them we were usually coaching two people: the employee, and their manager. We held the manager responsible for having the situation escalate so we had to get involved at all, and we approached it as a coaching opportunity for them– with some, it may have been that they themselves were in Stage 1, 2 or 3 at the same time. However this was a great learning partnership in the dynamics of human behavior, for along the way, and in the crucible of some very volatile and emotional employee dramas, we three managers and leaders coached each other.
One of the things we learned to carefully consider in the course of progressive discipline was Monday versus Friday. When we had to have a very difficult conversation with an employee (or with the manager) was it better to hold it at the end of their workweek, or at the beginning of their next one?
The decision we were making recognized that the conversation would take an emotional toll on them; again, this is progressive discipline, and you have the VP of Operations and HR Director talking to you. So the Monday or Friday decision, on when to hold the difficult conversation was this:
Is it better for
a) this particular person,
b) in this particular situation, and
c) for the desired outcome we wish to arrive at,
that we hold this difficult conversation Monday
(i.e. when they return from two days off)
so they are in our workplace environment as they work through their reactions,
(i.e. when they are departing the workplace just prior to their days off)
so they can work through it with their family and outside work instead?
The answer is not always the same. We had to discuss the pros and cons, and arrive at a decision on when to hold the conversation before we had it.
And we had to act more responsibly knowing what they potentially were taking home with them.
—Was this going to be a burden on their family, or did we have to acknowledge they would need their support? Or, could their family be more effective at getting through to them than we were?
—Was the situation one where it was beyond our accepting of a work-related burden at work. Realistically, they’d be better equipped to wade through it and emerge successful within the work environment, and their family could not give them the options and answers which we could?
This was a lesson I have learned well over the course of time with virtually any tougher conversation I may have with people. Essentially, within my own responsibility I have to hold myself accountable for owning the reaction time of that conversation too. And frankly, it’s not just about having a sense of aloha and being a good, responsible person. It’s about being a great manager versus just a good one.
So Monday or Friday: how do you arrive at the right decision in each situation?
Like any decision you make, you have to do your due diligence in making sure all the variables for that decision are at your disposal.
We’ll talk about that with my next post.