An Employee at My Nonprofit is Not Performing Well; What Do I Do?

July 12, 2018

Two rows of black shadow figures with one red figure All employers should expect their employees to meet established standards of attendance, performance, and conduct.

If, after going through the performance appraisal process, employees cannot or will not improve their poor performance, the next resort for a manager is progressive discipline. In a progressive discipline system, the disciplinary measures range from mild to severe depending on the nature and frequency of the employee’s misconduct. An employee moves through the system like climbing a ladder, moving up rung by rung to more intense disciplinary measures until the employee improves or is fired.

There are four steps in a progressive discipline system: informal notices, written reprimands and counseling, suspension, and termination.

Although its name implies punishment, progressive discipline is more about communication between you and employees than it is about punishment. No matter where an employee is on the progressive discipline ladder, how you hand down the discipline can be as important as the discipline itself.

A progressive discipline system can shield you from liability in a lawsuit because it treats employees fairly and because it requires you to document employee misconduct and your response to it every step of the way.” (DelPo, Amy. The Performance Appraisal Handbook. Nolo Press, 2005. p. 7/2).

Of course, there are many ways to institute progressive discipline. One of the most effective means is to introduce a performance plan that lets the employee know exactly what is expected of him/her each week and allows the employer an opportunity to review the employee’s performance on a frequent basis. Finally, if the employee’s performance fails to improve, it may become necessary to terminate the employee. It is best to seek expert advice at that point to ensure you have done everything possible to protect your organization.

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From the Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The Standards for Excellence code, developed by the Standards for Excellence Institute, includes specific benchmarks and measures that provide a structured approach to building capacity, accountability, and sustainability in your nonprofit organization. The code identifies 6 major areas of nonprofit governance and management: Mission, Strategy, and Evaluation; Leadership: Board, Staff, and Volunteers; Legal Compliance and Ethics; Finance and Operations; Resource Development and Fundraising; and Public Awareness, Engagement and Advocacy.

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