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Performance Accountability and Commitment

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015



Vanderbilt is committed to providing employees with the reasonable resources needed to be successful in their jobs. Employees must demonstrate commitment to their jobs through at least satisfactory performance. In addition to performing the functions of the job, employees are also expected to demonstrate professional interactions with employees, students, patients and vendors. At times, employees may experience difficulty in meeting the expectations of their positions. Generally, Vanderbilt will provide an opportunity for the employee to make and sustain the necessary improvement.


This policy outlines the process for helping employees improve inadequate or inconsistent performance and the steps that should be taken if sufficient improvement does not occur in a timely manner. Corrections to unacceptable behavior may be addressed under this policy or the Progressive Discipline Policy, depending on the individual circumstances and the nature and extent of correction that is needed. Workplace expectations set by the University Central Leadership Model may be addressed under either policy, depending on the circumstances of the situation. In contrast to Progressive Discipline, this process addresses failure to meet performance standards that may not be governed by procedures, policies and laws.

Examples of Inadequate Performance Covered by This Policy

  • Lack of professionalism in delivery of service, quality of communication and demeanor
  • Pattern of inaccuracy in performance of essential duties
  • Pattern of neglecting parts of one’s job
  • Frequent substantiated customer, patient or student complaints
  • Failure to meet reasonable deadlines
  • Lack of team work


The steps below are designed to help employees develop and improve performance while maintaining accountability. The time given to each step should take into account the complexity or newness of the position or tasks, workplace circumstances, and organizational impact. Human Resources Consultants will assist supervisors in seeking the best outcomes from this process and must be consulted if coaching does not achieve the desired goals.

Success in demonstrating and maintaining the necessary improvement will require a commitment by the employee to make the improvements. Employees are encouraged to contribute to the Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan by offering steps and types of support they believe will help them.

In most cases, addressing the performance problems will start with coaching and then progress, if needed. There may be situations where the severity or impact of the unacceptable performance will warrant moving immediately to a written plan, a final plan or the termination of employment.

Step 1 – Coaching

Supervisors should communicate expectations for improvement clearly and in a timely manner. They should be prepared:

  • to be direct and as specific as possible in identifying deficiencies or incidences and their significance
  • to give employees examples of what "success" looks like in their role
  • to give the employee a chance to assess their own capacity and commitment to a position
  • to problem-solve with employees who are attempting to fulfill their job obligations
  • to identify the process for on-going assessment of improvement
  • to assess tools, systems and any recent changes in workload or areas of responsibility
  • if necessary, to explain the consequences of failure to improve within a fairly established timeline
  • to keep notes on the content and date of the conversation for their own recollection

Step 2 – Written Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan

If coaching does not lead to improved performance or behavior, or if the issues at stake are considered relatively urgent, the supervisor should outline expectations in a memo to the employee, making it clear that the employee’s success in the position is the goal of this action. The supervisor should work with the HR Consultant regarding the memo that outlines the performance plan. This document should include the schedule for supervisory feedback and employee self-reporting; for instance, frequency of meetings, supplementary review of work product, etc.

Step 3 – Final Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan

If the above verbal coaching and written expectations do not lead to improvement in a timely manner, or an issue is too pressing to undertake the above actions, the supervisor should work closely with Human Resources to determine next steps, including a more time-specific written document about consequences, up to and including termination of employment. The document should state the problem(s), options, expectations, timeframe for assessment and consequences, etc.

Step 4 – Termination of Employment

In the event performance does not improve to meet expectations, employment may be terminated.

Time for Improvement and Sustaining the Improvement

The duration of the Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan will depend on many factors, including type of position, clarity or severity of the issue and assessment of likelihood of improvement.  In the Written Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan, employees will be given at least 30 days to demonstrate the required improvement. The Final Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan will generally provide no more than 30 days to demonstrate and sustain improvement. While the plan will include a timeframe, employment may be ended during the plan if there is not demonstrated improvement and goals are not met.

An employee must have demonstrated improvement for the duration of the Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan, therefore, should the employee be away from work for an extended and continuous period of time under any Vanderbilt University leave policy, the performance plan or disciplinary action may be extended by the time the employee was away from work and the employee is given the opportunity to demonstrate improved performance upon return. Extending the Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan should be done in consultation with Human Resources.

Even when an employee succeeds in substantially meeting expectations within the defined timeframe, and extra supervision and oversight are no longer required, the content of the performance feedback remains relevant into the future. The improvements made during the performance improvement process must be sustained by the employee going forward. Should the same problems recur, typically the timeframe for improving performance will be shorter than the first time the problem was addressed.

Situations may arise where an individual employee is receiving direction and correction under both the Progressive Discipline Policy and the Performance Accountability and Commitment Policy. In these situations, the totality of the circumstances will be assessed when determining further action.

Impact of Written or Final Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan


  • Internal Transfers (applying for another position within Vanderbilt) – the employee is required to share with the hiring manager, prior to the job offer, the content and expectations of the written or final Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan. This information may be a deciding factor in the hiring decision. Failure to disclose a disciplinary action prior to accepting an offer of transfer may also result in additional discipline, up to and including the termination of employment.
  • Annual Increase – employees on a final Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan are not eligible for an annual increase. Employees on a written Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan are not automatically eligible for an annual increase.   At the manager’s discretion and in consultation with HR, an increase for an employee who has been on a Written Performance plan may be considered provided they have significantly met and sustained performance expectations.
  • Professional Practice Ladders – performance issues related to a current or past Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan may be considered when assessing advancement.

Resources Available to Employees

The Employee Assistance Program is available to all employees to provide resources and suggestions as an employee is taking steps to make the necessary performance improvements. The Nurse Wellness Program is also available through Work/Life Connections.

If an employee believes the facts and circumstances upon which the Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan is based are inaccurate or incomplete, the employee may request a meeting with the immediate supervisor or the department leader. The employee may also request a conversation with his or her supervisor that is facilitated by Human Resources. If an employee believes there was a procedural flaw related to the administration of a Performance Accountability and Commitment Plan, the dispute resolution process is available.

If there are allegations of a violation of the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Policy, Anti-Harassment Policy, or retaliation, the employee should contact the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services (EAD).


This policy is intended as a guideline to assist in the consistent application of University policies and programs for employees. The policy does not create a contract, implied or expressed, with Vanderbilt employees, who are employees at will; this status cannot be modified except by authorized University officers. Vanderbilt reserves the right to modify this policy in whole or in part, at any time, at the discretion of the University.

Approved by Traci K. Nordberg, Chief Human Resources Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor

Approved by Eric Kopstain, Vice Chancellor for Administration