If you’re a parent, you’ve probably made use of “time out” as a way to discipline your child and correct their behavior.
The process goes something like this: Tell them you’re unhappy with what they did. Make them sit in the corner or in their room for fifteen minutes, and let them ponder their actions. Then, you have a little chat together about what they’ve learned, what they’ll do next time, and the consequences if their behavior doesn’t change.
We know this is effective with our kids, but could this work with our employees?
There is actually a well accepted management tool in the workplace, which is usually referred to as “decision making leave.” While it may not be something done routinely, when it is used it can be very effective.
What is decision making leave?
Decision making leave is like a time out for an employee with behavior or performance problems.
Here’s an example of when you might choose to use decision making leave as a disciplinary measure:
An employee is exhibiting behavior that is disruptive or counterproductive in the workplace. They have already received verbal warnings, and maybe even a written warning. It has come to the point where something must change.
And yet, for one reason or another, this is an employee you’d like to give one more chance. It might be a longtime employee who has served the company for many years. Or it could be an employee with valuable experience, or skills that are hard to replace.
In a case like this, you might ask an employee to take a few days off to consider their actions and decide if they still want to be a member of your workforce.
How does decision making leave work?
You meet with the employee and review the issues. You then let them know that you will be giving them the next day off with pay. You give them instructions about what they are to do on this paid day off.
They have some thinking to do, and a choice to make about their career. Are they in the job they really want?
If they decide that they are not, and they make the decision to resign, then you will fully support that choice, and accept their resignation on good terms.
What happens if an employee decides to stay after their decision making leave?
If your employee decides that this is the job they want to be in, they have some work to do.
They must prepare a written summary of the issues surrounding their conduct and behavior, as they understand it. Furthermore, they must outline how they are going to change their behavior and conduct to ensure that it will no longer be an issue in the company.
Lastly, they need to state that if the conduct and behavior is repeated, they understand the specific consequences that will happen.
Some companies have a form that employees complete, and others ask the employees to do this in a letter. Either way is fine, but what is important is that it is in writing and is signed by the employee.
The third possibility is that your employee returns from their paid day off, says they don’t want to resign — and that they also don’t want to complete the assignment. They refuse to fill out the paperwork and change their behavior.
This is basically insubordination, and at that point you most likely will terminate the employee.
The benefits of utilizing decision making leave:
There are some real benefits to utilizing decision making leave.
It isn’t a negative punishment tool, since the employee receives a paid day off, and doesn’t have to explain to their family why their paycheck is smaller.
It can be a great wake-up call for an employee who isn’t receiving the message that there’s a genuine problem with their behavior. It gives them a true opportunity for reflection.
It puts the decision making responsibility into the employee’s hands, rather than the employer’s, and gives them the feeling of being personally invested in the process.
It may save a valuable employee, and lower turnover costs for the company.
It can show other employees in the company that management is thoughtful and caring in how they deal with employees prior to termination. It also can lower the surprise factor when and if the employee does need to be terminated. Additionally, it can reduce the possibility of the company being accused of wrongful termination.
While decision making leave may not work in every situation, it may be just the right management tool for some employees. An employee with the ability to look inward and self-evaluate will very likely use their time-out to reflect and revise their path. In that case, the paid day off is money well spent!