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We have a time-out circle in my house, and from time to time, my preschool-age son visits the circle. Time-outs separate him from whatever undesirable behavior or activity he is engaged in – such as whining, arguing about brushing his teeth or throwing his toys – and give him time to re-focus on positive behavior. The majority of the time, the five or ten minutes in time-out are constructive: my son emerges with an upbeat attitude and turns his attention to a new activity. The time-out also gives Mom or Dad a chance to reflect on the situation.

This got me thinking – if an employer has an employee who is not performing or behaving satisfactorily and the employer has already tried coaching and other corrective action measures, can the employer have the employee take a time-out? The answer is yes.

Most commonly called a decision making leave, the employee is given one day off from work with pay to consider his/her future with the company. Before leaving, the employer should clearly outline (in writing) the employee’s performance or conduct deficiencies, the employer’s expectations for the employee and the choice that the employee is required to make when he/she returns to work. While it can be used at any time in the corrective action process, a decision making leave is typically an employee’s last chance before termination.

During the day off, the employee can do whatever he/she wants – see a movie; go out to lunch; go to the beach; or talk to a lawyer. All of these things are options, but on the next workday, the employee must give the company a decision: Will the employee commit to correcting his/her performance or conduct deficiencies, or will the employee chose to end his/her employment? The choice between these two options is the employee’s and the employee’s alone. Once made, the employee’s decision should be recorded in writing. An employee’s refusal to select an option is, in essence, a decision to select option two: end his/her employment.

Hopefully, this time-out process will be successful and result in both a re-committed and re-focused employee and improved workplace performance or conduct. The employer and employee can then turn their attention to sustaining and building upon that improvement.