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Conduct a structured discussion

What is a structured discussion?

A structured discussion can include a set of questions a manager can follow when raising an issue with an employee concerning behaviour or performance. Following a structured approach can lead to better outcomes, for both you and the employee.

1. What are the steps of a structured discussion?

Follow these steps to have a thorough dialogue with your employee and remember to allow him or her to comment after each point.

  1. Seek input: ask the employee if they’re ok. If it’s a one-off situation in which a personal issue is affecting generally satisfactory conduct and performance, offer support, ask if he or she needs to go home, and end the discussion.
  2. Describe the situation: explain the issue using specific examples and evidence. It may concern:
    • quality of work—for example, making errors in documents or showing poor judgement
    • quantity of work— for example, not meeting deadlines or contributing less than expected
    • respect shown to others— for example, exhibiting behaviours that are inconsistent with our obligations under the Code of Conduct
    • timeliness— for example, being late or frequently absent
    • compliance with an instruction, procedure, or policy— for example, not notifying of absence or lateness, or not keeping adequate records.
  3. Describe the consequences: explain the actual or potential impact. There could be impacts to individuals, teams, agencies, Queenslanders, etc.
  4. Outline the change required: explain what’s needed from the employee and why. Use phrases such as, ‘I want you to stop/start/keep doing or do more/less.’
  5. Check understanding: listen to the employee and any points raised. Check if there are any barriers or issues preventing them from making the change.
  6. Seek input: ask the employee for suggestions and ideas about how they’ll achieve the change. Do they need support?
  7. Outline next steps: summarise the ideas, support, strategies, and actions. Where appropriate, encourage the employee to access the Employee Assistance Program.
  8. Seek input: ask the employee for further comments and thoughts.

2. How to follow up a structured discussion

After a structured discussion of an issue that has not been resolved through informal conversation, or is a repeated issue, you should provide a written summary to the employee. The employee does not need to sign this, but should have the opportunity to see it and comment.

A written summary can:

  • help clarify expectations
  • reinforce the need for improvement
  • provide evidence of the support provided by the manager
  • support a progression to more formal intervention such as a performance improvement plan if performance and conduct issues remain unresolved.