It is essential for the employees to know the level of their performance and the areas in which they need to improve. Performance counseling is a beneficial activity provided both the counselor and the counselled take it in the right spirit. It helps the employees as well as the organization to identify the areas of weakness and then to formulate strategies to improve the performance. To meet its goals and objectives, performance improvement ultimately helps the team. Potential appraisal finds out the strengths and weaknesses of the employees about their work. It helps the employees to understand their capabilities and then the organization to put the right man in the right job to achieve the set targets.
Performance counseling is a significant activity that helps the employees to know themselves better. Performance counseling refers to the support provided by a manager to his subordinates in objectively analyzing their performance. It essentially focusses on the analysis of performance and identification of training and development needs for bringing about further improvement.
It attempts to help the employee in:
• Understanding himself his strengths and weaknesses.
• Improving his acknowledged and interpersonal support by giving him feedback about his behavior.
• Establishing goals and formulating action plans for further improvement.
• Generating alternatives for dealing with various problems.
This is done by providing a supportive and empathetic atmosphere in which the employee feels encouraged to discuss his aspirations, conflicts, tensions, concerns, and problems.
Conditions for Effective Performance Counseling
For counseling to be effective, the manager has to take certain precautions and initiatives so that the employee feels comfortable and trusts the efforts being taken by the management. Some conditions that make counseling effective are listed below:
A) Confidence, the climate of trust, and openness are essential for effective counseling. Counselling cannot be effective if the subordinate does not trust his boss.
B) It is necessary that the subordinate feel free to participate, without inhibition or fear, in the process of feedback and review. Counselling is a dialogue between the subordinate and the boss. It is not a one-way process of communication to the employee what he should do or not do.
C) The primary purpose of counseling is employee development. Performance counseling does not serve its purpose if the discussion is allowed to digress into other areas like increment, salary, rewards, etc.
Performance Counselling Phases
The counseling process has the following three steps:
a) Rapport building: In the rapport-building phase, a good counselor attempts to establish a climate of acceptance, warmth, support, openness, and mutuality. This step involves generating confidence in the employee to frankly share his perceptions, open up of problems, feelings, concerns, etc. The subordinate must be made to feel that he is wanted and that his superior is genuinely interested in his development.
b) Research: Besides establishing a climate of openness and listening to the employee, the counselor should try to help the employee to understand and appreciate his strengths and weaknesses. He should also understand his problems, and needs and situation. Counselling skill lies in making the employee discover these on his own. Then only will he be motivated to take remedial measures enthusiastically. Questions may be asked which help the employee focus on his problem. If for example, an employee feels that his problem is that others do not cooperate 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 are making it difficult for him to win their cooperation. Problem identification is a critical step in planning for improvement. Diagnosis of the problem should follow exploration. The effort here should be to generate several alternative causes of a problem. To help the employee make a correct diagnosis of the problem, open-ended questions may be asked. For example, in case of an employee having interpersonal problem in relating to colleagues, the superior may ask, “Why do you think people may be put off when you talk to them?”, “Can you recall instances when you got full cooperation?” and “What do you attribute it to?”
c) Work planning: Counselling interviews should end with specific plans of action for the improvement of the employee. The main contribution of the superior to this aspect is helping the employee think of alternative ways of dealing with a problem. For example, in case of an employee whose relationship with colleagues is weak, the superior may suggest, “What three things can you do in the coming week to improve your relationship with MR X?” After helping the employee brainstorm, the superior may also add some more alternatives to the solutions already generated. The primary responsibility for creating alternative solutions must, however, rest with the employee himself. After alternative solutions to existing performance problem have been identified, the superior should help the employee assess the advantages and disadvantages of each. Finally, the preferred may render some assistance in helping the employee implement the action plan. Often good counseling sessions fail to produce useful results due to lack of follow-up.