Managers & Supervisors

Corrective Action

All employees are expected to meet performance and attendance standards and behave appropriately in the workplace. Corrective action is a process of communicating with the employee to improve attendance, unacceptable behavior or performance.  You may take corrective action when other methods such as coaching and performance management have not been successful. In cases of serious misconduct, you may choose to proceed straight to disciplinary action.  Reviewing the principles of Just Cause before taking disciplinary action will help you determine whether discipline is appropriate in a particular situation.

In some situations you may feel frustrated or angry when an employee repeatedly fails to perform satisfactorily or follow the rules.  Keep in mind, however, that most employees come to work wanting to do a good job.  Some will require more specific and frequent feedback than others to understand what that means in your work site and in the jobs under your supervision.  Frequency of feedback will largely depend on what you observe in the employee's behavior and performance and on the cycles of the work (e.g., tardiness can be corrected immediately, but it may take days or weeks to complete a particular project or task for your review).

You are not required, but are encouraged, to consult with Employee & Labor Relations before taking the following types of corrective action.


Guiding Principles

"Just Cause" is the guiding principle that we utilize as a public employer whenever we engage in some form of corrective action or progressive discipline for many of our employees.

In carrying out corrective or disciplinary actions, consider the following:

  • Is discipline the appropriate tool? Would coaching or performance appraisal be sufficient to get the employee's attention?
  • When you take disciplinary action, make sure the disciplinary decision is made based on the behavior not the person.
  • Provide specific examples of performance discrepancies or work instruction violations so the employee fully understands what needs correction.
  • Help the employee improve performance, attendance or conduct by providing specific recommendations and requirements
  • Communicate clearly so the employee understands the consequences if performance, attendance or conduct does not improve.
  • Allow the employee ample opportunity to explain so that you have all the facts.
  • Build trust and maintain a professional manner by keeping the disciplinary process confidential between you and the employee.

    Corrective Action

    All career employees have an expectation of continued employment and are entitled to due process. Specifically, employees need to be clearly advised of the problem or concern that needs to be corrected and be given a reasonable opportunity to improve before any further action is taken. When action is taken, an employee must be given notice and an opportunity to respond.

    Corrective action is not considered “discipline” and is primarily focused on improving the employee’s performance, attendance or conduct. Your goal is to guide the employee to correct performance, attendance or behavior, not to punish the employee. As a general rule, your action should be just enough to get the employee's attention. Corrective action involves verbal or written communications from you to the employee that are designed to assist the employee in correcting the “problem” or concern, e.g., performance, attendance or conduct. Non-disciplinary corrective action typically includes informal discussions, verbal warnings and letters of concern or expectation.

    Informal Meeting/Discussion

    One of the first and most important steps in effective corrective action is communication. Talk privately with the employee about your concerns. Be specific in describing the unacceptable performance or behavior. Use factual examples, not generalizations, e.g., “you were 20 minutes late on Tuesday and three days last week,” vs. “you’re always late.” Clearly state your expectation for improved performance or behavior, e.g., “I expect you to be here at 8am, your scheduled start-time.”

    Verbal Warning

    If the unacceptable performance or behavior persists, you may wish to talk with the employee again. Be specific, use facts, and advise the employee that you expect the performance or behavior to improve immediately. Advise the employee that your conversation constitutes a verbal warning and more formal corrective action may result if s/he fails to demonstrate immediate and sustained improvement. (Note the date of the verbal warning on your calendar.)

    Letter of Concern or Expectation

    Employees generally want to do well at work and will usually correct the problem after the initial meeting or a verbal warning. If the problem performance, attendance or behavior persists, you should meet again with the employee to discuss the concerns and follow-up with a letter of concern or expectation. This is a corrective action intended to inform the employee of the need for immediate and sustained improvement and is not considered discipline.

    (Note: Portions of this material are adapted, with permission, from UC Berkeley’s Guide to Managing Human Resources: A resource for managers and supervisors at Berkeley.)


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