3.3 Performance Feedback, Performance Reviews, and Corrective Action

3.3 Performance Feedback, Performance Reviews, and Corrective Action

Supervisors have a responsibility to consider their employees’ performance and development -- managing and assessing the work that needs to be done, and also providing opportunities for professional growth and development. Guidelines and information on best practices for employee development can be found on the HR website (at Performance Development) and supervisors are encouraged to seek advice from administrative officers or human resources professionals. Three key components of performance management are regular performance feedback, performance reviews, and, where needed, corrective action or progressive discipline.

3.3.1 Performance Feedback

Regular conversations should take place throughout the year between supervisors and employees, and employees are encouraged to seek feedback from their supervisors. Supervisors should informally alert employees to any performance issues as soon as possible. Supervisors have a responsibility to address work-related concerns and complaints (Section 7.3 in Policies & Procedures); employees have a responsibility to participate in such communications. Many performance concerns can be resolved when they are promptly brought to the employee’s attention in a constructive way. Moreover, good performance may be enhanced if employees are given timely and positive feedback.

3.3.2 Performance Reviews

In addition to regular feedback, a more formal annual performance review should be given.  Performance evaluation forms are available at the Performance Development website, or may be created by the department, laboratory or center to reflect their particular needs. It is the supervisor's responsibility to ensure that performance reviews take place with all employees.

A performance review should include a discussion of the past year’s performance, working relationships, and career development. Specific goals for the upcoming year should be determined, and any areas requiring improvement should be clearly stated.  Self-appraisals are encouraged. Supervisors should review any self-appraisal before the performance review meeting. This is also a good time for the supervisor to review and update a job description, where needed.

A copy of the completed review should be given to the employee and also placed in the personnel file. The review document itself should state that it will become part of the personnel file. In addition, a process should be in place to show that the employee received the completed review document, for example, by getting the employee’s signature on the document, or by using an electronic recording system.

An employee who disagrees with any content in a performance review may write a response, which must then be kept with the performance review.  Additional information on recommended practices for performance reviews (PDF) can be found at the Performance Development website.

3.3.3 Corrective Action

In some instances, employees may fail to satisfy the expectations of their supervisors or adequately perform the duties of their jobs. Instances of poor performance or failure to comply with Institute policy may require corrective action (sometimes also referred to as progressive discipline).

Poor work performance or misconduct should be brought to the attention of the employee promptly by his or her supervisor. Under most circumstances, the employee should be given a meaningful opportunity to improve his or her work performance. A discussion between the supervisor and the employee should provide the employee an opportunity to understand the supervisor's concerns and provide any explanation; such a conversation may resolve the issue. If the concerns are not resolved, corrective measures such as a memorandum outlining steps to improve performance may be a helpful tool to ensure that expectations are clear. Supervisors are encouraged to seek advice from AOs or human resources professionals before taking written corrective action.

The application of other corrective action or disciplinary measures may be warranted to address poor work performance or misconduct. The purpose of disciplinary measures (short of discharge) is to clarify expectations and to motivate employees to improve their conduct or performance so that they may be successful in their employment at the Institute. The exact nature of any corrective action depends on a number of factors including the nature and seriousness of the issue, the employee’s past record, the impact on the work unit or the Institute, past treatment of similar issues in the work unit, and any other mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Discipline may include one or more of the following: counseling, one or more oral warnings, one or more written warnings, a final warning, a disciplinary suspension, and discharge from employment. The number and types of actions depend on the circumstances, and there is no prescribed sequence. Except in serious cases, some form of written warning or discipline with a meaningful opportunity to improve should be given before an employee is discharged. Any written discipline should be given to the employee, and the employee should be informed that a copy is being placed in the employee’s personnel file.

Progressive disciplinary measures will not apply in the event of a serious offense that warrants immediate discharge or in other circumstances when the Institute determines that corrective measures would be inappropriate. In addition, during the probationary period (see Section 2.6.4), the process of feedback and documentation is usually more abbreviated than for longer service employees. 

In some cases, it may be necessary for a supervisor to place an employee on administrative leave, either paid or unpaid, in response to an allegation of serious misconduct or performance concerns. In such circumstances, the supervisor should inform the employee that he or she is being placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation and/or a determination regarding appropriate disciplinary action.

Supervisors should consult their departmental Human Resources representative or their Human Resources Officer when considering any discipline. Particular care should be taken before imposing a disciplinary suspension or a paid or unpaid leave in response to performance issues in order to ensure compliance with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Any involuntary termination must be approved in advance by the central Human Resources office.