I recently became the director of a division within our company. One of my directs is managing an employee about whom we received unsolicited negative feedback about a recurrent work performance issue.
The feedback we received essentially amounted to work-avoidance behavior. The employee has been counseled about this same behavior several times in the past and has seen his career plateau as a result. At times, he has been given documented "last warnings" about such behavior. However, through the course of normal managerial turnover, the employee is working with his third manager over an 8 year period and has been with the current manager for 3 years, during which he has largely been working problem-free. Since each new manager chose to give the employee a "fresh start" of sorts, his behavior was never seen as serious enough to rise to the level mandating termination. But why issue warnings if you're not going to follow them?
So, aside from the fact that we've mishandled this situation, here are three questions:
1. Is there a duration of time after which you would consider a "last warning" to have expired if the employee had worked problem-free during that interval? For example, if you give an employee a "last warning" and then that employee becomes a stellar performer for 10 years after which s/he repeats that behavior, would you honor your "last warning?"
2. When do recurrent, lower level transgressions add up to serious misconduct? It seems to me that if the behavior is frequent enough, the choice is obvious. The problem we're having is that this behaviior doesn't quite meet that "obvious" threshold and we have different opinions about how to manage it. Ultimately, I would like a uniform strategy but I'm not sure how to manage it myself.
3. What would you do now?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts!