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The Write-Up to PCA...Revolution

Published: Friday, July 13, 2018
Updated: Monday, July 16, 2018

I cut my teeth 25+ years ago in manufacturing assisting managers with “write-ups,” or as many of our employees thought of them, “pre-termination paperwork.” Write-ups inevitably led to someone leaving either voluntarily or with our gentle shove.

For  years I wasn’t really sure what I was doing so I vacillated between being really strict and being pretty lax. Mostly this depended on what mood a manager caught me in. Sometimes, probably most times, I was a jerk. I had the power and I could be.

I figured this out maybe around year 6 or 7 in my career in human resources and started trying to first be consistent and then be intelligent. Both these outcomes were better than being a jerk.

Believing the Manager

My early tendencies were to believe the manager, but get progressively more irritated that we had hired another slug and now “HR was dealing with them.” I tried, a bit unsuccessfully, to not show my extreme displeasure. It was, however, my perception of my job. Even when I did training I believe I began with something akin to “well, you bunch of not very smart people…” I didn’t use these words, but, then, humans are pretty smart and we usually don’t have to hear the actual words to discern the meaning (e.g., “Our employees are our most valuable resource”).

I think I changed because I was getting tired. I was tired of dealing with all the slugs (employees) and not very smart people (managers). I was also tired feeling the way I felt with the behavior I had embraced for myself.

I’m not sure if the following was all my original thought, but I know I tweaked a few things to make it fit my world.

The Change


I started with the name. When I started we had a single sheet of paper with a big red, all caps, title: “WARNING!” For some bizarre reason this tended to get any conversation off on the wrong track.

After some fits and starts I thought “I want an agreement” between an employee and a manager and the company. Then I thought “what change are we desiring in the employee’s performance or behavior?” From this thought equation came the rather natural Performance Change Agreement (PCA).

My vision of this thing is we’d lay out the history and the performance we needed the change the employee to work on. Then we’d sit with the employee (this following our investigation where the employee was already an integral part and knew what was coming) and go over what we’d found and ask the employee for his or her agreement to the change. And…we weren’t there to force the employee to sign something. Instead our employee would be able to take the PCA home and mull it over, bring it back with any suggested changes, or choose to sign the PCA…or not.

Whether we received a signature was something of a moot point. We were the manager and the company and this is the change we were requiring. We might tweak and make changes based off what our employee brought back. We might not. But if we needed a performance or behavior change, the employee really had limited options.

A big change, too, was defining a time-frame in the PCA. The time-frame said “this will stay in your file for this long and then it will be taken out and shredded.” It gave the employee an end to the process. A point in time when he or she could be assured their history would not haunt them. I probably received the most push back on this. “We need to build a paper trail” was the exact thinking that had me wanting something besides the process I had fought over the course of the last several years. I felt in my heart of hearts that we needed to give an employee a point in the future where his or her “felony” was actually expunged from the record.

The Most Difficult Hurdle

None of the preceding, however, were insurmountable hurdles. The biggest hurdle was in attitudes. The PCA might as well have “WARNING!” stamped across the top without a change in attitude. That culture change was probably the most challenging. It’s where I spent most my development time. Still, when my PCA was fully implemented across a variety of industries the impact was dramatic and noticeable. We brought performance and behavior concerns out of the shadows and into the light.


REX CASTLE is a co-founder at friendsTED. He has over 3 decades of human resources, training, public speaking and slide design experience. He also has published 3 books:

  1. Selecting the Brass Ring: How to hire really happy, really smart people (and pay them really well)(the complete work),
  2. Why not WOW? Reaching for the spectacular presentation, and a parable of his complete work,
  3. The Brass Ring: How to hire really happy really smart people (and pay them really well).

His passion is working with organizations to increase ROI through creative and replicable models for everything from hiring to leadership to presentation. He is a strategic thinker, thought provoking facilitator and exceptional business partner.
Rex is employed in the technology industry where he is responsible for social media, online help systems, online training systems and assisting the sales professionals in their presentations and slide design. He also has years and years of experience in the manufacturing and finance industries. He is well-traveled and has lived in numerous areas across the United States, but calls Lubbock home and spends most of his spare time with his first grandchild, reading, and enjoys woodworking.


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