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  • Martha Travis

Performance management... it's not Baseball!

Today, I was sitting in a cafe enjoying a decent coffee and banging out some emails between meetings and overheard a business leader (funnily enough from the Security Industry) who was espousing the thoroughness of their recruitment process and the benefits and downsides of employing directly, rather than subcontracting.


He was telling his business meeting partner that if a client doesn't like one of his guards, he can't just call the subbie and tell him that the guy's no longer required for the job; instead, he now has to find somewhere else for the guard to go, or...

I have to give him three warnings before I can terminate him...

What? No! Performance management is not baseball... it's not a case of three strikes and you're out!

This misconception is very common.Where did it come from?


Well... (I once knew the detail, but now can't remember and can't locate)... but, to the best of my memory, some Industrial Relations Commissioner in the 1980s or 1990s stated in his Decision something to the effect that he felt that the dismissed employee should have been afforded three warnings that his job was in jeopardy... this statement was taken on board by the industrial relations community and it has stuck... to this day!... and has been mentioned in multiple decisions since then as the "unwritten rule" of of the Commission and has been enshrined in EBAs and company policy.


So, no; you don't have to give your employee three warnings... you might... or you might give them 10 for different reasons over the course of a 5-year tenure. Or you may summarily dismiss them, or issue them a Final Written warning, before even a verbal warning.


It might sound complicated, but it is not, really. The important thing to remember is that all performance matters should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and the punishment should fit the crime. An industrial lawyer once taught me that termination of employment is the industrial equivalent of capital punishment in criminal law. I think this is a very good analogy and reminds us that even if an employee is late three times in 2 months and receives a written warning each time, termination may not be reasonable in the circumstances.


If you, or the leaders in your business are confused about the disciplinary process and when a verbal warning, written warning, final written warning, summary dismissal, or termination of employment is appropriate, please contact me and I can discuss a plan to build their competence and confidence in this area.



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