In some instances, the supervisor may feel it is appropriate or
necessary to formalize the counseling session with a memo. As with the
counseling session, there are no definitive rules as to when it is
appropriate to issue a counseling memo. Each case must be handled
individually and a determination made based on the facts and
circumstances surrounding the case.
Prior to issuing a counseling memo, the supervisor should carefully
consider the need for such action. For most persons - supervisor and
subordinate alike - the written record may represent a higher level of
conflict than the actual interview. Many employees will become defensive
upon receiving one. Therefore, it is best to reserve sending memos for
those situations which warrant it.
Generally, a memo is both appropriate and necessary when:
- previous counseling has failed to result in improvement
- you do not have confidence that the employee will correct the
improper behavior without further encouragement
- the seriousness of the situation requires documentation that the
session was held
- a multi-part plan for improvement was discussed during the
session and the memo serves as written confirmation and a reminder
of the plan or to document specific instructions given to the
employee during the session.
If at the end of the counseling session you have determined that a
counseling memo is necessary, you should tell the employee of your
decision before concluding the session. Giving the employee such notice
can help to blunt a hostile reaction, at least to the extent that the
employee is not surprised by the written summary. If in doubt as to
whether a memo is appropriate, you should confer with
Human Resource Management
either before or after the session.
When a counseling memo is sent, it should be sent as close to the
counseling session as possible. Otherwise, both the supervisor and the
employee are likely to forget important aspects of the discussion.
Additionally, the purpose in sending the memo is to reinforce
understandings reached during the counseling session, it is also widely
accepted that such learning takes place more effectively when the
reinforcement (i.e., the memo) is close to the initial event (i.e.,