Confront the employee to discuss the problem (Counselling / Couching Session)

It is important that the meeting takes place in private and in an environment that is comfortable and non-threatening, away from distractions and interruptions.

The employer should begin by holding a discussion with the employee to explain the problem in specific terms. From this conversation, the employee should be able to clearly understand:

.           what the problem is

.           why it is a problem

.           how it impacts on the workplace, and

.           why there is a concern.

The employer should discuss the outcomes they wish to achieve from the meeting.

The meeting should be an open discussion and the employees should have an opportunity to have their point of view heard and duly considered. The employer should listen to the explanation of why the problem has occurred or to any other comments the employee makes.

When having this type of meeting, it may be useful in facilitating discussion to refer to recent positive things that the employee has done to show them that you also recognise and appreciate their strengths.

Key points for employers to remember when holding the meeting are to:

  1. talk about the issue and not the person
  2. explore the reasons why there is an issue
  3. clarify details
  4. stay relaxed and encouraging, and
  5. summarise to check your understanding of the situation

And, when discussing shortfalls in any area, it is important to check that the employee:

  1. is aware that it is a task that is required of them
  2. has been shown what is required
  3. understands the gap between what is happening and what is required


Jointly devise a solution

Where possible, it is important that a solution is jointly devised with the employee. An employee who has contributed to the solution will be more likely to accept and act on it.

When working out a solution, the employer should:

  • Explore ideas by asking open questions
  • Emphasise common ground
  • Keep the discussion on track
  • Focus on positive possibilities, and
  • Offer assistance, such as further training, mentoring, flexible work practices or redefining roles and expectations.

A clear plan of action should be developed with the employee to implement the solution. This can be in the form of a performance agreement or action plan. A performance agreement or action plan can:

  • reflect an understanding of performance expectations and what is to be achieved over the specified time period (performance improvement milestones)
  • clarify roles and responsibilities of the employee
  • include strategies for training and career development
  • include timeframes for improvement (these may vary depending on the issue and needs of the business, however it is important to give an employee adequate time to improve their performance)
  • reinforce the value and worth of the role being performed

A date should be set for another meeting with the employee to review progress and discuss the employee`s performance against the agreed action plan.

The employer should keep a written record of all discussions relating to underperformance in case further action is required. Generally, it may also be used as evidence if disciplinary action is taken about the matter.


Monitor performance and give feedback

The employer should monitor the employee`s performance and continue to provide feedback and encouragement.

A meeting to review and discuss the employee`s performance should be held even if there is no longer an issue. This enables both parties to acknowledge that the issue has been resolved. The employer should provide both positive and negative feedback to the employee and should work with the employee to ensure that performance improvements are sustained.

More serious action may need to be taken if the employee`s performance does not improve including further counselling, issuing formal warnings and ultimately if the issue cannot be resolved, termination of employment.

  1. Devise a solution with the employee to improve performance;
  2. Develop an action plan which includes performance improvement milestones and time frames for further review;
  3. Schedule another meeting to review the employee`s performance against the agreed action plan;
  4. Document all discussions, including actions to be taken;
  5. Monitor the employee`s performance and continue to provide feedback;
  6. Follow any steps set out in an applicable industrial instrument (such as a enterprise agreement), the employer`s policies and procedures and the employee`s employment contract concerning performance management.

If your managers struggle with the above steps register for our managers training clicking here.


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