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Managers/Supervisors Toolkit

Overview Disciplinary Action Welcome Program Coaching for Success Conflict Resolution Performance/Conduct Do's and Don'ts Performance Management 

The Manager/Supervisor Toolkit was developed to provide Indiana State University managers and supervisors with some of the resources and information they need to be successful. We hope that you find the following information helpful in your role as a supervisor or manager.

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A Guide to the Disciplinary Action Process

All employees are expected to meet performance standards and behave appropriately in the workplace. Disciplinary action is a process of communicating with the employee to improve unacceptable behavior or performance. You may take disciplinary action when an employee fails to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of their position and previous performance improvement plans or coaching attempts have not been successful.

In most cases, Indiana State University uses the following progressive steps of discipline:

  1. Verbal Warning
  2. Written Warning
  3. Final Written Warning
  4. Suspension and/or Termination.

The formal disciplinary action form should be used when taking one of the above steps of discipline. You can request a copy of this form from a member of the Employee Relations staff.

In cases of serious misconduct, you may choose to proceed straight to a written warning up to and including termination. Per University policy, no suspension or termination may be imposed prior to consulting with the Associate Vice President for Human Resources and the appropriate vice president.

Contact a member of the Employee Relations staff before taking disciplinary action to help you determine whether discipline is the best approach to problem-solving in a particular situation.

Guiding Principles

In carrying out disciplinary action be sure to:

  • Build trust and maintain a professional manner by keeping the disciplinary process confidential between you and the employee
  • Make a careful diagnosis of the problem to determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate
  • Provide specific examples of performance discrepancies or work rule violations so the employee fully understands what needs correction
  • Allow the employee ample opportunity to explain so that you have all the facts
  • Make sure discipline is the appropriate tool. Would coaching or a performance improvement plan be sufficient to get the employee's attention?
  • When you take disciplinary action, make sure the punishment fits the crime
  • Help the employee improve performance by providing specific recommendations and requirements
  • Communicate clearly so the employee understands the consequences if performance or conduct does not improve

If the employee believes the disciplinary action taken against them is unfair or inappropriate, a grievance may be filed through the Staff Council grievance procedure. Please visit the Staff Council web page for more information regarding the grievance procedure.

Please contact the Employee Relations staff if you need assistance with resolving a conflict in your area or department.

A Supervisor's Guide to the New Employee Welcome Program

As part of the New Employee Welcome program, The Office of Human Resources has designed PDF A Supervisor's Guide the the New Employee Welcome Program to assist managers and supervisors in orienting new employees to their job, duties, co-workers, work environment, and the University. The guide should be used as a reference tool for those individuals most likely to orient a new employee to their work area.

The guide is designed to complement existing departmental orientation processes while providing the framework necessary to help employees become productive and confident as soon as possible. Additional orientation processes provided by departments is strongly encouraged, as this guide does not cover departmental or job-specific needs, such as orientation into a specific position.

Coaching for Success

The true success of a supervisor can be measured by the success of the people that work for them. When supervisors and leaders adopt a coaching style, the productivity, motivation and satisfaction of the employees increases. All this makes for an engaged workforce who are committed to giving the University as much as it is giving them. And as an extra incentive, adopting a coaching style of management results in a much more enjoyable workplace for everybody!

What is coaching?

Coaching is the process of equipping employee with the tools, knowledge, and opportunities they need to develop themselves and become more effective.

In a work environment, the role of a coach can be described as:

  • achieving results and excellence through others rather than personally taking care of things, and focusing on developing employees in order to achieve results rather than micro-managing their every move.

Adopting coaching as a management style requires managers to help other people unlock their potential and enhance their own performance. It's about supporting people to learn instead of telling them what the answers are.

The mindset of the manager/coach is to create an environment that fosters learning, independent thinking and opportunities to contribute. The coach doesn't want to be seen as a solution provider. Rather, they want to be seen as a facilitator, paving the way for employees to achieve their results.

Coaches are a role model for others. They are excellent listeners and communicators, providing perspective and encouragement whilst setting high standards and expectations.

what are the objectives to coaching?

  • Coaching helps identify areas of below par performance.
  • Coaching aids in strengthening above average performance.
  • Coaching solidifies the supervisor's role.
  • Coaching aids in achieving goals.
  • Coaching helps create an environment that fosters learning, independent thinking and opportunities to contribute.

when do we use coaching?

Coaching is important not only when there's concern about poor performance or when performance is at its peak, but when performance is somewhere in the middle. Given the fact that the majority of employee performance ratings occur somewhere between outstanding and needs improvement, this "in between" range is where coaching can have its greatest impact.

How to make coaching behaviors a part of your management style:

Stop thinking about employees as people that need to be controlled or managed and give them the latitude to take actions and make decisions. Trust is a vital component of this equation. If you can't trust people to do their jobs well, then you either have the wrong people in the jobs, or you have the right people but you haven't trained them sufficiently. A third option is that the people are properly skilled, but the supervisor just can't let go.

Listen, listen listen. If there are unhappy or disgruntled people in your department, you can guarantee that at some stage they've tried to tell you what the problem is. It's likely you weren't listening (or didn't want to listen), or perhaps your initial reaction made the person think twice about bringing the problem to you. Truly listening is one of the greatest skills to develop, regardless of your role. Good listeners are genuinely interested, convey empathy, and want to find out what's behind the conversation. Great coaches are great listeners - without exception.

Focus on developing the strengths of each employee rather than managing merely for results. Identify each person's development needs and commit to following through on them. When people are growing and improving, their enthusiasm and effectiveness is greater. And they feel more connected and loyal to the company for supporting them.

Endorse effort and growth instead of pointing out failures or errors. As individuals, we all know how seldom we are given positive feedback, but how often we are reminded of our "mistakes". Instead of pointing out errors, a coach accepts them as learning opportunities and uses them to develop their employees. The focus is on making sure the same mistake doesn't happen again by fixing the source of the problem.

Stop providing solutions. Supervisors often achieve their positions after being technical specialists, and so will have an opinion or view on how to "fix" situations or problems. The mindset is that it's usually faster to tell someone what to do, or do it yourself, than give your employees an opportunity to figure it out. By always providing the answers, supervisors take away the learning opportunity for their employees to come up with alternative (and potentially better) ways of doing things. If you catch yourself about to provide the answer, take a deep breath and ask a question like: "What would you do in this situation?"

As a supervisor, stop making all the decisions. You don't have all the answers all of the time. Engage those around you - your team and peers - when it comes to finding a way forwards. Involvement breeds ownership and engagement. The more you can find opportunities for people to contribute to the decision-making process and encourage people to have their say, the more your employees will feel connected and satisfied with the company.

Be unconditionally constructive - no exceptions. Don't patronize or be critical of others - take complete responsibility for how you are heard. If you catch yourself about to make negative remarks, take a breath and rephrase your words to get your message across without the emotional attachment. It is possible to phrase everything in constructive terms - even a negative sentiment. Practice makes perfect!

Create an environment where people want to work with you, and feel valued and respected. Make it clear to your employees what they are responsible for, but give them the latitude to go about it in their own way. In short, treat them the way you would want to be treated.

Please contact the Employee Relations staff if you need assistance with coaching employees.

Conflict Resolution

Finding the Best Way to Settle Issues

Supervisors are responsible for creating a work environment that enables employees to be successful. If disagreements and differences of opinion escalate into interpersonal conflict, it is important for the supervisor to intervene immediately.

Clear and open communication is the foundation of successful conflict resolution. The Employee Relations staff can assist by coaching both parties on ways to resolve the issue.

Tips to Avoid in Conflict Resolution

  • Do not avoid the conflict, hoping it will go away. Trust me. It won't. Even if the conflict appears to have been superficially put to rest, it will rear its ugly head whenever stress increases or a new disagreement occurs. An unresolved conflict or interpersonal disagreement festers just under the surface in your department. It burbles to the surface whenever enabled, and always at the worst possible moment. This, too, shall pass, is not an option - ever.
  • Do not meet separately with people in conflict. If you allow each individual to tell their story to you, you risk polarizing their positions. The person in conflict has a vested interest in making himself or herself "right" if you place yourself in the position of judge and jury. The sole goal of the employee, in this situation, is to convince you of the merits of their case.
  • Do not believe, for even a moment, the only people who are affected by the conflict are the participants. Everyone in your office and every employee with whom the conflicting employees interact, is affected by the stress. People feel as if they are walking on egg shells in the presence of the antagonists. This contributes to the creation of a hostile work environment for other employees. In worst case scenarios, your employees take sides and your department is divided.

Tips to Resolve Conflict

  • Meet with the antagonists together. Let each briefly summarize their point of view, without comment or interruption by the other party. This should be a short discussion so that all parties are clear about the disagreement and conflicting views. Intervene if either employee attacks the other employee. This is not acceptable.
  • Ask each participant to describe specific actions they'd like to see the other party take that would resolve the differences. Three or four suggestions work well. An example is, "I'd like Mary to send the report to me by Thursday at 1 p.m. so I can complete my assignment by my due date of Friday at noon." A second example is, "I would like to have responsibility for all of the project development and follow-up with that department. The way the work is divided now causes Tom and I to never know what the other person is doing."
  • Sometimes, as in the second example above, you, as the supervisor, must own some of the responsibilities for helping the employees resolve their conflict. Always ask, "What about the work situation is causing these employees to fail?"
  • If the situation needs further exploration, ask each participant to additionally identify what the other employee can do more of, less of, stop and start.
  • All participants discuss and commit to making the changes necessary to resolve the conflict. Commit to noticing that the other person has made a change, no matter how small. Commit to treating each other with dignity and respect. It is okay to have reasonable disagreements over issues and plans; it is never okay to have personality conflicts that affect the department.
  • Let the antagonists know that you will not choose sides, that it is impossible for a person external to the conflict to know the truth of the matter. You expect the individuals to resolve the conflicts proactively as adults. If they are unwilling to do so, you will be forced to take disciplinary action that could lead to dismissal for both parties.
  • Finally, assure both parties that you have every faith in their ability to resolve their differences and get on with their successful contributions within your department. Set a time to review progress.

Please contact the Employee Relations staff if you need assistance with resolving a conflict in your area or department.

How to Document Employee Performance and Conduct

Managing people is one of the most time-consuming and difficult aspects of any job. Whether you have one direct report or 20, the responsibilities loom large and finding the time to follow sound management practices in everything you do as a supervisor can be challenging. Documentation of performance and conduct issues often feels like one of the most burdensome duties, and unfortunately it is the one that usually gets put off the longest.

How many managers actually take the time, either during a meeting with an employee or immediately after, to write notes about the conversation and put it in his or her manager's file? Most managers will say that they do not document everything they should and even if they do, they admit it may not get done until several days, weeks, or months have passed and it's time for annual performance reviews. They also acknowledge later, if the employee's performance or conduct has not improved, that the notes they wrote were not a complete representation of what was actually discussed.

If the relationship with an employee is deteriorating and the supervisor needs to take some disciplinary action, the absence of appropriate documentation can make a big difference in the outcome. Apart from following the University's progressive discipline process (see A Guide to the Disciplinary Process), documenting various conversations with employees is necessary because it may impact the type of discipline you administer, including whether to terminate employment. That's because when you work with the Employee Relations staff to discuss problem performers, they are going to want to know what's already been said and done as they help you plan the performance strategy. Without appropriate documentation, you may be told that the action you feel is necessary to take is ill advised.

Here are some tips for documentation that will help make your life easier in the long run:

  1. Document conversations on the same day that the conversation takes place. If it is not possible to take notes during the conversation, take some time at the end of the day to write it down. If you've prepared notes before the conversation, those will help you when you write down what was said and done. If you wait days, weeks, or months to write it down, your memory about the details will have faded. And if the employee takes legal action against you or the company in the future, your written record and credibility can be called into doubt if you waited too long to record the events.
  2. All documentation of conversations with employees should include the date of the conversation, your name and title, and the employee's name and title. This sounds obvious but it is rarely done on a consistent basis. As you or the employee change jobs in the organization over time, it is sometimes difficult later on to put the record of the conversation into context or in a timeline. If the employee is experiencing the same or similar problems throughout his or her employment, the employee's next manager (or two or three) may need to use your record of the conversation for assessing how to deal with the employee, particularly if some negative employment action is going to take place.
  3. Do not abbreviate, editorialize, or characterize in your written record. Write down what you said and what the employee said. For example, writing something like "John tried making his usual excuses for his performance" does not tell the reader the content of the "usual excuses" and does not demonstrate the basis for being dismissive of John's reasons. Write down exactly what John said.
  4. Always include the "take away" from the meeting in your notes. State the action plan you told the employee, being clear about the expectations you set for the employee to follow.
  5. Make notes regardless of whether the conversation is considered a formal action (i.e., verbal warning, etc.) under the University's discipline policies. In particular, be sure that you make notes of conversations even when it involves a meeting in which you presented the employee with a written disciplinary document or action plan. The document you gave the employee does not reflect the entire conversation about the issues discussed.
  6. If you write your notes in a document on the computer, do not maintain them on a shared drive. Your relationship with the employee is between you and the employee.
  7. Do not manage employees through e-mail! It is fine to send the employee an e-mail message confirming the conversation but it does not substitute for having a one-on-one conversation and taking notes on it.
  8. Anything you have any employee sign off on (acknowledging receipt, etc.) should be included in the official personnel file. Any notes that you have created should be maintained in your supervisor's/manager's file. When you document conversations with employees, keep in mind that other unrelated third parties (like a jury or plaintiff's attorney) may read the documents in the future. You need to represent yourself and the University in a professional matter and be prepared to defend what you wrote.
  9. Pass your supervisor's/manager's file to the next manager if the employee changes job in the University or if you leave your position supervising the employee.
  10. Be sure you do not keep notes of conversations with employees about private matters, such as medical issues or taking sick or family leave, with the rest of your documents about the employee. Medical documentation is subject to various privacy laws. Talk to the Office of Human Resources about where such notes must be kept.

Use the PDF Performance Issue Record Form as a guide to help with recording your notes.

If you need assistance with documenting performance or conduct, please contact the Employee Relations staff.

Supervisor Do's and Don'ts

Inappropriate Supervisory Actions (DON'Ts)

  • Don't allow genuine concern for the employee to interfere with managing performance. Though important, friendship and empathy by themselves rarely solve serious performance problems.
  • Don't enable. Be aware of your own behavior and note if you are failing to document, covering up for substandard performance, accepting excuses that don't make sense, having "off the record" talks.
  • Don't allow the employee to box you into a corner. Appropriate behavior and job performance is always the responsibility of the employee. If the employee tries to bring you or others into the discussion, remind him that you are there to discuss his job performance.
  • Do not condone unsatisfactory performance just because an employee admits to a personal problem. Allowing the employee to "buy time" without getting help may increase the severity of the problem. Ignoring a problem is condoning.
  • Do not attempt to diagnose the employee's problem, ask why or counsel the employee. In addition, don't moralize or make value judgments.
  • Do not permit behavior that may be hazardous to another person, the employee, or the University.
  • Do not substitute a referral to EAP (Employee Assistance Program) for taking necessary actions under the progressive discipline procedures.
  • Do not discuss the employee's behavior or performance with anyone else except those with definite need or right to know i.e., Employee Relations staff or higher management.

Appropriate Supervisory Actions (DO's)

  • Do establish the levels of work performance you expect. Set the limits that you will tolerate.
  • Determine and communicate what is acceptable and unacceptable to you.
  • Do document all absenteeism, tardiness, incidents on the job, and poor performance. Be specific with dates, times, and people.
  • Do be consistent. Treat all employees equally.
  • Do base decisions on work performance or department need, not on personal issues.
  • Do be firm. Be direct. Speak with authority.
  • Do be prepared to deal with the employee's resistance and denial, as well as hostility.
  • Do avoid talking to the employee about personal problems. Discuss and refer the employee to the Employee Assistance Program.
  • Do get a commitment from the employee as to what steps he or she will take to improve work performance. Continue to document.

What is Performance Management?

Performance management is one of the most important parts of a supervisor's job. It is an ongoing process which begins with hiring an employee. Whether working with a long-term employee or a problem employee, all staff members need ongoing feedback about your expectations and their performance. Throughout the year, there are performance management stages that should be ongoing in your day-to-day interactions with employees, while others happen during the annual performance review period, or on an as-needed basis.

Below are the steps in to take to effectively manage an employee's performance

Communicate Expectations

The supervisor is responsible for defining and communicating performance expectations and standards, which can be defined as the work responsibilities and tasks that an employee is expected to perform.

It is crucial to document and clearly communicate responsibilities, goals, and objectives when an employee begins working for you. This documentation should be updated regularly and adjusted as needed throughout an employee's career.

There are various times at which it is important to communicate performance standards: When a new employee starts the job; at the start of the performance year; when job responsibilities change; and when coaching will help an employee's performance.

By communicating performance standards, you will be able to obtain desired results and outcomes, improve an employee's performance, and develop new skills.

Track Performance Results

In order to tell if employees are meeting the goals and objectives set for them, you must track their results in a measurable, quantitative way. Such documentation will help you give effective, ongoing feedback, and is essential for conducting annual performance reviews.

Provide Constructive Feedback

Employees need regular communication about performance. If they are meeting or exceeding their goals, they should be given specific information about what they're doing well. If they are not meeting expectations, specific and timely feedback is needed so that they can make and sustain the necessary changes. Sometimes disciplinary action may be necessary.

Motivation and Rewards

All of us want to believe that our work will be appreciated and recognized. Figuring out what each employee needs is the key to effective motivation. Rewarding your employees doesn't have to be costly. There are many things that supervisors can do to let employees know that their efforts are noticed and their good work is appreciated. The key is to be timely, creative, and authentic. Take time to personally thank employees for doing a good job. Do it regularly, specifically and sincerely.