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The Punitive Approach to Marginal Performers

MANAGING A MARGINAL PERFORMER: Often a marginal performer, even after therapeutic counseling, may not understand that his or her work is seen as substandard. The manager will have to ask the employee directly how the performance could be improved. If the manager still meets with resistance or avoidance, as a last resort he or she will have to give suggestions.

THE PUNITIVE APPROACH: If the unsatisfactory performer refuses to commit to a self-proposed improvement program, or belligerently denies that a problem exists, the manager has only coercion or intimidation left as options. Although the punitive approach seldom works, situations under which it is the sole recourse do exist. Of the remaining three to five percent who are problem employees, only a very small percent fail to respond to the therapeutic counseling sessions. Perhaps one percent of them creates such serious disciplinary problems that they force their supervisor to use this technique. But, curiously enough, if the manager does not deal effectively with those very few people who continually violate the rules, the employee's dissatisfaction and disrespect will very likely spread and infect others.

SEEKING CORRECTIVE ACTION: The following are general guidelines to apply in seeking corrective action through disciplinary procedures. The manager should? 1. Make instructions simple and understandable. 2. Know the rules. 3. Gather all relevant facts. 4. Move in promptly on violations. 5. Take into account the seriousness of an offense as well as any mitigating circumstances. 6. Give the employee an opportunity to explain his or her position 7. Determine what action to take. 8. Avoid any kind of physical control. 9. Observe all contractual procedures. 10. Keep records of actions taken.

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CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates, Boston, MA., a comprehensive organization which offers over 40 skills based management training programs. Mr. Schwartz conducts over 150 programs annually for clients in industry, research, technology, government, Fortune 100/500 companies, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. He is often found at conferences as a key note presenter and/or facilitator. His style is fast-paced, participatory, practical, and humorous. He has authored over 65 books and products, and taught/lectured at over a dozen colleges and universities throughout the United States.

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