Investigating a Performance Challenge


Investigating a Performance Issue



When you have an employee who is consistently not meeting expectations for their role, despite regular feedback and direction from you (including a Performance Improvement Plan), you may decide to pursue a formal progressive discipline process.

If you have not already conducted a Performance Improvement Plan, given your employee regular feedback, and set clear expectations that you both are on the same page about, start with those modules first! It’s best to resolve performance issues at the lowest, least complicated level possible.


Table of Contents

  1. First: Talk to your employee

  2. Preparing for the Fact-Finding Meeting

  3. Conduct the Fact-Finding Meeting

  4. After the Fact-Finding Meeting

  5. Letter of Warning Template


Use the tabs above to navigate through the sections of this skillbuilder.

First: Talk to your employee

Once an issue has reached the point where you feel it requires corrective action, you need to clarify for yourself what the issue is, in specific language, and also understand your employee’s account of why it’s happening.

The best way to learn about your employee’s perspective is to ask them! You might find that you were missing some context, that your employee didn’t understand the severity of the issue, or that you were mistaken about the issue that was occurring.

If you’re able to get on the same page with your employee about how to correct the issue after an informal conversation, you don’t need to move forward with this process.  You can continue to provide your employee with feedback, and support them as they make the necessary improvements.

However, if you’re not able to come to an understanding, you can move forward with the official fact-finding process.


Preparing for the Fact-Finding Meeting

In the fact-finding meeting, you, your employee, your HR Business Partner, and any representation your employee decides to invite (any one individual your employee chooses, most likely a union rep if the employee is represented), will meet to align on the facts of the issue. This is your opportunity to clarify your expectations again, and your employee’s opportunity to contribute their perspective to, ideally, help resolve the performance issue. To prepare for the meeting, you’ll want to collect all the information you can so that you’re able to present your case clearly to your employee.

  • Check the employee’s file to see if there are prior records of this issue.
  • Begin compiling your notes about the performance issue. Your notes should answer these questions:
    • What is your personal understanding of this issue?
    • What information have you gathered already (from your own observations or others’ feedback)? Whom did you speak to and when about the employee’s performance?
    • What feedback have you already given the employee? When did those conversations occur?
    • If your employee has a union or employment contract, what does their contract say about this issue?
    • If the issue is covered in a law or university policy, what do those regulations say about this issue?
  • Schedule a meeting with your HR Business Partner to prepare.
    • Prepare a framework for presenting the performance issue to your employee.
    • Prepare questions to better understand your employee’s read on the situation.
    • Using your notes, lay out the data and evidence to help your employee understand your read on the situation.
  • Schedule the fact-finding meeting.
  • Provide notice to your employee of the time and topic of the meeting so that they have time to obtain representation, if they so choose.
  • It’s always recommended that you have your HR Business Partner join as your representative during this process, but especially important when you are meeting with a represented employee and their union representative. Union rules and requirements can be complex, and it’s useful to have subject matter experts in the room so that questions can be resolved quickly and with accurate information.

Conduct the Fact-Finding Meeting

During the meeting, you want to be prepared to ask the right questions to have a fair and comprehensive record of the issue, from your perspective and from your employee’s. Here’s what you should think about during the meeting:

  • Keep a close eye on your tone, expressions, and body language. Remember that the purpose of this conversation is to resolve the performance issue, not to punish the employee. You want to welcome them to share their perspective honestly, and treat them like a partner in finding a solution.
  • Refer to the questions you prepared. These meetings can sometimes be difficult and tense, and the more complex the situation, likely the more questions you need to get through. Stick to your plan so that you’re able to get through everything you need to learn.
  • Take clear notes so that you can accurately recall what was shared in the meeting.
  • If your employee chooses not to respond to your questions, make it clear that you have to make decisions with the information available to you. Welcome them to share more.

After the Fact-Finding Meeting

  • Meet with your Business Partner to debrief the meeting and decide on the next steps based on the facts found. You will talk through the Seven Tests of Just Cause to decide if you are justified in moving forward in the progressive discipline process on this issue
  • Make a decision about the facts found.
    • If you decide to issue a letter, move on to the template below for writing the letter
    • If you decide not to issue a letter, but still believe there are performance issues with this employee, strategize with your Business Partner on how best to support your employee to improve.
    • If you discover that you were wrong about the performance issue, make sure to talk about that with your employee. Thank them for their honesty, and apologize if you had jumped to conclusions without getting enough facts. 

Letter of Warning Template

Click the thumbnail below to download this template.