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Connecticut Association of Independent Schools


Connecticut Association of Independent Schools C-1 Straight Talk with our Colleagues: What to Say, When and How Heads & Senior Management Bessie Speers, Head of ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Connecticut Association of Independent Schools

Connecticut Association of Independent Schools
  • C-1 Straight Talk with our Colleagues What to
    Say, When and HowHeads Senior Management
  • Bessie Speers, Head of School, The Ethel Walker
    School, CT
  • Christopher Brigham, Attorney, Updike Kelly
    Spellacy, P.C.,
  • Trustee at the Ethel Walker School, CT

The Purpose of Employee Discipline / Performance
  • The goal of effective employee discipline /
    performance improvement, in most instances, is to
    correct an employees unsatisfactory work
    performance and/or violations of School policies.
    Discipline is not always synonymous with
    punishment. It should be approached
    constructively, when possible to do so.
  • Before considering disciplinary action /
    performance improvement, a manager should make
    sure employees are aware of what the Schools
    policies and performance expectations are and
    what is expected of them. This will minimize the
    likelihood of litigation in the event the
    disciplinary action leads to a separation from
  • Employee Handbook and Acknowledgment
  • Orientation
  • Job Descriptions

The Purpose of Employee Discipline
Discipline, when warranted, is important because
employees expect fair and consistent treatment
for all failure to discipline appropriately
destroys the morale of those who obey policies
and procedures, perform to expectations and leads
to claims of favoritism. Discipline also
provides employees with a clear idea of the
Schools expectations for an orderly work
environment. Creates a culture of Accountability
Why Managers Are Reluctant To Discipline
  • Lack of Training on How to Effectively
  • Fear
  • of retaliation by the disciplined employee and
  • of loss of friendship / collegial environment.
  • Lack of Confidence in Ability to Discipline
  • without Reversal
  • Natural Inclination to Avoid Confrontation /
    Difficult Conversations
  • Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow
  • More on this later

Basic Principles of Discipline
  • In the event of misconduct or poor performance,
    disciplinary action (performance improvement)
    should be timely, consistent and impartial.
  • Disciplinary action should always be based upon
    thorough investigation and documentation.
  • The disciplinary process should provide advance
    notice, where possible, of the consequences of
    misconduct / poor performance.

Supervisors Checklist for
Recommending Disciplinary Action or
Performance Improvement
Items to Consider
  • A supervisor should consider the following
    checklist before he/she initiates disciplinary
    action / performance improvement.
  • Has a complete factual investigation been
  • Is this employee receiving the same treatment
    others received for the same or similar offense?
  • Is the policy or procedure which has been
    violated published? Is it easy to understand?
    Does it specify the penalty for violation?
  • School practice vs. policy
  • Did the employee know the policy or should
    he/she (reasonably) have known it?
  • Should the employee have known that his/her
    behavior was wrongeven if the violated policy
    was not explained to the employee?
  • In this instance, has the policy been applied
    reasonably and consistently?
  • Are performance expectations clear?

Items to Consider ...
  • Have preliminary procedures been followed?
  • Except in cases of serious misconduct, has the
    employee been warned that repeated
    violations/infractions will result in discipline?
  • Is this employee personally involved or only by
    association with another?
  • Has the School done anything to support a
    reasonable belief that the action in question was
  • Does the discipline fit the infraction?

Items to Consider ...
  • What is the employees disciplinary / performance
  • Has it happened before?
  • When was the last time it happened? Or How
  • What is his/her length of service with the
  • Does the employee have a reasonable excuse for
    the incident or violation? Has he/she offered
    mitigating circumstances?
  • Can the employees misconduct be proven by
    direct, objective evidence or only by
    circumstantial evidence or conjecture?
  • Did the School have a reasonable opportunity to
    deter this employee from committing an offense
    and fail to do so?
  • How soon after the act in question is the
    discipline being administered?

Progressive Discipline Procedure / Performance
Improvement Process
  • Progressive discipline involves a range of
    disciplinary consequences that increase in
    severity, and often includes
  • Verbal warning
  • Written warning
  • Suspension
  • Termination
  • When drafting such a policy, it is imperative
    that the school maintain absolute discretion to
    deviate from the policy and take any disciplinary
    action that is deemed to be appropriate at the
    time, even if such action is immediate
  • Employment is, by default, at-will unless school
    has academic term contract. The disciplinary
    policy must be carefully drafted to ensure that
    the at-will status is not altered.
  • Policy must be consistent with contractual terms

Having the Difficult Conversation
  • Preparation
  • Prepare for the meeting by reviewing the notes of
    any verbal warning conversation and any other
    relevant material.
  • Ask yourself
  • What is the purpose?
  • Return to it when things get difficult
  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Have an end game
  • What is the ideal outcome?
  • Anticipate Defenses
  • Ask the employee to come into an office,
    conference room or other private area.
  • Now, and only now, is a good time for email.
  • Ask a third party to attend the meeting to act as
    a witness.
  • Do Not Delay

Having the Difficult Conversation
  • The Conversation
  • Soft Entry
  • Dont lead with criticism / negative feedback
  • State the specific problem in terms of actual
    performance and desired performance.
  • Straightforward and simple
  • Dont beat around the bush
  • I am talking with you because this is an issue
    that you need to address in order to be
  • I have something Id like to discuss with you
    that I think will help us work together more
    effectively. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
  • Impact change will have from a positive
  • Impact of doing nothing
  • Most difficult cases to defend are those where
    lack of
  • performance was mismanaged over a long period
    of time

Having the Difficult Conversation
  • The Conversation (continued)
  • Observations
  • Be specific / avoid generalities no wiggle room
  • Refer to previous casual conversations and any
    verbal warnings.
  • As we discussed . . .

Having the Difficult Conversation ...
  • Stay Focused / In Control
  • Make it about them not you
  • Return to Purpose
  • Avoid Assumptions
  • Be Flexible
  • Give the employee a chance to respond and
  • Form of Due Process
  • Empower the Employee
  • Show them you are willing to listen
  • Acknowledgement
  • Acknowledge employees position
  • Reach Agreement / Disagreement
  • I can understand you feel that way, but .
  • Set Expectations
  • Have the employee confirm they know exactly what
    is expected

  • Establish a Time Frame to review progress / due
  • Plan of Action Going Forward
  • Expected Improvements
  • Exit Procedure
  • Tell the employee a written warning will be
    placed in his/her personnel file summarizing the
  • Allow the employee to review and respond to the
    warning if requested.
  • Now required under CT law
  • Dignity Respect
  • Professional conversations
  • Place and location is important
  • Dont let it get personal

Having the Difficult Conversation ...
Having the Difficult Conversation ...
  • Top Ten Tips
  • Choose the right time and place.
  • Anticipate that you may not be on the same page.
  • Use a respectful tone.
  • Genuinely desire a win-win outcome.
  • Be empathetic.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Stay in control.
  • Write it out.
  • Dont interrupt.
  • Dont team up.

Having the Difficult Conversation ...
  • Common Mistakes
  • Sudden deterioration of performance after many
    years of acceptance.
  • Squirreling complaints, rather than addressing
    each in a timely, appropriate fashion.
  • Good evaluations for poor performance. Avoid the
    halo effect.
  • Avoiding direct and honest statements of the
    reasons for disciplinary action the Mr./Ms.
    Nice-Guy Syndrome.
  • E-mail
  • NY Times Rule
  • Assume that any email you send will appear
    tomorrow on the front page of the Times. If you
    would be embarrassed to see it published in the
  • dont press send.
  • Exhibit A

Having the Difficult Conversation ...
Follow Up Write a short memo summarizing the
conversation and complete a written warning
notice if appropriate. Timing is critical it
is important to write the memo immediately after
the conversation while memories are still
fresh. Distribute the copies and advise the
appropriate people of the conversation and file
the notice in personnel file. Monitor the
employees performance to make sure the problem
has been corrected.
Recommended Disciplinary Meeting Procedures ...
The memo should contain the following
information Date of the conversation. Referenc
e to previous conversations about this or other
problems. Statement of the specific change in
the employees performance or behavior
expected. Any comments or statements the
employee made during the conversation. Statement
indicating confidence in the employees ability
to perform properly in the future.
Preparing a Disciplinary Notice
A disciplinary notice should cover the following
areas Problem What happened? Be specific and
be objective If the problem involves a
violation of a written policy, rule or procedure,
cite it. If the problem results from a history
of similar incidents, refer to the history. If
the problem involves specific improper
language (obscene, sexual, insubordinate, etc.),
then state the exact words in quotes.
Preparing a Disciplinary Notice ...
If the problem involves absenteeism / tardiness,
describe number of absences and the extent of
each lateness. If the problem involves
carelessness or poor work performance, describe
the act or specific deficiency. Implications Des
cribe why the problem is important to you, your
department and the School. What effect does it
have on other employees?
Preparing a Disciplinary Notice ...
Prior Record What is the employees prior
record on this or similar problems? What were
there prior conversations between the employee
and supervisors has there been on this topic or
issue? Correction Desired In what ways do you
expect the employee to correct his/her problem?
Be specific. Employees Response Provide the
employee with an opportunity to include his or
her own comments pertaining to the problem.
Preparing a Disciplinary Notice ...
Disciplinary Action State clearly what action
currently is being taken and what future action
may be taken if no improvement is made or if the
incident is repeated. Follow-up Try to
establish a reasonable follow-up date. Indicate
the time frame during which the employee is
expected to improve.
Case Scenarios
Case Scenario 1 Jeff was hired to be an
associate in the development office and head
coach of the cross country team at a boarding
school in the Midwest.   Jeff and his family
moved into campus housing and began to settle in.
It became clear that being head coach of the
cross country team was more than Jeff could
handle effectively with his other
responsibilities in development. His coaching
style and the season was less than successful.
The athletic director communicated his
dissatisfaction directly to Jeff and the Head of
School. Meanwhile, Jeffs primary responsibility
of serving as a development associate was proving
to be complicated from the beginning of his
tenure. He and the Director had a challenging
relationship. Jeff thought he was being treated
unfairly and mentioned to the Head of School that
he had been documenting these instances.
Case Scenarios
  Jeff continued to absorb much of the Head's and
Assistant Head's time in communicating his
concern about his boss. The Head of School,
wanting this recent hire to be successful,
continued to try to mentor and coach Jeff at
opportune moments. The Head, needing to support
the Director, ultimately convinced Jeff that a
move out of the Development office to another
area of the School would be best. While he found
some level of success in his next administrative
position, his role as teacher and coach continued
to be troublesome.

Case Scenarios
  • As contract talks approached mid year, the Head
    of School had some honest talks with Jeff,
    documenting some performance issues but had not
    yet decided exactly what to communicate to Jeff
    at the upcoming contract meeting. Jeff, his wife
    and two young children had relocated to take the
    position and were settling in to the boarding
    school community with hopes of making this their
    home for quite some time.
  • Discuss
  • Investigation Steps
  • Preparation for Conversation with Employee
  • Have the Conversation
  • Follow-Up

Case Scenarios
Case Scenario 2 There had been an extensive
search for the Dean position at a boarding school
and a wonderful person was hired. Dan, the new
Dean, was kind, firm and approachable. He had a
strong start to the year and a successful first
year in his new position.   The next year, Dan
became affected by health issues. He sought
medical treatment and tried different remedies,
which were relatively unsuccessful. As a
consequence, Dan often missed days at school. The
Head of School and Dans supervisor both tried to
be understanding and gave Dan much latitude in
making his health a priority. The year continued
on this way and it became clear to the Head and
Dans supervisor that Dan was not able to do his
job successfully and people at school, including
the students, were being negatively affected by
the absence of leadership in the Deans role.
Case Scenarios
After further discussions, Dan agreed to take
some time off, on a medical leave of sorts.
  After Dan returned a few months later, the
Head became aware that Dans charge account in
the school store had become in excess of 6,000.
Dans supervisor became concerned about Dans
support system at home with his young children
and the financial situation of the family.
Personal purchases began to appear on the school
credit card used by Dan. Dan seemed distracted
and his performance did not return to the level
of his first year at the School.  

Case Scenarios
  • The Head met with Dan to discuss whether this
    continued to be the best match for Dan and the
    School. Contract talks were a month away and the
    Head needed to decide how best to move forward
    with Dans situation, given the health,
    financial, and performance issues.
  • Discuss
  • Investigation Steps
  • Preparation for Conversation with Employee
  • Have the Conversation
  • Follow-Up

Case Scenarios
  •  Case Scenario 3
  • Prior to a regularly scheduled faculty meeting,
    the Head of School is informed by one of his
    long-term faculty members that he has received an
    invitation to participate in a real time chat
    room during the scheduled faculty meeting. The
    administration suspects they know who sent the
    invitation, a first year, fresh out of college,
    generation Facebook, Vine and Twitter addicted
    member of the faculty. The faculty meeting is
    scheduled for later that day. How would you
    handle this situation?
  • Discuss
  • Investigation Steps
  • Preparation for Conversation with Employee
  • Have the Conversation
  • Follow-Up

The End Thank You
Elizabeth C. Speers Head of School The Ethel
Walker School 230 Bushy Hill Road Simsbury, CT
06070 860-658-4467 Bessie_speers_at_ethelwalker. org
Christopher L. Brigham, Esq. Updike, Kelly
Spellacy, P.C. 265 Church Street New Haven, CT
06510 203-786-8310