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How to handle your performance counselling procedure fairly

by , 22 April 2015
An error may occur in any process and sometimes experience doesn't matter. A second where you lack attention, a misunderstanding, a poor communication or just writing down the wrong number can become pieces in a puzzle that, from a certain moment, will give us headaches instead of joy.

And there are things you can do to prevent situations when you'll have to search for the missing piece in the puzzle.

This is why we want to introduce a procedure that makes sure you handle your counselling processes fairly and appropriately.

First of all, keep in mind that the counselling procedure isn't a disciplinary measure. It forms part of performance management. But, labour laws say you should use progressive discipline. And counselling is normally the start of a more formal process of managing discipline in the workplace.

But what is progressive discipline?

This is when you discipline an employee for misconduct, but you start with the least severe penalty. You'll increase the level of punishment if the employee carries on with this transgression.

So how does this relate to the scope of the counselling procedure?

Follow this procedure to deal with the formal counselling process fairly:

Use it for:

•  Non-performance or poor performance after you give training and support.
•  Poor or inappropriate attitude towards work or colleagues.
•  Inappropriate or undesirable behaviour in the workplace. This is where the behaviour doesn't have a threat to others or to the business or its operations.


You can deal with serious misconduct by having a disciplinary hearing straight away. You don't need to do counselling.

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What if I told you performance reviews could be simple?

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You need to find the time to put together an evaluation form... Get your employee to fill it in... Set up countless meetings with staff and colleagues... Find the time to actually conduct the review... AND still make recommendations on how staff can grow or do their jobs better.  

And even after all that there's no guarantee that what you tell your employee will actually add more profits to your company's bottom line.  

It's enough to make you give up completely.

There IS a way to make employee reviews a simple, fast, effective process.  

And today, I want to introduce you to it.  


Objectives of a counselling session

Counselling is a performance management method. It aims to correct poor or non-performance by a single session or a series of sessions. These highlight discrepancies between performance outcome requirements and actual performance.

Counselling is normally the final performance management step. This is before you move into a formal discipline phase. Purpose of the counselling session

The counselling session is there to:

•  Correct poor or non-performance. It clearly shows the difference between the performance levels you want from an employee and his actual performance.

You'll show the employee examples of the work.

•  Correct inappropriate behaviour. Show him examples of appropriate behaviour. This is so he knows what's suitable.

•  Help him identify ways to improve.

•  Set timeframes for him to improve in.

•  Identify what help the employee needs. For example, coaching, training etc.

•  Explain to the employee what will happen if he doesn't meet the changes you agree on within the timeframe.

•  Counselling is the first step of progressive discipline for performance or behaviour issues.

Here are the three phases to respect in order to have a fair  counselling procedure:

Phase #1: Prepare and conduct the counselling session

First of all, you have to schedule a meeting. Offer the employee details of his poor performance. When discussing the issues with him:

•  Try put him at ease.
•  Approach him respectfully and discreetly to make sure he doesn't lose face in front of work colleagues.
•  Let him know in advance what the meeting is about.

Use this checklist to help you out so you knoe what to do during the counselling session

>> Show him evidence or give him examples to show him where his performance or behaviour isn't up to  scratch.

>> Make sure he knows what to do. You must also make sure he has the skills, resources and tools to do the job.
>> Make sure he understands your expectations about performance and behaviour. Get his agreement on these.
>> Make sure you can both discuss the issues you're both having.
>> Find out if he has personal problems, health problems, or any other issues, which are affecting his work.
>> Discuss and agree on how to fix the problems. Identify training and any support requirements he might need.
>> Document the discussion. Include all areas of concern, mitigating factors, the time you agree on for him to improve and the plan
>> Get your employee to sign it. Give him a copy for his personal records.

Phase #2: Monitor and evaluate improvement

Secondly, give your employee reasonable time to improve. Note that he must have time to implement the actions you both agree on.

Along this time, keep an eye on his performance and behaviour. Schedule regular meetings with him and take corrective action to help him to achieve the goals you set.

Phase #3: Terminate or escalate the process

Provided you see that, after a reasonable amount of time, he hasn't made progress, you can start the incapacity process. This will be for the inability to cope with the job. Or a disciplinary hearing for being unwilling to do the job. Keep in mind that you have to prove the employee's performance is still unacceptable even though you went through the correct steps.

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