Counseling is quite often misunderstood. It is wrongly interpreted as a process of correcting or controlling the employee’s behavior by giving him negative feedback in an assertive manner by his boss.
When employees make mistakes or become unmanageable or non-cooperative, executives often state that they need counseling.
Some managers also are known to make statements like, “I called him for counseling gave him a bit of my mind” or “I called him for counseling and told him clearly that I am not going to tolerate his behavior anymore” or called him for counseling and finished him off’, etc.
Unfortunately, due to such misuse of the term “counseling” has acquired some negative connotations in the minds of some managers.
They confuse “verbal threats,” “criticism,” and “negative feedback” to be counseling. Actually, such behaviors prevent counseling.
In performance counseling, the counselor initiates the discussion as a part of an appraisal system or as a part of some processes that take place in the organization.
The onus of making the counseling successful is joint with the counselor and the counselee, although the counselor has a major responsibility by virtue of his position in the organizational hierarchy.
It is this, which makes performance counseling complex.
The counselor who is at a higher status level has to carry on the task of helping his subordinate by creating an atmosphere of acceptance.
Thus, unlike clinical counseling, in performance counseling, the counselor has an additional task of motivating the counselee to participate effectively in the counseling process.
Any organization interested in using a good performance appraisal and review system that aims at developing employees has to practice and pay enough attention to performance counseling.
Performance appraisal does not serve the purpose of developing employees unless an effective system of performance counseling is introduced and practiced in the organization.
Performance counseling can be defined as the help provided by managers to their subordinates in analyzing their performance and other job behaviors in order to increase their job effectiveness.
Performance counseling essentially focuses on the analysis of performance on the job and identification of training needs for further improvement.
Methods/Techniques of Counselling for Better Performance
Many techniques for accomplishing performance counseling have been offered in texts, journals, and reports.
Although these methods may differ in detail or semantics, each tends to be closely related to one of two techniques that follow:
1. Traditional Technique: This method of performance counseling is characterized by the leader manager attempting to identify the strong and weak points which are affecting the subordinate’s overall performance.
Basically, the boss attempts to precipitate change or corrective action on the part of the subordinate by means of persuasive tactics.
The principal facets of this type of performance counseling are to:
- Let the subordinate know how he is doing with emphasis on recognizing his strong points.
- Gain his acceptance of the evaluation through good “salesmanship” and persuasion.
- Encourage him to follow the plan outlined for improvement.
Typical subjects covered in traditional performance counseling were objectives, recognition, suggestions for improvement, clarification of responsibilities, and personal goals.
Personal qualities were also given consideration. This technique is efficient from a time standpoint since it amounts to one-way communication and can be implemented with little training.
It also helps establish a level of conformity in accordance with the supervisor’s standards. There are disadvantages, too, because this technique requires considerable persuasive skill on the part of the leader, and, further, the method may result in producing “yes-men,” if not properly employed.
2. Modern Management Technique: This technique for accomplishing effective counseling is related to the modem management system of managing by objectives.
It could be called “counseling by objectives.” It is characterized by focusing on proven performance instead of traits, potential, or personality.
This process might better be called a form of coaching rather than counseling because the person being evaluated has an active pan in the discussion sessions.
Counseling by objectives is essentially a participative process wherein the boss, and the subordinate mutually agree on a set of certain objectives.
At the end of a specified period, both sit-down and discuss the objectives in terms of accomplishment.
The subordinate’s personal weaknesses are discussed only as a secondary matter and only as they relate to the specific objectives which have not been met.
The key elements of this technique are the objectives that become standards of performance evaluation.
Thus, the objectives must be:
- Stated in definite terms and understood by both parties.
- Realistic, important, and relevant to the organization’s objectives.
- Measurable against the standards or against past performance,
- Related to the subordinate’s skills.
Counseling through objectives shifts the role of the leader from that of criticizing to that of helping and improving his subordinates.
It stresses the future, the forward planning, which is needed to help clarify responsibilities, organize the job, and iron out difficulties in advance.
By providing each individual with a standard of evaluation based on objectives, encourages feedback and enables subordinates to know where they stand with the boss.
Despite the advantages, this technique has certain limitations. This process requires that the supervisor/leader spend a considerable amount of time in counselling sessions.
Additionally, it may be used by some subordinates to set easy goals that they know will please the boss. Also, any overemphasis of measurable objectives may result in the manipulation of data or setting low goals.