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Use performance evaluations to pinpoint problems—And follow up

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Office Management,Performance Reviews,Records Retention

There’s no point in completing performance evaluations and suggesting areas in which employees could improve if no one follows up. The best approach is to schedule an interim review for an employee who needs improvement. Then tell him what he needs to do before the next review.

Then, note the results in a follow-up review, and keep a copy in the employee’s official personnel file. That way, if there is ever any question about the performance appraisal or the improvement plan, you will have the information ready and available.

This is especially important if an employee sues and wants to see whether he was treated differently than others with similar performance problems. You can easily justify different outcomes (demotions, transfers or discharges) based on how well employees addressed similar problems.

Recent case:
Christopher Howard, who is black, worked as an accountant. He had been notified in writing five times over a two-year period that he had to quit making mistakes. The mistakes persisted, and his employer fired him for poor performance. He sued, alleging bias and said two white females had made similar mistakes but weren’t fired.

But those employees’ performance reviews showed a different picture. Each was criticized for a single deficiency, and each corrected the problem by the next review. Howard did not. The court dismissed his case. (Howard v. Oregon Television, No. 07-15809, 11th Cir., 2008)

Final note: You should also tell managers and supervisors that they never should terminate or discipline an employee without written documentation. That means keeping clear and concise notes describing the problems, detailing what opportunities the employee had to correct them and explaining why the record warrants disciplinary action. Lawsuits sometimes come many months or even years later, and relying on memory is foolish.

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