CAVEAT: I am not an attorney and this does not constitute legal advice which can only be obtained from an attorney.
I wish I had a great acronym for this 6-step process, but PELSFO just isn't very memorable. In any event, here it goes.
- PREPARE. Make sure before you meet that you know what the issues are, what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Have any documentation that you need. When you start, you are going to tell the employee in question that you are going to go first and that they will have a chance to respond later.
- EXPLAIN. Describe the performance shortcomings. Lead with facts, not opinions. Don't be wishy-washy. This is the first step in a process. The hope is that Step 2 is a discussion where the two of you agree that the employee's performance has, at the very least, returned to acceptable levels, and preferably, has risen to levels that are far better than that. Be careful to explain that while there is a problem, this is not fatal, at least not yet.
- LISTEN. It's the employee's turn now. In most cases, he or she, if they are being honest with themselves, realizes that this performance problem exists. Perhaps they don't realize it's as severe as you think it is. Perhaps there are extenuating circumstances. Perhaps there is a root cause. Perhaps they think that you are to blame. At the end of the day, you may have some take-aways from this. It's their performance that needs to improve, but you will likely get more buy-in if you commit to certain things as well. Remember, you are not terminating this employee at this time, so if this meeting is productive, it will be beneficial for both of you.
- SOLVE. Discuss a solution. Again, there is give and take here. Think about this, though. If the employee comes up with the solution, they are far more likely to live with it than if the solution is yours. Give your input, but let them be the solution, as compared to the problem.
- FOLLOW UP. Make an appointment for a formal follow-up. Put it in writing. Also put in writing what your expectations are, what the employee's commitments by that date are and what yours are as well. There are a few really good reasons for this. 1) If the employee doesn't improve, you will need documentation of what he or she failed to do before you terminate him or her. 2) The employee will know what is expected. 3) The employee will know what you have committed to. When you have your follow-up meeting, start by going through what you each have committed to and see that (hopefully), each of you has held up your end of the bargain.
- OUTCOME. Tell the employee what will happen if they don't meet these goals. But, before you do that, tell them that you know they can do it. Assure them that they are an important part of the team and that you are there for them, but that they need to hold up their part of the bargain. Recap what you have just discussed, including each of your commitments and the follow-up date. Part with a firm, but comforting handshake and a warm, reassuring smile.
Repeating CAVEAT: I am not an attorney and this does not constitute legal advice which can only be obtained from an attorney.