No MBA mumbo-jumbo, just stuff that's worked through 30 years of team-building in business and the military.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When To Counsel Employees

There will be times when you need to counsel a team member - that is, you'll need to have a conversation to get that person back on the same page with the rest of the team. The trick is knowing when that's necessary. 

On the one hand, counseling is overkill for those corrections that should just occur naturally, as part of leading during the day. If an employee isn't following a process, or needs to change his or her demeanor with customers, those are things you just tell people at the point they happen. If you're just as quick to point out the good things and say thank you, those in-course corrections will be taken in stride.

On the other hand, counseling isn't enough for those instances when a team member is endangering others, or has done one of those things your handbook lists as serious enough for termination, like cheating on time cards, sleeping on the job or drinking. At those times, for the sake of the team and the organization, you need to use the disciplinary process. Just keep in mind that most organizations spell out discipline so that after a second or third offense that employee is suspended, with firing as the next step. Don't start if you don't want to finish.

That sets the extremes. In the middle are those times when a team member gets out of sync with you or the team and you know some adjustments are needed, but you don't want to get rid of the person. Some indicators:
- You can feel the relationship getting worse.
- The person develops a negative attitude that doesn't go away.
- There are persistent and repeated mistakes.
- The person is affecting the way others feel about their work or workplace

When those things happen, it's time to sit down with that team member and start to probe. Remember, counseling isn't disciplinary; it's an effort to find your way back to common ground. It probably will take more than one conversation, but it's worth it. And it's your job.

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