Performance Counseling

Performance Counseling Icon

Feedback, counseling, and evaluating employees are important parts of a manager’s job. When an employee's performance does not meet the expectations or requirements of the job, corrective action may be required. Failing to address an employee’s performance deficiencies can lead to more serious issues and decreased morale. Timely action is necessary to maintain a productive working environment.



Employees are expected to meet performance expectations and to conduct themselves appropriately and professionally. When an employee’s performance does not meet the expectations or requirements of the job, or an employee’s conduct interferes with the orderly and efficient operation of the university or otherwise has a negative impact, the university may take corrective (including disciplinary) action.

Performance or conduct concerns can become evident in a variety of ways. Examples of performance or conduct for which corrective action may be necessary include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to maintain the requisite knowledge, skills and demonstrated ability to perform the job
  • Excessive tardiness or absenteeism
  • Failure to exercise good judgment
  • Failure to promptly report any known or alleged violations of laws, regulations or university policies to appropriate university officials.
  • Failure to abide by or comply with university and departmental policies and procedures
  • Threatening, hostile, violent, or disruptive behavior
  • Damage, destruction, theft, or abuse of university property
  • Dishonest or criminal conduct
  • Unauthorized use or possession of alcoholic beverages or being at work under the influence of alcohol or substances

Managers are encouraged to provide real time verbal feedback to employees with respect to job performance, and should not wait to do so until the annual performance review. Further, managers may provide such feedback without first consulting with the HR representative. However, when a manager recognizes the need to address more formally a work performance or conduct concern, he or she should consult Human Resource Management and Development to:

  • Review the concern
  • Determine whether performance counseling and corrective action is merited
  • Create a factual document outlining the areas of concern


The following forms of performance counseling or corrective action, as more fully explained below, include verbal warning; written warning; performance improvement plan; suspension; and termination. These forms do not need to be applied as progressive or escalating steps. In determining what performance counseling or corrective action is appropriate, the seriousness of the infraction or action, the employee’s past record, and the circumstances surrounding the matter will be taken into consideration. In addition, the university is an at-will employer, and this guidance does not preclude the university from ending the employment relationship without notice at any time.

Managers should consult with the HR representative prior to imposing all  performance counseling and corrective action listed below. HR Representatives must review such actions ensuring there is proper documentation to support the corrective action proposed.

Documentation reflecting performance counseling and corrective action taken, as described below, except for verbal warning, becomes part of the employee’s official university record.

1. Verbal warning

Verbal warning is oral notice to an employee that he or she is not meeting expectations or that his or her conduct is inappropriate in the workplace. Verbal warning clarifies the standards of acceptable performance or conduct, and may identify the potential consequences if the problem is not corrected.

Managers should document such verbal warnings. Documentation could take the form of an email or memorandum to the employee, and/or notes placed in the department file reflecting a conversation.

2. Written warning

Managers may document performance or conduct concerns in writing to identify areas where an employee needs to improve. A written warning identifies the nature of the performance or conduct concern, what needs to change or improve, and the potential consequences if the problem is not corrected.

3. Performance Improvement Plan

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) outlines specific areas of improvement that must be made within a specified time period, and includes various checkpoints for assessment.

4. Suspension

A suspension temporarily removes a university employee from the workplace. A suspension may be imposed as a corrective measure or during an investigation when there is a reasonable concern that the employee’s continued presence in the workplace during the investigation may be inappropriate. A suspension may be imposed with or without pay. Suspension without pay will generally not exceed 60 calendar days. Suspensions with pay will generally not exceed 15 calendar days.

5. Termination

The university may terminate an employee at any time if it believes circumstances warrant such action.

This guidance applies to all benefits-eligible staff employees other than those in their Introductory Employment Period (IEP), who are subject to separate guidance. Please refer to the IEP guidance for more information. If there is a direct conflict between this guidance and an applicable collective bargaining agreement, the collective bargaining agreement will prevail. For librarians who fall under the Code for Librarians, if there is a direct conflict between this guidance and the Code for Librarians, the Code for Librarians will prevail.