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What is Performance Counselling?
The concept of performance counselling is quite often misunderstood and at the same time, it is wrongly interpreted as a process of correcting or controlling the employee behaviour by giving him negative feedback in an assertive manner by his boss.
It has been the trend observed that when employees make mistakes or become unmanageable or non-cooperative, executives often state that they need counselling. There are some managers also are known to make statements like “I called him for counselling and gave him a bit of my mind” or “I called him for counselling and told him clearly that I am not going to tolerate his behaviour any more” or “I called him for counselling and finished him off”, etc.
Unfortunately, due to such misuse of the term “counselling”, it has acquired some negative connotations in the minds of some managers. In reality, such behaviours prevent counselling.
Table of Contents
Principles of Performance Counselling
The development does not occur just because there is counselling but the counselling is a means and not an end in itself. The counselling given to employees could be an effective instrument in helping people integrate with their organization and have a sense of involvement and satisfaction. For counselling to be effective, the following conditions are necessary which are as follows:
1. General Climate of Openness and Mutuality:
If in any organization where the employee is working under high pressure of work, and people do not trust each other, counseling cannot be effective. For effective counseling A climate of minimum trust and openness is essential.
2. General Helpful and Empathic Attitude of Management:
For effective counseling, the counselor must have a general helping attitude and empathy for the counselee.
3. Sense of Uninhibited Participation by the Subordinates in the Performance Review Process:
Counseling cannot be effective unless the subordinates in a department or organization feel free enough to participate without inhibition in the process of review and feedback. It is not a one-way process of communicating to the employee what he should or should not do but it is a process of developing dialogue which eventually contributes to better understanding on the part of the counselee.
4. Dialogic Relationship in Goal Setting and Performance Review:
This focuses not on counselee’s achievement of the performance goals he had set in consultation with his manger. It depends on joint participation by the employee and his reporting officer and it is necessary for both in goal setting as well as in the performance review. The counseling does not achieve its purpose without such collaboration effort.
5. Focus on Work-oriented Behaviour:
The focus of performance counseling is to help the employee in improving his performance and counseling can be effective if the focus is kept on the work-related goals rather than diffusing attention into various other areas. In the course of doing so, the discussion may involve other related and personal issues, but these are used to refocus on the improvement of organizational roles rather than on personal or general personality problems.
6. Focus on Work-related Problems and Difficulties:
It is not related only to the achievement of goals, but also to the contextual problems in achieving or not achieving the goals. The analysis of performance, therefore, becomes the basis of counseling.
7. Avoidance of Discussion of Salary and Other Rewards:
It may not serve its purpose if it includes discussion about salary raise, rewards, etc. Ultimately, the main purpose of performance counseling is to use performance appraisal in planning and improvement of the employee, rather than an understanding of the relationship between performance and reward like salary, etc.
Performance Counselling Skills
For the purpose of counselling, the given below are the key performance counselling skills:
- Asking Questions and Responding
- Being Emphatic
- Positive Reinforcement
One very important key essential of performance counseling is active listening which involves paying attention to the various messages being sent by the other person. In the whole process, the obvious message is the ideas being communicated (cognitive message) but more hidden maybe the feelings and the concerns the other person may not be able to put clearly in words.
To listen to feelings and concerns is very important for effective counseling and it involves skills that can be practiced. There are some exercises which can be used to improve the listening to such hidden messages.
Asking Questions and Responding
The questions asked can facilitate or hinder the process of communication. The questions can serve several purposes: they can help in getting more information, establishing mutuality, clarifying matters, stimulating thinking. In the situation of counseling, questions play a very important role.
Some questions can shut off the counselee, or make him dependent on the counselor and another set of questions can build autonomy of the counselee. Obviously the latter will be helpful, and not the former.
When the questions asked about the feelings of a person, his concern, his problem, not so much for finding solutions to indicate and express concern, may be classified as emphatic questions. It’s a very crucial task for a manager to show empathetic approach towards employee but he has to do that and in this regard, when a manager asks an employee: “How is your son feelings now?”, he is not merely seeking information, but in fact indicating his personal concern about the health of the employee’s son and thereby expressing empathy.
Such questions asked by superior help to generate more trust and the necessary rapport with the employee. Empathic questions create a climate of mutual trust and human understanding and this helps a lot in counseling.
The concept has been established by Skinner that any change in behavior cannot be brought about in human beings through punishment or negative reinforcement, but only through positive reinforcement. To influence the behavior, it would involve providing encouragement and reinforcing success so that the person takes more initiative and is able to experiment with new ideas.
The change cannot take place without experiment and risk-taking and these are encouraged through positive reinforcement.
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