Saturday, December 1, 2012


Counseling Interview
Do you have an employee that is not pulling their load?  Do you have a worker that is doing their job, but they keep messing up.  Have you tried positive encouragement and a Coaching Interview, but that has not worked?  It may be time for another type of interview; a Counseling Interview. 


Some of you may already be familiar with Counseling Interviews and some of you may not; or you may be familiar with it under a different name.  Counseling Interviews are management driven interviews to address specific performance concerns at work.

Formalized Sessions

These are structured sessions to seek improvement from an employee, typically complete with a set of instructions to be given to the worker.  Most (although not all) Counseling Interviews are prepared in advance by a manager.  The manager has a prepared set of documents outlining the unfulfilled expectations and thoughts on these expectations.  The manager should also have a prepared set of questions to specifically draw out the cause of the problem so that what may be causing the problem in the first place.  For example: It may be that a worker that has sloppy results just had a new child and is sleepy as a result.  That is irrelevant to your part of the solution, but uncovering that may help the employee self-correct so that they get enough sleep and can perform their job properly.  Now, have the employee sign a document, sometimes known as a PIP or Performance Improvement Plan.  Their signature does not mean that they agree to what is in the PIP, but merely that they understand what steps are expected to be followed to bring their performance up to meet expectations.  The employee should read the entire document before the manager tells them to sign.  As this meeting could be presented as evidence in a court of law should an employee be terminated in the future, be sure to document this interview.  These interviews are sometimes attended by a 3rd party, such as a Human Resources representative, as a witness.

A More Informal Approach

A form of Counseling that is sometimes seen as more effective is the Indirect Approach Counseling Interview.  This tends to be a little less formal, as you may be preparing the PIP during the interview itself or immediately afterwards.  When the interview starts, you will bring Employees up to date on why they have been called into the meeting.  Inform them of their poor performance and how management feels the work should be done to meet expectations.  Ask questions about what may be causing the performance and any obstacles at work that might be in the way.  At this point, the manager will want to take in feedback from the employee.  You can try to determine a plan of action that will improve performance that you are both willing to agree to.  You will type that up and then the employee can sign it.  By allowing the employee to make some contributions to the PIP and by them seeing that it is not typed up until after they have provided their feedback, can lead to increased buy-in to the plan by the employee.  The employee will feel that the PIP is actually an improvement tool and that management is looking out for them.  When a PIP has already been written in advance of a Counseling interview, the employee may feel that their feedback was not appreciated resulting in decreased buy-in.

A quick note about combination - Counseling Interviews should be kept separate from Coaching Interviews.  Mixing the two can lead to confusion by the employee as to what to say and how to act during the interview.  It may reduce the effectiveness of both kinds of interviews.


A short positive closing to a Counseling Interview can be helpful to neutralize some of the negative emotions that may have been generated as a result of the meeting.  It is suggested that the manager offer some short specific praise about something the employee is doing right.  Remind the employee that they are valued.  You can let the employee know that if they can bring up the rest of their performance, you are certain that you can continue to work together in a positive manner. 

And remember all of you Human Resources professionals:  Be Human... Be a Resource...  Be a Resource for Humans.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this post are by the author Trevor Stasik, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any employer or any other organization. Please note, this information is based on my understanding and is only to be used for informational and educational purposes.  Do not take what I am writing as advice.  Seek your own legal counsel and/or see a tax accountant before making business or personal decisions.  The author of this post makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

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