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WVP C-03 106 05-04.doc Document Transcript

  • 1. Tab C Chapter 3 MANAGING PERFORMANCE By Jon F. Elliott, J.D., James S. Graves, Ph.D., Psy.D., and Susan M. Sciara, M.A. ABSTRACT: Organizations operate most effectively when employees are given clear performance objectives, and then managed appropriately to ensure that they meet those expectations. Ideally, all employees would respond well to these objectives and management, and their performance would meet expectations. In the real world, of course, this is not always the case. Therefore, effective organizations also develop and implement systems to evaluate performance against objectives, to identify as quickly and accurately as possible when an employee’s performance fails to meet those objectives, and to work effectively to bring the employee up to expectations. Finally, organizations must have disciplinary systems to address employees who fail to correct deficienciesor who breach critical workplace standards such as those prohibiting workplace violence. These systems should generally provide for progressively more severe discipline, and ultimately termination if an employee continues to underperform or misbehave. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 1
  • 2. Tab C Chapter 3 All these performance management measures can and should incorporate workplace violence prevention features, in order to provide for congenial and safe operation of the organization, and minimize the risk that discipline and terminations will prompt workplace violence. This chapter discusses performance management through all these steps, and identifies ways that organizations can organize and undertake each step in ways designed to reduce, rather than increase, the risks of workplace violence. C-3 2 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 3. Managing Performance This chapter discusses the following performance management measures, and how to incorporate violence prevention elements into each: • Job Descriptions and Performance Objectives (Section A) • Establishing and Following Performance Management Procedures (Section B) • Identifying Inappropriate Behavior and Other Performance Problems (Section C) • Addressing Performance Problems (Counseling and Discipline) (Section D) • Termination (Section E) Several supplements provide useful examples of documents that can be used in these processes. A. Establishing Job Descriptions and Performance Objectives It should be obvious that unless an organization tells employees what it expects from them, they are unlikely to meet those expectations. Nevertheless, many organizations prefer to “maintain flexibility” by foregoing formal job descriptions, and also avoiding the establishment of objective performance criteria. Establishing these basic goalposts for employee performance supports organizational efficiency and success. It also can help reduce workplace violence. This includes low-level reactions endemic in stressed situations, where employees are working “in the dark,” concerned that the company and its managers may treat them unfairly, suffering growing anxiety as performance reviews loom, and then disappointment and anger if these reviews indeed deliver bad news. It also includes more extreme forms of violence brought on when some people react angrily to these stresses, and/or when an individual’s anti-social behavior is allowed to continue and increase. Methodical performance management systems enhance communication, defuse tension, and identify troubled (or troublesome) employees for counseling and/or discipline. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to provide detailed guidance to the creation of job descriptions and performance criteria. However, the authors generally advise organizations to establish both, personalized as far as is reasonably possible to each employee. As identified above, doing so usually improves organizational efficiency and reduces unnecessary personal and organizational stress. See C-3 Supplement 1 for a listing of sample job description contents. Job descriptions and performance objectives are also tools for workplace violence prevention. These include the generalized (and often intangible) value of reducing uncertainty and stress in the workplace. They also include specific opportunities for the organization to repeat its commitment to workplace violence prevention, and to formalize its insistence that employees participate in preventive measures. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 3
  • 4. Tab C Chapter 3 1. Including workplace violence prevention responsibilities in job descriptions Most large organizations have developed a system of formal job descriptions, based on a standardized format. Although these formats differ among companies, they typically include most or all of the following elements: • job title;1 • organizational placementin which department/unit, reporting to whom, with how many reportees (if supervisor or manager); • essential job functions (and the percentage of time devoted to each);2 • additional job functions (and the frequency with which they are performed); • scope of responsibilitywhat goods, services, and internal deliverables does this employee produce (or contribute to in some specified ways); • scope of authoritydoes this person supervise or manage others; • scope of autonomyhow often and how intensely is this person managed, given directions, etc.; • job requirementseducation, experience, professional certifications, specific skills, physical requirements (ability to lift X pounds, etc.); and • working conditionsin-office and/or mobile; any hazardous or physically stressful workplace conditions (e.g., chemical exposures, heat, noise). 1 Job classification schemes vary greatly. Common distinctions include: exempt and non-exempt employees; policy makers, managers, supervisors, and non-supervisory workers; non-exempt employees with fiduciary responsibilities (e.g., cash handlers, janitors with key access) and those without such responsibilities; employees who deal with outside parties (sales personnel, accounts receivable and payable staff) and those who don’t; security personnel and others; and so on. Many organizations also establish multiple levels within typical career paths to acknowledge increasing expertise and seniority, such as trainee, technician/analyst, specialist, senior specialist, and so on up the ladder. The United States and Canadian governments provide useful guidance to non-governmental employers throughout North America. For example, an online copy of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, originally prepared by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, can be reviewed at the following Internet site: www.wave.net/upg/immigration/dot_index.html. Alternatively, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration superseded the Dictionary in 1998 with an online interactive database system entitled “O*Net,” which provides additional occupational information. Information about O*Net can be accessed at www.doleta.gov/programs/onet, and the database itself is accessible at http://online.onetcenter.org. The U.S. federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has posted guidance for job classifications within federal service on its Internet site at www.opm.gov/fedclass. Similarly, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) posts an extensive National Occupational Classification 2001 compilation on its Internet site at www23.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/2001/e/generic/welcome.shtml. HRSDC also offers a Career Handbook – Second Edition, which provides additional information about job progressions and career counseling, at www23.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/2001/e/docs/ch_welcome.asp. 2 Identification and description of essential job functions provides the primary explanation of the job. This process is also critical to compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Canadian human rights laws, which require employers to make reasonable accommodations for “qualified persons with a disability,” i.e., those who can perform essential job functions if provided such accommodation. See Tab K Chapter 2. C-3 4 WVP 5/04 ©STP
  • 5. Managing Performance These categories provide several opportunities to incorporate workplace violence prevention provisions. For example: • Job functions should make the employee responsible for compliance with all the employer’s policies and procedures, training requirements, and reporting and response functions applicable to the jobincluding those covering workplace violence prevention.1 As described in this Guide, all employees have basic responsibilities, while supervisors and managers have additional responsibilities. If any job descriptions include assignment to your organization’s Threat Assessment Team (TAT) these must be summarized as well.2 • Scope of responsibilities, at least for supervisors and managers, includes responsibilities for ensuring implementation of the employer’s policies and procedures, and ensuring operation of the employer’s disciplinary systems, including those covering workplace violence prevention. • Scope of authority for supervisors and managers may include authority to suggest referrals to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and/or to initiate the process that leads to a formal referral.3 It may also include authority to initiate referrals to other counseling programs, and to commence disciplinary programs or procedures, including those relating to workplace violence prevention issues. 2. Including workplace violence prevention measures in performance objectives Once an employee has a job description, he or she still needs performance objectives to provide the “road map” describing the employer’s expectations for performance. These should be written down and formalized at the beginning of each performance period. Although these objectives will vary greatly along the spectrum from an entry-level clerk to the chief executive officer, they should include some or all of the following: • Specific objectives (quantifiable wherever appropriate and feasible), covering: deliverablesgoods, services or other products (e.g., complete specified projects within scheduled time and budget; produce all periodic reports on time and with specified style and content); quantifiable performance objectivesmeasurable resource use, outputs, and system operations (e.g., maintain product defect levels at or below specified targets, achieve on- time and attendance goals, maintain workplace injuries and illnesses below industry standards, etc.); employee developmentcomplete specified skill training course(s), etc.; and compliance with employer’s policies and programs. 1 Other chapters in this Guide describe these requirements, including Tab B Chapters 1 (Elements of a Workplace Violence Prevention Program) and 3 (Workplace Violence Prevention Policy); Tab C Chapter 2 (Training); Tab E (reporting and responding to events). 2 TATs are discussed in Tab B Chapter 4, and their activities in Tab E Chapters 1 and 3. 3 EAPs are discussed in Tab C Chapter 5. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 5
  • 6. Tab C Chapter 3 • Additional performance objectivesthese record the best efforts of the employee and supervisor to formalize additional objectives that are not readily quantifiable, such as: initiative; independence and/or cooperation with manager(s); communication with co-workers; cooperation with co-workers (sometimes couched as “behavior,” “attitude,” “team spirit,” etc.); dependability; and availabilitypunctuality, attendance, attention to time, etc. Each individual employee’s formal performance objectives can include some or all of these general expectations, and then be tailored by specifying job-specific objectives. Performance objectives can include reference to the employer’s compensation plan (including bonuses and/or profit sharing), if one exists. These plans often make “merit pay increases” contingent on adequate performance, and may provide criteria for bonuses based on better-than- adequate performance. You can readily incorporate workplace violence prevention activities into performance objectives in the following ways: • Specify workplace violence prevention policy and procedures as examples of employer rules to be followed. • Specify attendance at initial and refresher trainings in workplace violence prevention; make supervisors and managers responsible for ensuring attendance by their employees. • Require supervisors and managers to address the workplace violence program in safety meetings with employees. • Make supervisors accountable for prompt reporting of any actual or threatened incidents (reminding that a thoughtfully motivated and sensitively handled “false positive” is a good thing since it demonstrates attention to the issue) and establish sanctions for failure to make such reports. • Make supervisors and managers responsible for the quality of employees’ morale and mutual interactions (this might be framed as the positive but inherently vague “maintain good morale and teamwork” and/or the more negative “ensure that stress-related injuries and illnesses are kept [to specified low levels]” or “operate for the [specified time period] with no incidents of workplace violence”). • Include completion of conflict management and/or other relevant trainings among employee development activities. C-3 6 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 7. Managing Performance 3. Making objectives the first steps in a process To a large extent, the establishment of an employee’s job description and performance objectives is an event rather than part of a process. Since many employees’ jobs change only slowly as they continue working for the same employer, few employers revisit and revise formal performance objectives more frequently than annually, and many leave old objectives in place for years. Nonetheless, these events can still be important parts of the process of performance management. An employer that encourages an employee to be actively involved in the preparation of his or her job description and performance objectives allows that employee to assert “ownership” of the employer’s expectations. This increases the likelihood that the employer and employee will understand one another’s expectations and performance. The next section describes in more detail the value of dynamic and interactive performance management processes, which take the documented job description and performance objectives and make them tools of performance management. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 7
  • 8. Tab C Chapter 3 B. Establishing and Following Performance Management Procedures Performance management” means different things to different people in the business community. There appears to be no single, accepted definition. Some see the performance appraisal system as the major component, while others focus on the day-to-day management of under-performance and unacceptable behaviors. In our view, performance management includes these elements and more. We offer the following general definition of performance management: The continuous process of supporting and maximizing productivity, commitment, and morale through quality leadership, effective and respectful supervisory practices, and supportive organizational systems. The implementation of this concept of performance management creates a climate of a respectful and safe workplace. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to engage in a full discussion of leadership styles. Suffice it to say, however, that during non-crisis1 times in most organizations, an inclusive style of leadership at all levels generates more buy-in by employees and greater commitment to the organization and its goals. Inclusive leadership involves sharing or co-creating a vision of the organization’s goals (overall, and/or in smaller work groups), and involving employees at an appropriate level in the decision-making process. Inclusive leaders also tend to focus on relationships as well as process and results. They see the development of subordinates and meaningful delegation as important functions in their job. In short, inclusive leadersfrom the CEO to the line supervisorconvey an interest in and respect for the employees they supervise, and this provides the underpinnings of an effective performance management process. Establishing performance management procedures that work smoothly is one important step toward ensuring that your organization functions harmoniously. This in itself is an important workplace violence prevention tool. 1. Effective supervision: the Performance Management Action System Effective supervision requires a variety of skills and a systematic approach. The four-step Performance Management Action System outlined below describes an approach that delivers effective supervision of a process or project.2 Elements of this system are: 1. Define performance 2. Develop for performance 3. Remove barriers to performance 4. Appraise performance 1 Organizations in crisis are often better served by authoritative leadership from managers; see Jewell, L.N., Contemporary Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Brooks/Cole Publishing Co: Pacific Grove, CA, 1998. 2 The system described here was developed by Dr. J. S. Graves, copyright 1997. C-3 8 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 9. Managing Performance a. Define performance The process of defining performance should have the aim of generating both understanding and acceptance of the goal. To the extent possible, initiating a discussion leading to mutual agreement on what needs to be doneand howwill accomplish understanding and acceptance. Of course, there are times when a supervisor is simply passing along an assignment from his or her superior, and discussing the “what” may not be relevant. But, the “how” may still be negotiable. At this stage it is also important to discuss what resources are needed and how much time is required to accomplish the goal. This step should result in specific performance objectives, as described in Section A.2 above. b. Develop for performance Developing the employee for performance is crucial not only to accomplish the goal, but also to enhance his or her feelings of self-efficacy (i.e., sense of competence and confidence). In the absence of self-efficacy, you will see an employee experience frustration, low morale, and, perhaps, a desire to cheat or cut corners in the work. Work quality will suffer. It is the highly frustrated employee, whose declining work quality begins to result in negative feedback, who may move along the path toward aggressive behavior. Therefore, the supervisor should ask: “What additional knowledge or skills are needed to accomplish the tasks?” The development process can range from a brief teaching discussion with the supervisor to observing a model to formal training activities. c. Remove barriers to performance Removing barriers to performance has the obvious benefit of facilitating the accomplishment of the goal. However, on the personal level it also generates the belief that the organization supports and values the employee’s work. This belief will enhance both morale and commitment to the organization. Typical barriers include: • lack of proper equipment or supplies; • poor workflow design; • inadequate information systems; and • poor teamwork and communications in the work flow. In a survey of over one million American workers conducted by the Gallup organization1 the second highest priority to achieve job satisfaction was “Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?” Good supervisory practices involve the identification of barriers on an ongoing basis and seeking ways to eliminate or work around these obstructions. 1 This survey is described in Harvard Management Update, Vol. 4. 1999. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 9
  • 10. Tab C Chapter 3 d. Appraise performance Finally, it is important to appraise work performance in a timely manner. Good practices in performance management involve both periodic review and evaluation and ongoing feedback about the quality of the work performed. Most employees desire feedback, and, of course, positive feedback is preferred. In the Gallup survey noted above, the fourth highest priority for job satisfaction was: “In the last seven days have I received recognition or praise for good work?” However, it is also important to provide “constructive feedback” for inappropriate behavior or unacceptable performance. Some principles of supervisory coaching and constructive feedback are discussed later in this chapter. A comprehensive periodic review and evaluation of work performance is an important component of any performance management system. In many organizations, performance evaluations are considered a “necessary evil” by those who provide the evaluations and those who receive them. However, when implemented in a way that minimizes negative emotions and maximizes helpful input for the evaluated employee, this process can become a valued approach to managing people and the work. 2. Performance appraisal process Many organizations have institutionalized an annual performance appraisal meeting between supervisors and their subordinates. This single meeting each year often creates a high-stakes atmosphere that both parties in the meeting find discomforting. In such annual reviews, the evaluator is frequently overly influenced by the most recent behavior and performance, thus biasing the evaluation either positively or negatively. Appraisal systems that involve more frequent formal contact reduce this biasing effect. This section describes an alternative performance appraisal system, which uses a three-phase process that engages the evaluator and his or her subordinate in at least three formal meetings each year. The first phase requires the supervisor and subordinate to collaborate in the identification of skills and tasks required for the job, and in development of performance objectives. In addition, supervisor and subordinate should co-create the criteria that will be used in the “final” appraisal. These criteria should be as objective and even quantifiable as the job allows. In many appraisal systems a hierarchical list of descriptors, such as “marginal,” “adequate,” “competent” or “proficient,” is used to measure performance in the final evaluation. A number rating system (e.g., 1 for low through 5 for high) is also an acceptable approach. It can be useful for the supervisor and subordinate to co-create a grid listing the criteria for behaviors and performance related to skills, tasks, and behaviors that will determine the result in each of the rating categories. These objectives, criteria, and measurements should be formalized in a written document that ensures that the supervisor and the employee both understand and agree on what’s been developed. Although time-consuming the first time this collaboration occurs, in subsequent years it usually involves edits and adjustments to the original performance plan. C-3 10 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 11. Managing Performance The second phase of this process involves a midpoint meeting to determine how well the subordinate is meeting the criteria for performance and behavior. This meeting can also be used to adjust any parameters being evaluated, as a result of changes in the work or rethinking of the criteria. If unforeseen changes arise in the employee’s work process, this type of meeting should be held at that time. The results of this phase can remain just between the supervisor and subordinate, not part of the employee’s personnel file.1 The outcome of the meeting can be a fine-tuning of what is expected of the employee and how to achieve those expectations. The final phase is the formal appraisal. Schedule this meeting well in advance so that both parties can prepare adequately. The subordinate should be encouraged to bring together any data that pertains to his or her performance. Because the parties have collaborated in identifying the skills, behaviors, and tasks to be appraised, and the criteria of appraisal, this evaluation meeting should be a reasonable discussion of how the subordinate has done since the midpoint meeting in achieving the agreed-upon criteria. This meeting may also be used to generate the performance plan for the next round of evaluation meetings. This system was installed in a work group in which the supervisor had failed to conduct required annual appraisals for eight years. This supervisor had such poor relations with most of his subordinates that he feared that they would react in an extremely negative, perhaps even violent, way to his evaluations. In this case the appraisal process was compressed into four months instead of a year and took place toward the end of a coaching process revolving around Emotional Intelligence that lasted over a year. The supervisor was first coached in how to use the system with subordinates as collaborators. The coaching process continued throughout the meetings with subordinates, helping the supervisor refine his skills in this area. The final appraisals were conducted without negative reactions by any of the subordinates, even though some of the ratings were not at the more positive end of the scale. A well-known and successful telecommunications company provides an example of an organization that has made frequent and collaborative appraisal meetings part of the organization’s culture. In meetings with their managers and supervisors, the question: “How often do you appraise performance of employees?” drew responses describing appraisals that ranged from weekly to quarterly. No one met less frequently than quarterly! Frequent feedback, both positive and negative, appeared institutionalized here. Relations between supervisors and their supervising managers were generally observed in this company as very cordial and cooperative. 1 Note, however, that if the changes affect formalized objectives already established in a written set of performance objectives, then the changes should also be recorded. This keeps the ‘paper trail’ accurate. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 11
  • 12. Tab C Chapter 3 3. Supportive organizational systems An important part of an overall performance management system is the existence of other organizational systems that support appropriate behavior and high performance. Such systems range from simple personnel policy statements to elaborate resources such as EAPs. These systems must be aligned with organizational goals. For example, compensation systems may be linked to individual performance through bonuses, commissions, and the like. However, when an organizational goal is to create teamwork in the workforce, such individual incentives are sometimes counterproductive. In this case, a system of profit sharing based on organizational performance would provide more alignment with the goal of enhanced teamwork. In the area of workplace violence prevention, several organizational systems may have an impact, including the following: • a clear and concise statement of your workplace violence prevention policy (in the personnel policy, employee handbook, etc.), with unacceptable behaviors defined and consequences described.1 Such a policy statement not only educates employees about inappropriate behavior, but also gives supervisors the policy foundation for requiring appropriate behavior. • an EAP. This gives employees a valuable resource for working through personal problems that may affect their work and relationships with co-workers. • a formal procedure for dispute resolution (e.g., grievance procedure, mediation, arbitration) provides means to resolve disputes “through channels,” rather than “taking matters into my own hands” (see Section C below). These systems complement all of the other efforts (e.g., training, threat assessment process) that are important in a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program. 1 B-3 Supplement 1 provides sample policies. C-3 12 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 13. Managing Performance C. Identifying Inappropriate Behavior and Other Performance Problems Anyone who has supervised others for any length of time has encountered unacceptable conduct in employees. Those behaviors can include unreliability, failure to fulfill job responsibilities, general rudeness, constant negative comments or body language, harassing behavior, personal attacks, blaming and intimidation, and/or aggressive behavior. When these employees come into conflict with others, it is often labeled as a “personality conflict.” Framing this as a personality conflict is not particularly helpful since you will not be able to change your employee’s personality. A more helpful focus is on the employee’s behavior. 1. Is a problem brewing? Managers often see a proliferation of one or more of the following generalized indicators when a performance problem begins to develop: • is frequently tardy or absent, • spends an excessive amount of time on the phone, • takes long breaks, • seems isolated or unhappy, • is easily upset, • isn’t invited to join co-workers, • shows poor judgment, • has difficulty concentrating, • makes elaborate and improbable excuses, • over-reacts to real or imagined criticism, • makes undependable statements, • uses profanity, offensive remarks, or disparaging jokes, • displays mood swings, • makes excessive personal calls, or use of pager, • complains of not feeling well to the exclusion of duties, • loses property or reports it stolen, • displays deterioration of personal hygiene or appearance, • is unable to recognize others’ accomplishments, and • pouts and/or has temper outbursts. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 13
  • 14. Tab C Chapter 3 Most people exhibit one or more of these broad-brush indicators from time to time, but if they persist, they may develop into the following more specific indicators of trouble for the workplace: • turns work in late, • has conflicts with others, • produces less, • is frequently unavailable or can’t be found even though at work, • displays poor or declining quality of work, • doesn’t make contributions in meetings, • shows little or no initiative, • won’t take responsibility for mistakes, • has a high rate of accidents (both on or off the job), • leaves work early, • is unwilling to help co-workers, • is disrespectful toward co-workers, • is the subject of complaints from co-workers, • displays aggressive behavior toward co-workers or customers, • refuses to follow reasonable instructions from supervisor, • apologizes excessively for work, attendance problems without correcting the behavior, and • makes inappropriate requests for recognition despite mediocre performance. The most important indicator that trouble may be brewing is when someone’s general demeanor and work habits change for the worse and the behavioral indicators begin to proliferate. 2. Are you modeling appropriate behavior? Employees count on a manager to set the tone on what is appropriate behavior in the workgroup, through word and deed. This means that managers must adhere to a higher standard of conduct. Managers are frequently tested, however, because people who display inappropriate behavior often want to provoke an over-reaction from others that they feel justifies their own bad behavior. If a manager responds to inappropriate behavior with his or her own inappropriate behavior, it indicates that this is an OK way to behave. C-3 14 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 15. Managing Performance Some of the ways that managers can fall into the trap by modeling inappropriate behavior include the following: • Sharing information inappropriately: An employee complains to you that another employee is sick all the time and as a result, the complaining employee has to do more work. You tell the employee that the co-worker is going through a divorce and dealing with depression, so cut some slack. You have just given the complaining employee information that should not have been shared. In addition, you have not dealt with the real issuedistribution of the sick employee’s work. • Yelling back: It is easy, during a heated discussion, for a manager to lose his or her temper and yell back at a screaming employee. Although it may feel good in the short run, in the long run it escalates the conflict, continues an adversarial relationship, and reduces your effectiveness as a manager. • Rude and demanding behavior: When a manager does not display courtesy and kindness to subordinates, it sets the stage for the employees to treat each other with disrespect. • Playing favorites: If a manager allows privileges for some employees but not others or disciplines some but not others, it creates hostility and resentment among the employees and undermines the manager’s credibility. • Being untrustworthy: Employees expect managers to keep their word and follow through by doing what they said they were going to do. Managers who fail to do this sabotage their own effectiveness. • Gossiping: Engaging in conversations about someone when that person is not present can create huge problems. How a manager handles it affects how others respond. Talking with an employee about another employee can cause problems with morale and divisiveness in the workgroup. If you find you are continually having difficulties with employees not meeting your expectations, you might want to consider whether the problem lies with you. In order to find out, you will need to ask. One way to do so is to ask employees (privately), “How can I be more help to you in getting your job done?” Ask friends or your spouse (this is the really hard part), “What things about me do you find difficult?” Finally, ask your boss, “What could I do that would make me a better manager?” Bosses generally like this question. Once you have done this and it is no easy taskyou will have a sense of the kinds of things that you need to focus on and change. If you are not successful at doing this yourself, your company EAP, or an executive coach may be good resources. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 15
  • 16. Tab C Chapter 3 D. Addressing Performance Problems Once you identify behavior that needs to be addressed, the question becomes what to do. The earlier you address problem behaviors, the more likely you are to prevent them from mushrooming. This section addresses progressively escalating levels of counseling and/or discipline. It begins with informal conversations to identify problems, and then escalates to formal “clarifications of expectations,” Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs), and formal discipline. The ultimate disciplinary step, termination, is described in Section E. 1. A preliminary note: using your authority Often a supervisor’s inclination is to use authority to make the employee do what is needed. The rationale is usually, “After all, I’m in charge. The employee is not doing what I want him (or her) to do and I have the responsibility to manage my department.” All true. However, your authority should only be used as a last resort, not as the first one. Authority should only be used, with one exception, after other methods have failed. Using your authority is using your power. When you use it too often, it encourages employees to respond back with power-based approaches. Employees will fight back, become uncooperative, sabotage, and force you to use your authority more and more until it becomes a vicious cycle. Using your authority shifts from a collaborative relationship to an adversarial one. The one exception to using your authority first time out is when the behavior is dangerous or extremely damaging. In that situation, an authority-based approach is appropriate. 2. Categories of performance problems Performance problems generally fall into one of three categories: don’t know, can’t do, or won’t do. When there are performance problems, the first job of the supervisor is to figure out how to categorize the employee’s behavior. This categorization process may not be simple, since many of the indicators listed in the preceding section could result from one (or more) of these three sources. a. Don’t know As discussed above, lack of instructions, unclear expectations, and poor or fuzzy goals contribute to the employee not being able to meet your requirements. Supervisors can contribute to the problem inadvertently by not communicating clear expectations. For example, Supervisor Julia gives a report to Secretary Sue, telling her, “I want this report typed as soon as possible.” Sue thinks that means as soon as she has finished the other work that Julia assigned her that morning. Julia, on the other hand, wants Sue to drop everything and have the report typed in 20 minutes. C-3 16 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 17. Managing Performance Establishment of a job description, performance objectives, and interactive performance management procedures will help ensure that employees have the information and context they need to perform their tasks. If these are insufficient, an employee may need additional training in order to perform the tasks that are required or may require clarification about roles. b. Can’t do There may be restrictions in the environment itself or in the employee that impede the employee from performing at an optimal level. There may be a lack of time, wrong or inadequate equipment, or problems with another employee’s work that is crucial for this employee to do his or her job. On the other hand, the employee may need additional training, guidance, and/or supervision. c. Won’t do Although supervisors often jump to the conclusion that performance problems are largely a result of the employee’s unwillingness, this is the case only 15-20% of the time. Sometimes when employees are not reinforced for doing their jobs well, they give up and end up doing the bare minimum. Employees may never have received consequences for non-performance. If the manager ignores inappropriate behavior it establishes a de facto standard. An employee may not want to do something the boss’s way but be willing to do it in a way that is easier for the employee. The manager’s task is to figure out which category the employee’s behavior fits intothis is done by having a conversation with the employee. 3. Coaching and giving feedback When talking with the employee, it is best to start out with a non-confrontational approach. Depending on the employee’s reactions, you can always turn up the heat and become more firm and insistent. There are a number of styles and approaches for doing so. a. The appreciative conversation One approach, based on an Appreciative Inquiry model, has been used by Nick Head of the United States Postal Service.1 He calls it “The Appreciative Conversation,” and it follows this format: “Tell me about a time when ----- was a high point for you?” “What was that like, who was involved, and what did you do?” “What do you value most in yourself with respect to ------?” “What one or two wishes do you have for our workplace with respect to ---–“? Nick says the point is for the manager to “hear” the employee’s story with friendly curiosity. “Allow for silence, let it gowhatever you get is OK. We’re all telling our own truth,” he says. 1 Cooperrider, D.L., “Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry,” in W. French & C. Bell (Eds). Organization Development (5th Ed.) (Prentice Hall, 1995). WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 17
  • 18. Tab C Chapter 3 b. A more traditional approach A more traditional approach is a conversation where the manager states observations to the employee and asks what he or she can do to help the employee. “Mary, I have noticed that you have been coming in late the past few days. I get the sense that you are unhappy about something. This makes things more difficult for others here. I’d like to know whether there is anything I can do to help. Have you got any ideas?” You have started out with a non-confrontational approach, you have stated the problem and the consequences and you have offered assistance. You have also asked the employee to generate solutions. If Mary denies coming in late or feeling unhappy, it is time to provide more detailed feedback. “Mary, I’ve got a copy of your time sheet for the last four weeks. I have circled the times that you came in late. I have also heard from customers that you have complained to them about our work unit. How do you think those things affect people’s perceptions of you, your co-workers, and the work unit?” You have returned responsibility to Mary by letting her know that you expect her to accept some responsibility for solving the problem. You are asking her to figure out the consequences of her tardiness and her complaining. Whatever Mary complains about, you are going to ask her what suggestions she has to improve the situation. It is also helpful to link the behavior to any impact on the business. If you need to become firmer, you can let Mary know what you expect, how you would like her to alter her behavior, and what the consequences for not changing will be. The important thing to keep in mind is that you start off with a non-confrontational approach and apply more pressure as you need it. If Mary loses her temper and begins verbally attacking, the first response should be to calmly make an empathy statement. This is a statement where you show that you understand the emotions of the person that you are talking with. “Mary, I know this is a difficult topic and you’re angry.” C-3 18 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 19. Managing Performance Wait and see if Mary’s behavior becomes more reasonable. If it doesn’t, then you will have to move into a limit-setting mode. Limit setting is where you let the person know that the behavior is unacceptable and what the consequences will be to the employee for continuing. “Mary, I don’t talk to you in a belittling way and I won’t allow you to talk to me that way. If you continue to make rude comments about my management skills, you will have to clock out and take the rest of the day off without pay and we will discuss your behavior when you return. I would prefer to be able to continue this conversation. What would you like to do?” You have let Mary know what behavior is unacceptable, what the consequences will be if she continues, and you have given her a choice to make. People always respond better when they have choices. It is important to set these limits calmly without anger, without raising your voice, or making threats. c. Issues to keep in mind Regardless of the style of approach and conversation you select, you should keep the following in mind when you are chatting with an employee about unacceptable behavior: • Avoid accusatory language: Saying, “Bill, you knucklehead, what were you thinking?” is sure to get the employee on the defensive and impede your ability to have a productive conversation. • Talk about observable behaviors: These are behaviors that you are able to see, hear, or smell. If it doesn’t fit into one of these categories, it may not be behavior. If you find yourself thinking that the employee has a “bad attitude” or “just doesn’t want to work,” you are not thinking about behaviors, you’re applying judgments about the employee’s personality. It is much more helpful to identify what the person is doing that you believe demonstrates a bad attitude, and then focus on those behaviors. That way both of you can focus on concrete things that can be measured and observed. • Do not comment on the person’s character or personality: You are not going to be able to change your employee’s personality or character so it is useless to even try. You can, however, encourage them to change behaviors. • Encourage the employee to acknowledge that it is in the employee’s best interest to deal with the problem: By asking questions, using phrasing that suggests you want to work with rather than impose something on the person and by asking the employee to generate solutions, you are helping the employee accept responsibility for resolving the issue. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 19
  • 20. Tab C Chapter 3 • At the end of your conversation, summarize what you have discussed and ask if there is agreement: That way, there is agreement to what you talked about and what you decided. • Make sure it is clear who will do what and when: If you have come up with a plan, make sure that you are both in agreement regarding what will be done, who is going to do it, and when it will be done. 4. Written expectations for improvement Sometimes it can be helpful to provide the problem employee with a list of expectations, including a statement of what you will do to help the employee meet those expectations. Written expectations can address the behaviors that you want to change. This is especially important if your organization doesn’t usually formalize these expectations (see Section A above); if the problem arises even when the employer has provided formal expectations at the outset, then those initial expectations can either provide the formal basis for discipline and/or provide the starting point for further amplification and clarification at this stage. It is harder for an employee who has the information in writing to say he or she didn’t know what you meant, or didn’t know that it included a particular behavior. The more specific the expectations, the better. Written expectations can be especially useful for a new manager who is dealing with behavior that had been previously tolerated, or when a manager has put up with inappropriate behavior and then decides, for a variety of reasons, to no longer condone it. If your organization has a personnel manual, code of conduct, or employee handbook that addresses expectations about performance, attitude and demeanor, it is helpful to tie your expectations into those. That way, you are not asking anything from this employee that is not already expected. You are merely clarifying existing general expectations.1 You may wish to review the example in C-3 Supplement 2. If you have already provided the employee with a job description and performance objectives, this document should reference them, and identify the points it is clarifying (or adding). You will want to meet with the employee to discuss the expectations and answer any questions. If you have allowed the behavior in the past and have decided that you will no longer tolerate it, it is helpful to be frank with the employee about this. 1 If you are in a unionized environment, unions tend to look favorably upon these types of documents when they reiterate what has already been written into company policy. That way the expectations are the same for everyone. C-3 20 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 21. Managing Performance 5. Performance Improvement Plan If coaching, feedback, and written clarification of expectations do not achieve the desired behavior, you will want to consider a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Some managers prefer to skip written expectations and move directly to a PIP after less formal conversations have not done the trick. A PIP is a formal document that outlines specific deficiencies in work performance, and identifies a plan of correction including a time frame for improvement. PIPs can be used at all levels of the organization, from upper management to line employee. Obviously, the higher in rank the employee is, the more complex the PIP will probably need to be. For a line employee, a very simple PIP may be all that is needed. Generally a PIP consists of the following elements: • identification of performance deficits along with specific examples of ways each deficit has manifested itself; • identification of performance goals along with specific examples of how achieving each goal will be demonstrated; • measurement of goals in specific observable ways; • a plan to correct identified deficits including time frames; • identification of resources to assist in correcting the deficits, such as training, coaching, etc.; • a plan for monitoring, with written feedback regarding the goals; • an expiration date for the PIP; and • possible consequences if the goals are not achieved. The following paragraphs provide more discussion of each of these elements. C-3 Supplement 3 provides an example of a PIP. a. Identification of performance deficits This simply identifies the objectionable behavior or performance deficit, and provides specific examples with times and dates. It is helpful to identify the consequences of this behavior to the organization so it is clear there is a sound business reason for the PIP. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 21
  • 22. Tab C Chapter 3 b. Identification of performance goals Identify the specific skills, knowledge, abilities, or behaviors you want the employee to exhibit. It is important to state each goal in measurable, observable terms. The more specific you are, the easier a behavior is to measure. For example, “improve relations with other employees” is vague and difficult to measure because it does not specify the behaviors that are to be exhibited. A more specific series of goals might be: “Model team qualities including respect, helpfulness, cooperation; promote a friendly, cooperative climate; handle difficult people with diplomacy and tact; demonstrate willingness to accept feedback from others.” c. Measurement of goals Goals need to be measurable, so everyone is clear whether or not the goals are being achieved. Measurement generally involves some sort of counting, such as the number of times something happens or the frequency with which it occurs. It can also include whether or not an event occurs. Some examples of things that can be measured include the number of customer complaints, the frequency of errors, incidence of proper completion of specific forms, performance of certain tasks, etc. Again, the more specific and observable the goal, the easier it is to measure. d. A plan to correct deficiencies You need to work with the employee to develop a specific plan to correct the deficiencies, including a time frame for improvement. The plan needs to be specifically geared toward meeting the identified goals. Poorly focused or unrealistic programs for change lead to fuzzy results and/or failure. If training is part of the improvement plan, then the training needs to be specific to the goals. Generally, one-size-fits-all training programs fit no one specifically. A carefully constructed plan will identify who, what, when, where, why, and how. It will establish who is responsible, what is to be done, when is it to be done, where is it to be done, why is it to be done, and how is it measured. e. Identification of resources As discussed above, you need to identify specific resources to help achieve the goals. These resources can include a peer who helps the employee (from the same or another department), the manager, a professional coach, or the EAP. Training classes, which should include written assignments to identify what the employee learned and how he or she will use that information, can be a helpful way to tie the learning to the “real world.” They also provide ways to assess whether or not the employee benefits from the training. Reading assignments can also be used in this way. C-3 22 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 23. Managing Performance If the goals involve learning emotional self control -- such as finding ways to manage disruptive emotions and impulses effectively, staying composed in difficult moments, and thinking clearly and staying focused under pressure -- an EAP or other counseling services can be especially useful. These can help the employee identify and recognize feelings, and learn to manage them (some teach relaxation techniques that can be helpful in maintaining composure under pressure, for example). f. Monitoring with written feedback This element is important whether the employee is succeeding or failing in his or her PIP. People need recognitionto feel their efforts to change matter. A lack of reinforcement for positive changes can be discouraging to the employee. A monthly verbal and written review of the goals and the change efforts can help show that management values change and the efforts have been noticed. Additionally, if there are areas that are not responding as quickly or as easily, specific feedback can be given regarding what needs to be done differently to achieve the goals. These writings will also support subsequent escalation of discipline if the employee fails to make necessary improvements. A written evaluation provides the employee with a tool to refer to if needed and provides the manager with documentation that feedback was given. It is critical that the manager who is requesting that the employee make changes demonstrate the behavior that he or she wants the employee to emulate. A “do as I say not as I do” attitude in managers undermines the change process. g. An expiration date and possible consequences Set a date by which the changes are expected as part of each PIP, so the employee knows how much time he or she has to show improvement. The timeframe for change needs to be reasonable and achievable. It is also important to note that habits and behaviors often change slowly and despite best efforts, slip-ups and relapses occur. Lapses can be useful as lessons to prepare better for next time, depending on the goals of the PIP. Possible consequences such as discipline, termination, administrative action, and/or demotion need to be identified. Of course, if the employee has been working on goals but has not achieved all of them by the time the PIP expires, the PIP may be continued by re- writing it to identify the goals that are left and further work that needs to be done to achieve them. WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 23
  • 24. Tab C Chapter 3 6. Formal discipline The next step in the continuum of corrective action is formal discipline. Most organizations have written policies regarding formal discipline, so it will be important to consult with the Human Resources (HR) department for guidance. Organizations with progressive discipline generally proceed as follows: • Start with a formal discussion between the supervisor and the employee, which focuses on correcting the unwanted behavior. • The next step is a written warning. • If the behavior continues, progress to one or more suspensions. • Finally, the employee can be terminated. Some organizations will give the employee who is facing termination a “day of reflection.” This is a paid day off designed to allow the employee to reflect on behavior and determine how important the job is to him or her. The U.S. Postal Service is one organization that offers that option. Generally, you will need to meet with the employee to let him or her know that disciplinary action is being taken, define the problem, seek solutions, and specify the next step that will be taken in the process if you do not see the required changes. You will need to document the problem behavior, your efforts to help the employee improve, and the improvement or lack thereof. You will also need to document each meeting with the employee. In situations involving gross misconduct such as theft, sexual harassment, dishonesty, falsification of documents, disclosure of proprietary information, unauthorized expenditures, or destruction of property, you will likely want to move directly into the disciplinary process and even consider termination, depending on the circumstances. C-3 24 WVP 10/02 ©STP
  • 25. Managing Performance E. Termination Termination is the last step in formal disciplinary procedures.1 It usually is costly for the employer, and if not handled correctly, can result in lawsuits or even violence. A termination should never, with a few exceptions, be a surprise to the employee. It should always leave the employee with dignity. You should always consider basic post-termination measures to reduce the risk of sabotage (recover keys, change passwords, and so on).2 If you have a concern that an employee who is being terminated could become violent, the following steps can reduce your vulnerability. Protect the employee’s dignity. Treat him or her with courtesy and respect. Treat the employee as though you expect him or her to handle the situation in a dignified manner. Even if you are concerned about the possibility of violence, do not let on to the employee that you are concerned. This means if you have extra security, place them in unnoticeable locations, wearing clothing that will fit in with your environment. Having police or security in uniform only telegraphs your vulnerability to the employee and increases his or her sense of power. As Gavin de Becker, a security expert says, “Prepare for the worst, but in ways that are not detectable to the terminated employee. Do not lead him to believe that you are anticipating threats or hazard. If you do, you may be writing a script for him to follow.”3 Conduct the termination meeting in a neutral location, not where the employee worked. That way the terminated employee will not have to have contact with co-workers either before or after the meeting, which could be a source of embarrassment.4 The location should be one that you are able to secure and that the employee will not have access to before the meeting. For instance, using a public facility such as a library would not serve this purpose since the employee could have access to it prior to the meeting and plant weapons there. The meeting should not be in the office of the manager conducting the meeting. That way if the employee needs a few minutes to calm down before leaving, the manager will not be trapped there. The next highest level manager should conduct the meeting, rather than the employee’s supervisor. If the employee is angry with management, it is most likely to be directed at the immediate supervisor. Not having the immediate supervisor there also avoids prolonged discussions of who did what to whom. If it is at all possible, more than one representative of the employer should be present, or immediately outside and on call. Unless the representatives make the employee feel ‘ganged up on,’ this diffuses any hostility and provides additional deterrence to potential violence.5 1 See Tab C Chapter 4 for a lengthier general discussion of terminations. 2 See Tab F Chapter 2 for a detailed discussion of sabotage. 3 See Tab A Chapter 2 for an excerpt from de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear. 4 This approach can preserve the terminated employee’s sense of privacy, at least with respect to co-workers, while also ensuring that the person conducting the meeting is not isolated in the event of a (potentially) violent confrontation. 5 See Tab C Chapter 4, Section C.6 for a lengthier discussion of these issues. WVP 5/03 ©STP C-3 25
  • 26. Tab C Chapter 3 If it is a unionized environment, the employee will be entitled to union representation. Some managers will want to have a management witness. If there is someone in management with whom the employee has a good relationship, it can be helpful for that person to be present. That manager can provide support for the employee and also represent management. A manager who has to conduct a termination meeting alone and does not want to reveal anxiety about the employee’s reaction can put the phone on speaker and have a manager in another office listening in, ready to help if needed. The manager listening in will need to mute that phone so that background noises don’t give it away. Make the decision to terminate before the meeting. This is not the time to negotiate, or hem and haw over the dismissal. It is important to be blunt yet compassionate with the employee. Do not use ambiguous terms that make the employee’s status in the organization unclear. The only purpose of this meeting is to inform the employee of your decision; it is not a time to discuss the past. Trying to convince the employee that this is in his or her best interest will be futile so there is no point in even trying. Practicing what you will say before the meeting can be extremely useful. A member of your company EAP or HR department can help you with this. Do not discuss specifics. Now is not the time for an arsenal of criticism aimed at the employee you are terminating. It is too late and the employee is feeling bad enough. It is better to say something like, “You’re obviously not happy here and we’re not happy, so it makes sense for us to part ways.” You will want to convey optimism to the employee, even if you don’t feel it, by saying things such as, “This just isn’t the right environment for you. I’m sure that you will find something more suitable and do well there.” Focus on the future. Come to the meeting prepared to discuss the benefits the person will receive, how long they last and how to access them. It may be helpful to have a contact name and number in your HR department for the employee to call with questions. It is useful to have this information in writing since the employee may not remember everything. Ask the employee what the company should tell callers or where personal mail should be sent. Focusing on benefits, calls, and mail helps direct the employee to think about the future and communicates that life goes on. Decide when to schedule the termination meeting. You should consider when to schedule the termination meeting. Readers should note that experts (including the authors of this chapter) disagree on the best timing. Some experts advise that the termination should take place at the end of the day on a Friday, particularly if there is a risk of violence. These experts point out that there are fewer employees around at the end of the day and the employee whom you have fired will not be able to seek others out for retaliation as easily. If the firing is done on a Friday at the end of the day, the employee will be leaving at the normal time, and will have the normal weekend off. The impact is not likely to hit as hard as it would if the employee were suddenly at home in the middle of the day during the week. An employee who is angry is most likely to be most volatile for the few days after the termination. If it is done on a Friday, the highly emotional time will fall on the weekend when contact with other employees is probably at a minimum. C-3 26 WVP 5/03 ©STP
  • 27. Managing Performance Other experts advise that the termination should take place early in the week, so the person who has just become jobless can use the rest of the week for a job search. These experts advise that Friday can be the worst day for a person to be terminated, since it leaves the jobless person with a full weekend without much capability to actively look for a job and he or she may spend the time mulling over the negative aspects of the job loss. If the employee makes a threat during the meeting, do not threaten back. This only escalates the conflict and puts the employee in a greater position of power. If you have an employee who is willing to kill him- or herself and others to show you how wrong you are, any threat you can possibly make is going to be futile. There may be times when you want to ask directly if the person is making a threat by asking, “What do you mean by that?” If the person says something cryptic like “Well, you’ll just see, won’t you?” that gives you additional information. On the other hand, the person may respond by saying, “Oh, I’m talking about a lawsuit.” A useful approach in either situation might be to say something like, “ Joe, we all say things when we’re upset. I know I do. I’m sure you’ll feel differently in the morning.” This doesn’t mean that you are not taking the threat seriously, but that you are not conveying to the employee that the threat had any impact. Alternatively, you may want to try to “clarify the threat” by saying something like “That sounds like it might be a threat. I wonder if you meant it that way?” This needs to be asked in a neutral tone that does not convey whether or not you do think it is a threat. Saying “Are you making a threat?” in an aggressive manner may prompt the person to respond back aggressively. Remaining neutral during this clarification process may prompt the employee to back down, or it may alert you that you need to consider more protective measures. If the employee makes a veiled threat (and certainly do this if the threat is a direct one), you will want to notify your threat assessment team (TAT) for help after the employee leaves the meeting. The TAT can help you determine how much of a risk the employee is and what steps need to be taken.1 1 See Tab E for a discussion of reporting and responding to workplace violence threats and incidents. WVP 5/03 ©STP C-3 27
  • 28. Tab C Chapter 3 IMPLEMENTATION CHECKLIST 1. Evaluate your organization’s system of job descriptions. Yes No Does my organization use a general system of job descriptions to describe t t positions within the organization? Do job descriptions identify essential job functions, separately from other t t job functions, and estimate the proportion of time spent on each? Do they specify the employee’s scopes of authority, responsibility and t t autonomy? Do they specify job requirements – education, experience, professional t t certifications, specific skills, physical requirements (ability to lift X pounds, etc.)? Do they describe working conditions – in-office and/or mobile; any t t hazardous or physically stressful workplace conditions (e.g., chemical exposures, heat, noise)? Do they require each employee to comply with organizational policies and t t procedures? If so, is workplace violence prevention identified explicitly? t t Do they provide for performance objectives? t t If so, are these quantified to the extent possible? t t Does each position have its own unique job description (as opposed to t t generalized job descriptions for each job type)? Do individual employees participate in the development of their job t t descriptions? 2. Evaluate your organization’s use of performance objectives. Does my organization provide performance objectives at the beginning of t t each performance period? If yes: t t Are they developed with the participation of the employee? Do they include specific, measurable objectives? t t Do they include compliance with organizational policies and procedures? t t If so, is workplace violence prevention identified explicitly? t t Do they include employee development objectives? t t Do they include non-quantifiable objectives (e.g., cooperation with co- t t workers)? C-3 28 WVP 5/03 ©STP
  • 29. Managing Performance 3. Evaluate your organization’s performance management system and procedures. Yes No Does my organization have formalized systems for performance t t management (such as forms, periodic performance evaluations, disciplinary procedures, etc.)? Are all supervisors and managers required to follow these systems? t t Are all supervisors and managers provided formal training in how to do so? t t Are all employees made aware of the requirements of these systems? t t Does the system provide for periodic reviews at fixed intervals (e.g., t t annual)? Does the system provide for additional reviews during performance t t periods (e.g., quarterly)? If so, are these reviewed required or optional? t t Does the system include formal provisions for counseling and/or additional t t training when performance shortfalls are noted? Are managers and supervisors involved in implementation of these t t measures (versus referral to Human Resources for implementation)? If so, are all supervisors and managers provided with formal training in how t t to do so? Does the system provide for predictable, incremental initiation and use of t t probationary and progressive disciplinary provisions? If so, does it include provisions for immediate discipline, up to and including t t termination, for severe misbehavior such as workplace violence? 4. Evaluate your organization’s termination practices. Does you organization have formal policies governing layoff, including t t severance benefits? If so, are all employees informed of these policies? t t If so, do these policies apply to terminations for cause? t t Does your organization have formal procedures covering terminations for t t cause? If so, do they include provisions for evaluating and responding to possible t t workplace violence hazards? WVP 10/02 ©STP C-3 29