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The University of Texas at Dallas

Managing Performance/Conduct

Supervisors at UT Dallas are expected to manage:

  • Job Performance
  • Behavior/Conduct
  • Attendance

Employee Relations staff utilize a consultative approach to provide objective coaching and counseling services to managers and employees. Consultations can focus on informal or formal approaches, depending on the specific issue to be addressed.

The decision to issue corrective action or to dismiss an employee from the University is one that should not be made in haste and should always be made in consultation with the Employee Relations staff in the Office of Human Resources.

Every disciplinary situation is unique and has serious implications both for the employee and the University in terms of how the disciplinary action is managed. The role of the Employee Relations team is to advise and discuss with managers available options and provide recommendations to help address the concerns. The manager's role is to apply objectivity and consistency while exercising discretion over the level of corrective action administered.

Basic Guidelines

It is the policy of The University of Texas at Dallas to encourage fair, efficient and equitable solutions for problems arising out of the employment relationship and to meet the requirements of state and federal law. These guidelines and cited policies reflect the efforts of Human Resources to ensure that such actions take place. All Classified and Administrative and Professional staff are at-will employees who serve without tenure. No provision of any UT Dallas policy shall confer rights to employees that are contrary to the employment-at-will doctrine.

  • Supervisors should adopt a progressive approach to discipline. What this means is that the disciplinary action taken generally starts at the lowest appropriate level. If an offense is not so serious as to warrant immediate termination, a supervisor might begin by counseling the employee, then moving to an oral warning and next to a written warning. Employee Relations staff can assist supervisors in determining the first step and in the preparation of appropriate corrective actions to address the issue.
  • For more serious issues or ones in which the above-described actions have been unsuccessful in improving employee performance or changing behavior, supervisors may need to use suspension, demotion, or dismissal. None of these three actions may be taken without first consulting with Employee Relations in the Office of Human Resources.
  • The decision to use suspension, demotion, or dismissal must never be taken lightly and must be carefully investigated before proceeding. These three actions require consultation with Employee Relations in the Office of Human Resources. For specifics regarding  the process to be followed with Classified staff, please consult the University’s Discipline and Dismissal Policy.
  • In accordance with University policy, employees may file a grievance or appeal disciplinary actions (depending on the action taken). When disciplinary actions are necessary, employees should be advised of their rights under the Grievance Policy and the Discipline and Dismissal Policy.
  • Employees who are in their probationary period at UT Dallas fall under a different policy. The Probationary Employee Discipline and Dismissal Policy stipulates that classified employees who have not served their 180 day probationary period can be dismissed during this period (employees who have satisfied their probationary period at UT Dallas, including those who transferred to another position or department, do not fall under this policy). In addition to completing the required new employee evaluations during the first, third and before the end of the classified employee’s sixth month, the employees should have a clear understanding of the supervisor’s expectations, the supervisor has communicated these expectations to the employee, the supervisor has provided feedback to the employee on necessary corrective actions that must be made in order to be successful in their job, and the supervisor has maintained appropriate documentation during the employee’s probationary period. In other words, supervisors should be thoughtful and proactive before taking any disciplinary action. The Office of Human Resources should always be consulted before terminating an employee.

Corrective Actions

Coaching, counseling and correction describe a progressive approach to applying the University’s disciplinary policy. When disciplinary actions are needed, supervisors should adopt a progressive approach to correcting the performance or behavioral issue. For a sample but non-exhaustive list of performance and behavioral issues that may result in disciplinary action, please consult the Conduct Subject to Disciplinary Action section of Discipline and Dismissal Policy.

Generally speaking, a supervisor begins a disciplinary action at the lowest level, with coaching and counseling to address the issue. Supervisors may choose to consult with Employee Relations staff for guidance before engaging in coaching/counseling conversations.

  • Coaching - A supervisor meets with an employee. The purpose of the meeting is straightforward — job performance, behavior, or attendance are not what they should be. The focus of the coaching session is to determine what needs to be done to help the employee improve performance, or correct inappropriate workplace behaviors or poor attendance. The supervisor (i.e., the coach) and the employee map out a plan of action. The employee implements the plan. The supervisor monitors the process —recognizing success and offering constructive feedback if the performance is still lagging where it should be.
  • Counseling - Counseling is similar to coaching in that it shares the same goal: improving performance and/or stopping inappropriate workplace behaviors or poor attendance. With counseling, however, the meeting between the supervisor and the employee takes on a different feel. In such meetings, the supervisor attempts to understand and identify the issues contributing to the performance, poor attendance, or behavioral problem. Accordingly, in a counseling meeting, the supervisor is focused on listening, verifying their understanding of the problem and engaging in problem solving with the employee. Like the coaching transaction, the supervisor and the employee leave the counseling meeting with a corrective plan in mind. Counseling is letting the employee know that the supervisor takes the issue seriously and wants to help them get past it. At the same time, the message is clear from the supervisor — the employee’s performance or attendance must improve, behaviors must change, or more serious steps will have to be taken.

If that is unsuccessful in remedying the problem, the supervisor might repeat the same process, or issue formal disciplinary action. It all would depend upon the facts of the case at hand. In the case of a situation where an employee’s performance, attendance, or behavior has become sufficiently severe, the supervisor may have to implement formal corrective action.

  • Corrective Action - This part of the disciplinary process features increasingly formal and more serious efforts to correct the problem. Such corrective actions tend to follow a fairly common pattern. The supervisor then escalates the intervention depending upon the response of the employee or the seriousness of the issue being addressed. Supervisors must consult with Employee Relations staff before administering any corrective actions.
    • Oral Warning - An oral warning is a discussion between the supervisor and the employee which identifies the problem issue and communicates a clear expectation that changes must be forthcoming or more a more serious disciplinary step will follow. The supervisor is expected to document the date of the conversation, as well as issues discussed, in the event that further action may need to be taken. The next step does not automatically follow but in many cases an oral warning that is not heeded results in the next step.
    • Written Warning - A written warning is a formal document created by the supervisor in consultation with Employee Relations and given to the employee. The written warning is used when previous efforts to correct the deficient performance, attendance, or behavior have failed. Depending upon the circumstances, a problem may be sufficiently severe such that a supervisor decides to move directly to a written warning. Written warnings are signed by the employee and supervisor. If witnesses are present, they too sign the warning. A copy of the warning is sent to Human Resources where it is placed in the employee’s personnel file.
    • Final Written Warning - A final written warning is a formal document created by the supervisor in consultation with Employee Relations and given to the employee. The final written warning is used when the employee's performance, attendance, or behavior did not improve as a result of a written warning. Depending upon the circumstances, a problem may be sufficiently severe such that a supervisor decides to move directly to a final written warning. Final written warnings are signed by the employee and supervisor. If witnesses are present, they too sign the warning. A copy of the final warning is sent to Human Resources where it is placed in the employee’s personnel file.
    • Suspension, Demotion, Dismissal - These three actions represent the most serious steps in the disciplinary process because they result in serious job-altering consequences for the employee. Typically, they would be implemented only after the other efforts have been unsuccessful, and in consultation with Employee Relations staff in the Office of Human Resources.

Performance Improvement Plan

When an employee is not performing or meeting expectations, supervisors have at their disposal several options to address work performance. They can rely on corrective actions such as oral and written warnings. The Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), when appropriate, can be used in place of corrective actions.

Some common uses for the PIP include:

  • To correct work performance and productivity issues.
  • To address performance concerns documented in an unsatisfactory annual review.
  • To provide employee with time and resources to correct performance before a more serious step in the disciplinary process is taken.

This is a formal process used by supervisors to help employees improve performance. It should not be used to address behavioral or attendance concerns. The PIP identifies performance issues that need to be corrected and creates a written plan of action to guide the improvement. Fundamentally, a PIP is a structured communication tool designed to facilitate constructive discussion between the employee and the supervisor. An effective PIP will:

  • Specifically identify the performance to be improved.
  • Provide clear expectations and metrics about the work to be performed.
  • Identify the support and resources available to help the employee make the required improvements.
  • Establish a plan for reviewing the employee’s progress and providing feedback to the employee for the duration of the PIP.
  • Specify possible consequences if performance standards as identified in the PIP are not met.

A basic tenet with all performance management efforts is the notion that taking action early is better than waiting. The same holds true for the performance improvement plan. A PIP is more likely to be successful when the supervisor recognizes there is a performance issue that needs to be corrected. Early communication and early feedback (both positive and corrective) are good ways to prevent future performance problems. Investing time early is always time well spent and the performance improvement plan can be an effective tool to address poor performance and help the employee meet expectations.

Guidelines for Creating a PIPOpens PDF in a new tab.

Disciplinary Actions

Every employee of the University is expected to know and understand the performance criteria for their particular job with all rules, procedures and standards of conduct. Employees who do not fulfill the responsibilities set out by such performance criteria, rules, procedures and standards of conduct may be subject to adverse personnel actions such as suspension, demotion, or dismissal. Certain employees may not fall under the scope of this University policy. For specifics as to who is covered, consult the Discipline and Dismissal Policy.

The decision to take one of these actions should not be made in haste. It requires serious attention and action. Such decisions should always be made in consultation with the Employee Relations staff in the Office of Human Resources.

Conduct subject to suspension, demotion, or dismissal includes:

  • The failure of an employee to maintain satisfactory work standards can constitute cause for disciplinary action, including dismissal. Work performance includes all aspects of the employee’s work.
  • Employees who fail to maintain standards of conduct suitable and acceptable to the work environment can also constitute cause for disciplinary action, including dismissal.
  • The failure of an employee to maintain satisfactory attendance can constitute cause for disciplinary action, including dismissal.

Supervisors who are considering suspension, demotion, or dismissal must carefully investigate the matter before proceeding to action. Supervisors should notify Employee Relations staff in the Office of Human Resources and obtain all necessary approvals from the appropriate department heads or equivalent before proceeding with the proposed disciplinary penalty. Once all notifications and approvals are received, the supervisor will work with Employee Relations staff in the Office of Human Resources to follow the appropriate process. For classified employees, the process includes:

  • Notice of Intent - The supervisor will meet with the employee to inform them of the supervisor's intent to proceed with a disciplinary action of suspension, demotion, or dismissal. The notification should be a formal meeting with the employee, including a member of the Employee Relations staff, and should include the proposed disciplinary action and the basis for this proposed action. Only in rare or unusual circumstances should the notification be given solely in writing. The employee should be provided with an opportunity to respond to the charges either verbally or in writing within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed two working days.
  • Final Notice - If the employee chooses to respond to the supervisor’s notice of the intended action, it is up to the supervisor to review the response and determine if the evidence presented is sufficiently compelling to rescind the intended action. If they are not persuaded by reasons offered by the employee, the supervisor will, in writing, inform the employee of the decision to impose the penalty along with the reasons for the disciplinary action, effective date, and the employee’s right of appeal.

Appeal Process for Classified Employees

Classified employees have the right to appeal a disciplinary action involving suspension, demotion, or termination of employment. Employees should review the Procedure for Appeal section of the Discipline and Dismissal Policy. Employee Relations staff in the Office of Human Resources are available to assist the employee and answer questions about the appeal process under the University policy.

  • Appeal Process - University policy also provides classified employees the right to appeal disciplinary actions involving suspension, demotion, or dismissal. The Discipline and Dismissal Policy provides specific steps for employees who are subject to one of these personnel actions to appeal the process. Employees should review the policy for more information. University policy specifies that not all positions at UT Dallas have access to this provision of the policy.

Grievance Process

Employees have the right to register a complaint or file a grievance related to wages, hours of work, working conditions, performance evaluations, merit raises, job assignments, reprimands, and the interpretation or application of a rule, regulation or policy.

Complaints of employees including nontenure-system faculty, temporary, casual, hourly and per diem employees will be addressed according to the University’s Grievance Policy. This policy excludes faculty subject to UTDPP1050 (Faculty Grievance Policy), graduate research assistants, graduate teaching assistants, and UTD Police Officers.

For specifics on the nature, format and procedures to follow, please consult the policy. The grievance is fundamentally a departmental process. As such, the Office of Human Resources does not administer the grievance process. Employee Relations staff are, however, available to consult with employees in reviewing options, alternatives and procedures related to the grievance process at UT Dallas. A student, faculty, or staff member who retaliates in any way against an individual who has brought a grievance pursuant to this policy or who has participated in good faith in preparing, presenting or investigating a grievance, is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the University.

The University is committed to equitable treatment of all employees. Employees who have questions or concerns about their rights, the scope of these policies, or the procedures to follow are encouraged to contact the Employee Relations staff of the Office of Human Resources.