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Federal Employee Relations: Poor Performance Versus Misconduct

Home / Federal Employee Relations: Poor Performance Versus Misconduct

By Rose Gwin

Employee relations issues are among the most challenging that supervisors face. Often they spend 90 percent of their time dealing with a handful of employees with performance or conduct problems. Effective supervisors, however, spend 90 percent of their time working with their “good” employees, not 90 percent of their time dealing with the few troublesome employees.

Although performance and conduct can be related, it is important to recognize the differences in the way the two are handled.

• Poor performance is the failure of an employee to do the job at an acceptable level, as defined by performance standards. Performance problems are usually dealt with through coaching, training, and other work improvement efforts. Although demotion or removal can result, action is taken with the hope that, with assistance, the employee’s performance will improve.

• Misconduct is the failure of an employee to follow written or unwritten workplace rules or practices, including violation of agency regulations, ethics requirements, and general standards of appropriate behavior. Conduct problems are handled with disciplinary penalties, such as reprimand, suspension, demotion, or removal.

Discipline allows you to maintain an effective and efficient workplace, keep up the morale of employees who obey the rules, and preserve workplace fairness. Thus, the goal of disciplinary action is to correct conduct and modify behavior in a fair and reasonable way, not to punish employees.

Be sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming white paper that will explore ways to make your performance feedback more effective.

If you have suggestions for white papers of interest to human resources specialists or to managers carrying out their human resources responsibilities, please email me at rosemgwin@msn.com.

About the Author
Rose Gwin’s experiences include the full range of human resources management issues. She is a sought-after presenter for conferences and executive development events, and has extensive experience as a human resources practitioner and as a management development trainer and facilitator. Most recently, Ms. Gwin has worked as an adjunct instructor at Graduate School USA, where she has won an Outstanding Faculty Award. She provides training to federal agencies around the country in a spectrum of human resources topics, working both with managers and human resources professionals.

Ms. Gwin has also served as Director of the U. S. Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Human Resources and Equal Employment Opportunity. While in that role, she increased management satisfaction with the quality of personnel services by 89 percent. She implemented a career transition assistance plan, instituted paperless publicity of job openings nationwide, reduced the cost of the workers’ compensation program, and improved the operation of the EEO program.

Before retiring from the federal service after 27 years, she served in a variety of executive positions in Washington, DC and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As Regional Director of the Philadelphia Region of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, she presided over the closure of the regional operation. During the downsizing, she assured that program goals were met or exceeded while employees received needed outplacement assistance. She also served as Director of the Oversight Division of OPM’s Philadelphia operation.

Ms. Gwin has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science from Hendrix College and a Master of Arts in Management and Supervision (Human Resources) from Central Michigan University.