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Supervisory Contact Requirements: The Five-Step Referral

1. Observation and Recognition

It is important to recognize when an employee is having problems on the job. Most problems will only intensify if ignored, or covered up. Know the indicators of performance decline.

2. Documentation

Providing documentation adds to the supervisor’s credibility and assists the employee in comprehending the problem. Without documentation, you have no written record of the situation and the situation can turn in to a case of your word against theirs. Initially, brief, concise, objective information of indications of performance decline may be what is needed.

Use the written record to objectively support the need for improved performance. Recognize and record what the employee has done well, in addition to what the employee needs to improve. Utilize this information if formal disciplinary action becomes necessary. The UNM Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual Policy (#3215) provides you with information on the formal performance management process at UNM.

3. Action

It is important for the employee to understand that performance is declining and it must improve in order to retain their job. It is important to talk with the employee about problem performance promptly and on a timely basis. It is also important to treat the employee with respect, courtesy, and empathy. Meet with them privately, ask how you can assist them in their efforts to improve, and if they ask for something that you can do within the limits and boundaries of your supervisory role, try to grant that support.

Don’t analyze or judge the employee. Remember, “be tough on the problem, not the employee”. For Example: Appropriate: “Betty, your absences exceed the limit, you have fallen behind on three deadlines since January, and you have been late to work four times this month.” Inappropriate: “Betty, I know you are drinking a lot at night and it is messing up your work. You have to stop.”

Focus on job performance, not personalities or the specifics of the personal problems. Develop a plan of action, clearly delineate who is responsible for what, and establish a time frame.

4. Referral

Each level of the five-step process is important. If no improvement is made, communicate your concern to the employee. Review performance and action plan. Inform employee of resources at the university that are available to assist employees in such situations. If the employee tells you that they want to go to CARS, inform them they can do it on work time. If the employee refuses a referral or accepts one, the performance management process continues in either case. You can end this part of the process with a statement of support, however if performance continues to decline, you may have to proceed to the progressive discipline process.

5. Integration or Reintegration

When an employee accepts a referral and it becomes necessary that they be away from the workplace for a period of time in order to receive help, it is important that they be reintegrated back into the workplace upon their return. Apprehension is common for both the supervisor and the supervisee when there has been a period away from work. It is important to treat the employee with respect, dignity, and courtesy upon their return. It takes times to readjust and for things to return to “normal”. Spend sufficient time with the employee reviewing work objectives and expectations upon the employees return.


CARS is a free and confidential service for all benefits-eligible UNM faculty and staff.

Weekdays 8 AM to Noon, 1-5 PM

Physical Address
1800 Mesa Vista Road NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106