How a corrective memo is like a good newspaper editorial…

A custodian who works under your supervision is not doing a good job.  You have discussed the matter with the employee, heard his side of the story, and come to the conclusion that corrective action is called for.  You are going to write a corrective memo, setting out your conclusions and your expectations for the future.

Don’t lead off with the conclusions.  The opening sentence should not be: “Your performance as a custodian is unacceptable and needs to change.”  Rather, come to your conclusions only after laying the groundwork with a recitation of facts.  Like a good editorial in the newspaper, the conclusions should rest comfortably on a firm foundation of facts.  A third party reading the memo later (like a judge, your school board, or an EEOC investigator) should be able to see that the conclusions you reached were only logical, given the facts.

For example, your memo to the custodian could reflect that 1) numerous teachers have complained about the condition of their classrooms in the morning; 2) you have personally looked into this, and found that the classrooms are not being properly prepared; 3) you cite specific examples of problems; and 4) you have discussed this matter with the custodian (and give the date for that conversation).

With that factual foundation, you are ready to issue your conclusions and your directives, e.g.:

Your performance as a custodian is unacceptable and needs to change.  I am directing you to have each classroom on your wing properly prepared for class the next morning.  Since most of the problems have been in Mr. Jones’s class and Ms. White’s class, I am directing you to personally meet with those two teachers to be sure that you are aware of their expectations.  I will review your performance again in three weeks, and hope to find a significant improvement.


Tomorrow: Are all of your 9th graders successful?