Counselling Of An Employee.

Counseling of an Employee – help in a non-threatening way!

Counseling is helping in (a non-threatening way) an individual who comes to terms with a particular problem and identifying possible solutions to the problem. The objectives of counseling is to improve performance, personal conduct or attendance and obviate the need for formal disciplinary proceedings.  Counseling is based on informal discussion and the outcomes may involve Coaching & Mentoring.

However, where Counseling is utilised, but proves to be ineffective in raising the standards of performance or conduct to the required level, then disciplinary proceedings may be necessary.  There may also be some circumstances, such as domestic problems or alcoholism, where Counseling is utilised to assist an employee to do their job and if proved to be ineffective, the Absence Policy and Procedure would be applied in many organisations, instead of disciplinary and managerial support for the employee in their job.

Managers should not look simply to deal with all issues of poor performance, attendance or conduct through disciplinary proceedings, but to identify situations for which Counseling is the appropriate course of action. Employee performance may vary for reasons other than employee laziness or ineptitude. Inhibiting work-related factors on performance, such as lack of training or problems in the employees’ domestic circumstances need to be considered and employees should be ‘assisted’ rather than simply disciplined.

Counseling interviews will normally be held on a 1:1 basis in a private room.  The Manager does not have to offer the members of staff the right to have a witness / representative present nor does the arrangements of the meeting have to be confirmed in writing.  The only written document needed will be the counseling note that is made as confirmation of the outcome of the interview.  If the member of staff requests a witness / representative to be present then the manager must also ensure that they have an additional manager present.

When is Counseling appropriate?

Where performance, attendance or conduct is overall below the standard required, it is the manager’s responsibility to investigate and determine whether Counseling is the appropriate course of action, or if disciplinary procedures need to be immediately invoked. The following criteria may be considered and taken into account when deciding if Counseling the appropriate course of action. The criteria below do not constitute an exhaustive list and must be put into context with an employee’s individual work and domestic circumstances:-

The employee’s record of employment

  •  Whether the problem has previously arisen and Counseling has been provided, but has not solved the problem.
  • The length of time that the employee has been in their current position; for example, a recent appointment may mean that mistakes may be happening due to the employee’s inexperience.
  • The level of previous experience the employee had before their appointment to their current position.
  • The expectation by the management of the employee to perform to a particular level, from the start of their appointment, which may be attributed to their level of seniority and also whether this was communicated and understood by the employee.

Costs to the Company and other staff members

  •  Whether the poor performance, conduct or absence is costing the Company significant sums of money and / or is having a serious impact on the level of customer service.
  • Whether an employee is behaving in a way that is intentionally, or without due consideration, significantly impairing the ability of other employee’s to perform well, or is affecting staff morale.

The employee’s personal circumstances

An employee’s personal or domestic circumstances, which could justifiably impact on their work, but difficult domestic circumstances will not necessarily excuse an employee’s unacceptable actions.  Health problems, to which the employee has not made the manager aware of, which may also justifiably impact on work, may require to be treated in accordance with the Absence Management Policy and Procedure in many cases.

Changes within the Company

If there has recently been new procedures or technology introduced that affect the employee’s job and whether there has been training provided.

 General principles for holding a Counseling discussion

  •  Hold the discussion in a private place, out of the hearing of other employees and free from interruptions.  It should be a two-way discussion, aimed at pointing out any shortcomings in performance, attendance or conduct and encouraging improvement. Criticism should be constructive and the emphasis should be on finding ways in which the employee can remedy any shortcomings.
  • Listen to any explanation put forward by the employee to gain understanding of the reasons for the problem and the most appropriate way to help.
  • Where an improvement is required make sure that the employee understands what needs to be done, how progress will be reviewed and over what period.  The employee should be told that if there is no improvement the next stage will be the formal disciplinary procedure. If appropriate, arrange a date for a further Counseling to discuss progress made.
  • Take care that a Counseling interview does not turn into a formal disciplinary hearing, as this may unintentionally deny the employee certain rights, such as the right to be accompanied.  If during the meeting it becomes obvious that the matter is more serious, the discussion should be adjourned.  It should be made clear that the matter will be pursued under the formal disciplinary procedure.
  • Keep a brief note of any counseling for reference purposes. 

The Counseling Meeting

Managers have a RESPONSIBILITY to assisting their staff to achieve the required standards of performance. During an employee’s induction, staff should be advised of the responsibilities and levels of authority of their job.  Job descriptions are an important document for detailing such accountabilities and should be issued to all staff.

For example, an employment tribunal would want to satisfy itself that Counseling had been initially employed to deal with an issue of for example poor performance, before formal disciplinary procedures began. An employee is entitled, on the grounds of fairness, to be told exactly what is required of him or her, what standards are being set and the time-scale in which he or she is expected to achieve them. The manager should also consider whether any shortfall in performance is due to unreasonable expectations or lack of proper explanation on the part of the management.

During the period of time that in individual is being given to reach the desired standards, a good manager will ensure that he or she is kept informed of any progress.

Where despite encouragement and assistance from the manager and motivation on the part of the employee, the required standard are unable to be met, considerations should be given to finding suitable alternative work.  If alternative work is not available, the position should be explained to the employee before action is taken.

  • Is this helpful?
  • Is this how you would handle the Counseling of an employee?
  • Do you use non-threatening ways?

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