​Employee Conduct

The Supervisor's Guide to Student Employee Conduct

 Supervisor or Educator?

On-campus employment is another form of education for students. For some students, this may be their first work experience and for others, campus employment may not seem like a “real” job. As employers, it is our role to help student employees understand their job IS real, that they play an important role in our day-to-day operations, and that they can benefit from our work environments.

Occasionally you may need to provide guidance to a student employee. Part of the educational experience is providing constructive feedback when a student's job performance does not meet your expectations.

 Setting the Stage

Set clear expectations at the BEGINNING of employment. Make sure students know where you stand on these issues:

  • Personal use of office resources
  • What should they do if they aren’t able to work a shift?
  • How to interact with customers
  • Guidelines for personal use of the telephone
  • How and when to complete time cards
  • Departmental dress code
  • Policy for food at work
  • How to answer the phone
  • Emergency procedures
  • Taking rest and lunch breaks
  • Confidentiality of office information

 When to Step in

It is often difficult to determine when an incident occurs if it is necessary to bring the issue to the student’s attention. Typically it is best to address the situation quickly and sensitively.

"Sandy, I noticed that you came in late today. Is everything OK?"

"Yeah, I just overslept."

"That can happen to anyone. If that would happen again, would you please call me and let me know that you will be late? It's important that we have coverage at this time of day."

Possible response to student who is studying when they should be working:

“Chris, we have talked previously about completing all of the office tasks before doing your homework. I noticed that a number of things need to be done. I would like you to finish those tasks before you do your homework. Do you have any questions or need any help getting started on those projects?”

Obvious errors to you may not be as obvious to a student. For some students, their current position may be their first job and they may not understand basic guidelines of the workplace.

 Student Evaluations

Periodic evaluations (both formal and informal) create an excellent avenue to provide feedback to student employees. Evaluations do not need to be elaborate.

Evaluation Do’s:

  • Do provide positive feedback!
  • Do ask students for feedback on how they evaluate their own performance.
  • Do provide students the written results of the evaluation.

Evaluation Don’ts:

  • Don’t “save up” constructive feedback for the evaluation. If there is a problem, address it immediately.
  • Don’t let one incident over-shadow a person’s evaluation if they otherwise perform in a consistent manner.

Words to Use

Focus on how the student’s behavior impacts you and the department. The use of “I” and “You” statements are particularly helpful.

Rather than...“Mike, why don’t you ever do the work I give you?”

Try...“Mike, it’s very frustrating for me when you choose not to follow through on the tasks that I give to you.”

The way you approach a student will set the stage for how they will respond to you.

 Taking Actions

An issue arises.

Talk with the student IMMEDIATELY and PRIVATELY about the situation. Focus on the behavior of the student, not on them as a person. Define the appropriate behavior expected of your employees. Verify with the student that they understand your expectations. Follow up with a written documentation of your discussion. Provide a copy for the student and a copy for your records.

The issue continues to happen.

Talk with the student again about their behavior. Indicate that you will be documenting the discussion in writing. Include in the documentation your expectations, date by which behavior change needs to occur, and what possible outcomes may occur if the suggestions are not followed. Send a copy of the letter to the student and keep one for your records. Set a follow-up meeting with the student to review their performance.

The issue continues.

At this point, you may place a student on probation, impose a suspension (time off from work without pay), or terminate their employment with your department. Again, it is critical to tell the student what actions are occurring and why they are occurring. Follow your discussion with a written documentation of the termination. Copies of the letter should be sent to the student, your office file, and the Student Employment Office.

Need Extra Assistance?

Feel free to contact the staff at the Student Employment Office for additional assistance in working with student employees. As an educational institution, our role is to help students learn appropriate conduct in the workplace and to assist employers in being educational advocates.

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