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Using a counselling procedure to manage your employee's poor performance? Here are four tips to help you get the most from it

by , 02 March 2015
A counselling procedure is the final performance management step. You follow it before you move into a formal discipline phase.

You should set up sessions to meet with your employee to discuss his poor performance and how to correct it.

During these sessions, you tell your employee what's wrong with his performance. Help him identify ways to improve. And set timeframes for him to improve in.

So how can you make sure the counselling procedure is beneficial for you and your employee? After all, you both want to solve the problem quickly and get on with your jobs.

Here are four tips you can use to get the most from the counselling procedure.

Get the most from your counselling procedure with these four tips

Tip 1: Keep the session professional but friendly and stay on track
The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service says, 'start the counselling session by welcoming your employee and thanking him for coming to the meeting.'
Let him know that you're positive and together, you'll be able to sort out the issues you'll discuss. Tell him you're here to support him through the process. Then describe the problem and be as specific as possible.
Use your notes to point out acceptable performance levels and show him exactly where he isn't meeting your standards. Refer to the evidence you have to help him see there's a problem.
Make him understand that his current level of performance isn't acceptable. Explain that if the situation doesn't improve, the company may have to consider parting ways with him. That's why you need his full co-operation efforts to fix the problem.
The important thing here is to make sure the discussion is strictly about poor performance and not your employee's attitude.
The focus must be to find causes of the poor performance problem and to work toward solutions. It isn't to place blame.
When your employee sees you want to resolve a problem and not blame him, he'll be more co-operative.

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The next logical step is to get rid of him and get someone who can do the job. But watch out, that could cost you BIG at the CCMA!
So what can you LEGALLY do?
Tip 2: Control your emotions
Don't lose your temper or show frustration. This reduces the effectiveness of the counselling session.
What's more, difficult employees will take advantage of knowing which buttons to push to get you upset. Keep your cool and keep restating the problem.
Tip 3: Know how to handle employee reactions
Not only do you need to keep your emotions in check, you need to handle your employees' emotions too.
When you force your employee to look at the evidence of his poor performance, he may feel:
  • Threatened by the thought of losing his job;
  • A loss in his self-esteem;
  • Anger or defiance and the need to lash out; and
  • Depressed and despondent.
Move your employee beyond these emotions. Focus on causes and solutions. Don't harp on about the problems.
This brings us to the final tip…
Tip 4: Be supportive
Tell your employee you're here to support him.
But how?
Show your support by:
  • Acknowledging his negative feelings and redirect his focus to fixing the problem;
  • Recognising any improvement or success, no matter how small;
  • Acknowledging that mistakes will happen. But encourage him to fix them himself; and
  • Acknowledging his compliance and the fact that he's changed his performance as agreed.
There you have it: With these four tips you'll get the most from the counselling procedure you use to manage your employee's poor performance.
PS: For more information on performance management, check out the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

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