Performance Counseling


Performance Counseling is very important for employees to know the level of their performance and the area in which they need to improve. Performance counseling is a very useful activity provided both the counselor and the counselee take it in the right spirit. It helps the employee as well as the organization to identify weaknesses and then to formulate strategies to improve the performance. Performance improvement ultimately helps the organization to meet its goals and objectives. It is always important to evaluate the performance of the employees periodically to find out their level of efficiency. Some standard methods have been devised to make employees understand how far they are from the expected standards so that their performance can be improved. Those employees who lag behind in certain key performance areas must be assisted to analyze and improve their performance levels. Therefore the process of performance appraisal helps to evaluate and improve the performance of the employees so that they can give their best to achieve the goals of the organization as well as achieve better career satisfaction.


What is “Performance Counseling?”


Performance Counseling is a very important activity that helps employees to know themselves better. Performance Counseling refers to the help provided by a manager to his subordinates in objectively analyzing their performance. It attempts to help the employee in:
  1. Understanding himself - his strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Improving his professional and interpersonal competence by giving him feedback about his behavior.
  3. Setting goals and formulating action plans for further improvement.

Features of Performance Counseling

(1) Conditions for effective counseling
  • A climate of trust, confidence and openness is essential for effective counseling. Counseling cannot be effective if the subordinate does not trust his boss.
  • It is necessary that the subordinate should feel free to participate without fear or inhibition as it is a dialogue between supervisor and subordinate and hence should be a two way communication.
  • The main purpose of counseling is employee development.

(2) Performance Counseling Phases

(a) Rapport Building: In the rapport building phase, a good counselor attempts to establish a climate of acceptance, warmth, support, openness and mutuality. This phase involves generating confidence in the employee to open up frankly, share his perceptions, problems, concerns, feelings etc. The subordinate must be made to feel wanted and that his superior is genuinely interested in his development.

(b) Exploration: In this phase, the counselor should attempt to help the employee understand and appreciate his strengths and weaknesses. He should also understand his own situation, problems and needs. Questions should be asked which help the employee focus on his problem. For example, if an employee feels that his problem is that others do not co-operate with him, the counselor may ask questions to narrow down the problem to the employee’s relationship with a few individuals. Then the superior may ask questions to help the employee understand what he does (or says) to his colleagues that is making it difficult for him to win their co-operations. Problem identification is a critical step in planning for improvement. To help the employee make a correct diagnosis of the problem, open-ended questions may be asked.

(c) Action Planning: Counseling interviews should end with specific plans of action for development of the employee. The main contribution of the superior in this phase is in helping the employee think of alternative ways of dealing with a problem. For example, in case of an employee whose relationships with colleagues are poor, the superior may suggest “What three things can you do in the coming week to improve your relationship with X?” After helping the employee brainstorm, the superior may also add more alternatives to the solutions already generated.

Finally the superior may render some assistance in helping the employee implement the agreed upon action plan. Often good counseling sessions fail to produce effective results due to lack of follow

Processes in Performance Counseling:-

(1) Feedback:
It is extremely important that the feedback is communicated in a manner that produces a constructive response in the subordinate. Given below are some guidelines that could be followed in giving feedback:
  • Feedback should be descriptive and non- evaluative. Rather than putting the employee in a defensive position by telling him” Your coming in late convinces me that you are not serious about your work”, a manager may say, “I notice that you have been regularly coming late and I am deeply concerned about this”.
  • It should be focused on the behavior of the person rather than on the person himself. It is necessary to distinguish between the individual and his behavior in conveying the negative feedback. It should be clear to the employee that what is being rejected or criticized is some specific behavior of his. The intent is not to condemn the employee as an individual.
  • When conveying feedback, it is generally desirable to back it up with few examples of actual events. Care must be exercised not to overdo this as the subordinate may misinterpret it that the superior is systematically building up a well-documented case against him.
  • Feedback should be given timely. It should be given at the first opportunity when the employee is in the receptive mood.
  • Feedback should be continuous. It should become a regular practice so that the subordinate develops an ability to accept and act upon the feedback.
  • Feedback should be checked and verified. This will ensure that the subordinate has not misinterpreted the feedback received from his superior.
(2) Pre-Interview Preparation:
  • Make sure you know what was mutually agreed in terms of job responsibilities
  • Review the employee’s background, education, training and experience.
  • Determine the strengths and development needs to be discussed with the employee.
  • Identify areas that need attention during the next review period.
  • Make sure that the employee has sufficient advance notice for the interview so that he has time to do his own preparation.
  • It is always useful to note down the key points on a piece of paper.
(3) Interview
  • Be sincere, informal and friendly. Explain the purpose of the discussion and make it clear to the subordinate that the interview is a two way communication.
  • Encourage the employee to discuss how he appraises his own performance.
  • Before discussing suggestions you have for his development, encourage the employee to tell his own plans.
  • Make a record of plans you and the employee have made, points requiring follow-up.