Lately, I have been hearing a lot of grumbling from small company business owners worried that they cannot terminate a problem employee.

Going forward, having a basic performance management process in place could go a long way to eliminate this issue.

Every supervisor in the firm should have a 3 ring binder, with a page for each employee they manage. There should be two columns to a page, one for the date as well as one for comments.

Weekly, the supervisor takes five minutes and briefly writes down what all of their employees have done in terms of positive achievements as well as any issues that have arisen. The following week, the supervisor will do the same. However, this time, he/she will also note whether or not someone is repeatedly performing above expectations has been given verbal appreciation for a job well done (a great and inexpensive retention tool!). He/she will also note whether or not a problem is persisting, and if help or disciplinary action is warranted, what has been done. In either case, the situation should be addressed and documented.

Having this type of documentation has several advantages:

  • Sometimes a termination, and the resulting expense, can be avoided by dealing with an issue while it is still small.
  • If termination "for cause" is deemed necessary, there will be a record that the employee was notified of poor performance or attitude and what corrective steps were taken.
  • There will also be a record that all employees were being regularly reviewed, so that an individual will have a much more difficult time filing a claim of bias. 
  • Annual formal performance reviews are significantly easier for a supervisor to create and are more accurate,as well.

Of course, this process should be backed up by well-written employee policy handbook that includes a clear "Employment at Will" (in NJ) statement and "Disclaimer".   Additionally, in the case of an involuntary termination, legal assistance should be sought for situation-specific advice and to craft an appropriate severance letter.

 It Just Takes 5 Minutes