TOPIC 7 7.0 EMPLOYEE COUNSELLING

TOPIC 7

7.0 EMPLOYEE COUNSELLING

 

Trainee should be able to;

  • -Explain the concept of counseling
  • -Describe the counseling process
  • -Explain the considerations in counseling programme
  • -Explain the qualities of a counselor
  • -Discuss employee behavior that may lead to counseling

7.1 Concept of Counseling

Life circumstances, personal issues or conflicts at work can affect an employee’s emotional state and have a negative impact on performance. When an otherwise valuable employee starts to behave inconsistently or fall short of expectations, supervisors can use basic employee counseling techniques to resolve the issue without the need for disciplinary action. If an employee’s behavior and performance suddenly change for the worse, counseling may help the employee and correct the problem. An employee, who becomes easily annoyed with coworkers, seems exhausted or cannot pay attention may be suffering from personal problems outside work. Employees who drink too much alcohol or have some other kind of substance abuse issue may require counseling, as well as employees caught up in personality conflicts with each other.

 

Employee counselling is a psychological health care intervention which can take many forms. Its aim is to assist both the employer and employee by intervening with an active problem-solving approach to tackling the problems at hand. Employee counselling can do much to prevent the negative effects of stress at an individual level and ultimately at an organizational level. It gives individuals a valuable opportunity to work through problems and stresses in a strictly confidential and supportive atmosphere. Counselling provides access to several basic forms of helping: giving information, direct action, teaching and coaching, advocacy, and providing feedback and advice.

 

Counselling is: The process that occurs when a client and counsellor set aside time in order to explore difficulties which may include the stressful or emotional feelings of the client; the act of helping the client to see things more clearly, possibly from a different view-point. This can enable the client to focus on feelings, experiences or behaviour, with a goal to facilitating positive change; a relationship of trust since Confidentiality is paramount to successful counselling.  Professional counsellors will usually explain their policy on confidentiality, they may, however, be required by law to disclose information if they believe that there is a risk to life.

 

Counselling is Not: Giving advice; Judgmental; Attempting to sort out the problems of the client; Expecting or encouraging a client to behave in a way in which the counsellor may have behaved when confronted with a similar problem in their own life; Getting emotionally involved with the client or Looking at a client’s problems from your own perspective, based on your own value system.

 

Typically, counselling involves the individual employee meeting with a psychological adviser, usually on a one-on-one basis. It is not uncommon for the individual employee and counsellor to meet once or twice a week for several weeks. However, the number and frequency of meetings required will depend upon the nature of the perceived difficulty and the nature of the intervention needed. The focus of counselling sessions is to encourage discussion of personal and work-related difficulties. This is often followed by the adoption of an active problem-solving approach to tackle the problems at hand.

 

The specific aims of employee counselling are to: Explore and find the key sources of difficulty; Review the individual’s current strategies and styles of coping; Implement methods of dealing with the perceived problem, thereby alleviating the issue; and evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen strategies.

 

The Role of the Counsellor

The role of the counsellor is to enable the client to explore many aspects of their life and feelings, by talking openly and freely.  It is important that the counsellor is not emotionally involved with the client and does not become so during counselling sessions.  The counsellor neither judges, nor offers advice.  The counsellor gives the client an opportunity to express difficult feelings such as anger, resentment, guilt and fear in a confidential environment.

 

Generally, the role of the counsellor is to support the client in the following ways: Listening to client; identify the stage the client is at; be able to move the client into the next stage; Helping the client; Understanding the choices that need to be made; Considering the options available; Helping the client to make her own decision hence empowering the client; observing confidentiality; and Developing trust in the client.The ultimate aim of counselling is to enable the client to make their own choices, reach their own decisions and to act upon them accordingly.

 

Benefits of Counselling

The benefits of counselling to an employee include: Helping them to understand and help themselves; assist them to understand the situations and look at them with a new perspective and positive outlook; help in making better decisions; enable them to explore alternate solutions to problems; and help them cope with the situation and the stress.

 

The benefits to the organization are: Decrease in costs related to turnover, burnouts, absenteeism and accident-related disability; Improvement in employee performance & therefore increase in productivity; and help in managing behavioral Problems brought about by organizational changes.

 

7.2 Counseling Process

Employee Counselling Process

The counselling process is a planned, structured dialogue between a counsellor and a client. It is a cooperative process in which a trained professional helps a person called the client to identify sources of difficulties or concerns that he or she is experiencing. Together they develop ways to deal with and overcome these problems so that person has new skills and increased understanding of themselves and others. The fact that counselling is described as a process, there is the implicit meaning of a progressive movement toward an ultimate conclusion. Hackney and Cormier (1987) describes the counselling process as a series of steps through which the counsellor and client move as discussed below:

Step 1: Relationship Building

The first step involves building a relationship and focuses on engaging clients to explore issue that directly affect them. The first interview is important because the client is reading the verbal and nonverbal messages and make inferences about the counsellor and the counselling situation.

Step 2: Problem Assessment

While the counsellor and the client are in the process of establishing a relationship, a second process is taking place, i.e. problem assessment. This step involves the collection and classification of information about the client’s life situation and reasons for seeking counselling

Step 3: Goal Setting

Setting goals is very important to the success of counselling. It involves making a commitment to a set of conditions, to a course of action or an outcome

Step 4: Counselling Intervention

There are different points of view concerning what a good counsellor should do with clients depending on the theoretical positions that the cousellor subscribes to. The counsellor can apply any theoretical approaches and each approach suggests different types of intervention. For example, the person-centred approach suggests that the counsellor gets involved rather than intervenes by placing emphasis on the relationship. The behavioural approach attempts to initiate activities that help clients alter their behaviour.

Step 5: Evaluation, Termination or Referral

For the beginning counsellor, it is difficult to think of terminating the couselling process, as they are more concerned with beginning the counselling process. However, all counselling aims towards successful termination. Terminating the counselling process will have to be conducted with sensitivity with the client knowing that it will have to end.

 

Stages in Counselling Process

The counselling process has three main stages. These are: Exploration Stage; Understanding Stage (middle stage); and Action Stage. In Exploration stage: the counsellor addresses the client’s questions, for example what are my (client’s) problems, issues, concerns and undeveloped opportunities; helps the client clarify their current difficulties, problems, issues, concerns and undeveloped opportunities; and establishes a relationship with client so that they feel safe enough to explore the issues that they face by identifying and clarifying problem situations, unused opportunities and the key issues calling for change. To achieve this, The counsellor should: concentrate on the clients agenda; not impose ones own agenda or try to satisfy ones own curiosity; stay with the client; and help the client be specific and to focus on core concerns

 

In the Understanding or middle stage: The counsellor seeks to promote understanding and insights into new perspectives of the problem at hand; The client’s questions are addressed to, for example finding out “what do they (client) need or want in place of what they have”; The client is assisted to look at the preferred scenario; The counsellor reaches a greater depth of understanding with client which helps the client determine what he/she needs or wants; and The counsellor helps client determine what he/she needs and wants, provides accurate empathy, works with the here and now (i.e. current situation) , promotes self disclosure, helps set appropriate goals and is genuine in support. The client must feel supported yet challenged to face the difficulties ahead and the counsellor helps the client to get an idea of which direction they should to go.

 

The aim of action stage is for the client to: develop a realistic set of choices and Make decisions and formulate an action plan. The counsellor assist the client implement the chosen plan and uses different decision making strategies and problem solving techniques. It is important to understand that the counselling process is not a linear one, that is, it does not necessarily follow these stages in order. The counsellor needs to be aware of which stage the client is at, and when it is appropriate to facilitate moving the client to the next stage. This decision is the client’s; the counsellor offers guidance but does not make the decisions.

 

Approaches in Employee Counseling

In attempting to help an employee who has a problem, a variety of counseling approaches/ techniques are used. All of these counseling approaches, however, depend on active listening. Sometimes the mere furnishing of information or advice may be the solution to what at first appeared to be a problem. More frequently, however, the problem cannot be solved easily because of frustrations or conflicts that are accompanied by strong feelings such as fear, confusion, or hostility. A manager, therefore, needs to learn to use whatever approach appears to be suitable at the time. Flexibility is a key component of the employee counseling process.

 

Directive Counselling centers on the counselor. It is the process of listening to an employee’s problem, deciding with the employee what should be done and telling and motivating the employee to do it. This type of counseling mostly does the function of advice, reassurance and communication. It may also perform other functions of counseling. But directive counselling seldom succeeds, as people do not wish to take up advice normally, no matter how good it might be.

 

Non-directive Counseling is where; the employee is permitted to have maximum freedom in determining the course of the interview. It is the process of skillfully listening and encouraging a counselee to explain troublesome problems, understand them and determine appropriate solutions. Fundamentally, the approach is to listen, with understanding and without criticism or appraisal, to the problem as it is described by the employee. The employee is encouraged, through the manager’s attitude and reaction to what is said or not said, to express feelings without fear of shame, embarrassment, or reprisal. The free expression that is encouraged in the non-directive approach tends to reduce tensions and frustrations. The employee who has had an opportunity to release pent-up feelings is usually in a better position to view the problem more objectively and with a problem-solving attitude. Non-directive counseling works best for more complicated performance issues such as personal conflicts, communication difficulties or changes in behavior caused by problems outside work. The unique advantage of this type of counselling is its ability to cause the employees reorientation. The main stress is to ‘change’ the person instead of dealing with his immediate problem only.

 

Cooperative/ participative Counselling is the process in which both the counselor and client mutually cooperate to solve the problems of the client. It is neither wholly client centered nor wholly counselor centered but it is centers both counselor and client equally. It is defined as mutual discussion of an employee’s emotional problem to set up conditions and plans of actions that will remedy it. This is because the Counselor and counselee mutually apply their different knowledge, perceptions, skills, perspectives and values to problem into the problems and find solutions. This form of counselling appears to be more suitable to managerial attitude and temperament in our country.

 

Among the three from of counselling, the advice offered in directive counseling considers the surface crises; the nondirective counselling goes to the underlying cause, the real crisis that leads the employee to understand his problem. It is thus suggested that nondirective to counselling is, probably, the best among the three forms.

 

Methods of Employee Counseling

Effectiveness of counselling largely depends on the methods and techniques as well as the skills used by the counselor. Methods and techniques of counseling change from person to person and from situation to situation. Every counselor must concentrate his full attention on two aspects viz., using of assessment tools, and utilizing counselling methods, choice of which differs from person to person, situation to situation, and from case to case. Normally employee counseling involves the following methods:

a)Desensitization

According to Desensitization, once an individual is shocked in a particular situation, he gives himself no chance for the situation to recur. This method can be used to overcome avoidance reactions, so as to improve the emotional weak spots. If an employee is once shocked by the behavior, approach or action of his superior, he would continue to avoid that superior. It is difficult for such superiors to be effective counselors, unless such superiors prove otherwise through their behavior or action on the contrary. Similarly, once an employee is shocked by a particular situation, he can be brought back to that situation only if he will be convinced through desensitization that the shock will not to take place further. Counselor can make use of desensitization in such situations.

  1. b) Catharsis

Discharge of emotional tensions can be called catharsis. Emotional tensions can be discharged by talking them out or by relieving of the painful experience which engendered them. It is an important technique as a means of reducing the tensions associated with anxiety, fear, hostility, or guilt. Catharsis helps to gain insight into the ways an emotional trauma has been affecting the behavior.

  1. c) Insight

With the help of insight one may find that he has devalued himself unnecessarily, or his aspirations were unrealistic, or that his childish interpretation of an event was inaccurate. Then he can overcome his weakness.

  1. d) Developing the new patterns

Developing new patterns becomes very often necessary when other methods to deal with weak spots remain ineffective. In order to develop new, more satisfying emotional reactions, the individual needs to expose himself to situations where he can experience positive feelings. The manager who deals with such individuals may motivate or instigate them to put themselves into such situations, so that their self-confidence may increase.

7.3 Considerations in Counseling Programme

The basic requisites of employee counselling are:

  • Employee Counselling needs to be tackled carefully, both on the part of the organisation and the counselor. The counselling can turn into a sensitive series of events for the employee and the organisation; therefore, the counselor should be either a professional or an experienced, mature employee.
  • The counselor should be flexible in his approach and a patient listener. He should have the warmth required to win the trust of the employee so that he can share his thoughts and problems with him without any inhibitions.
  • Active and effective listening is one of the most important aspects of the employee counselling.
  • Time should not be a constraint in the process.
  • The counselor should be able to identify the problem and offer concrete advice.
  • The counselor should be able to help the employee to boost the morale and spirit of the employee, create a positive outlook and help him take decisions to deal with the problem.

 

Counselling Guidelines

While conducting a counselling session remember to always:

  • Demonstrate professionalism and maintain rapport throughout the session;
  • Convey to the client that his or her confidentiality will be strictly protected;
  • Speak with the client at his or her level of understanding;
  • Conduct an interactive session focused on risk reduction (i.e. both the counsellor and the client contribute to the discussion);
  • Clarify important misconceptions but avoid extended talk on issues not related to risk;
  • Stay organized and avoid counselling outside the protocol’s structure;
  • Know that it is all right to tell the client you will be covering something later;
  • Avoid collecting data about the client during the counselling session.

 

7.4 Qualities of a Counselor

A counsellor is a person trained in the skills of: listening to the client present with issues that are of concern to them; asking supportive questions pertaining to those issues; discussing options the client comes up, with as possible coping strategies; and Encouraging the client to make their own informed decisions, giving practical information and planning follow-up. For the counselling process to succeed, the counsellor has to demonstrate the following qualities: high levels of maturity and Understanding, thorough knowledge and experience; assurance of absolute confidentiality; accurate listening and Acceptance.

 

These Counselling skills can be broadly classified into two, namely, attending and responding skills.  Attending skills are those that indicate that the counsellor is actually paying attention to the client.  Responding skills are those demonstrated by the counsellor as they communicate back to the patient. These skills are important as they assist in confirming to the client that they have the full attention of the counsellor. They are also useful for the counsellor when practised appropriately, as they help to move the session along in a meaningful manner, with both parties fully understanding what each means when they say what they say. Examples of Attending and responding skills are: Social skill; physically attending skills; Observing and Listening. Responding skills include: Questioning; paraphrasing and Summarising.

a) Attending Skills

     i) Social Skills

These social skills include greeting people nicely, introducing yourself to the client and allowing the client to introduce themselves to you (mutual self-introduction),  politeness and kindness. Politeness skills are the expression of one’s sensitivity to the feelings and opinions of others, of one’s gratitude to others and of one’s respect for others.    Kindness skills involve having good wishes for others and the readiness to do something for others. Social skills assist to generate trust by showing that one is genuinely interested in the other and is a way of acknowledging other people and what they want to say.

    ii) Physically Attending Skills

Physically attending skills are demonstrated by the following: Sitting position: Sit facing the client in an appropriate position (Be aware of the clients culture and what she may expect of you);Posture: Position yourself in a way that shows interest in the client; Making eye contact if the client feels comfortable; Eliminating any distracting behaviour such as yawning, looking at the wristwatch, narrowing the eyes, raising the eyebrows, harsh tone of voice, suddenly leaning forward, shuffling papers, or turning body away.

iii) Observing

Observing skills are the counsellor’s ability to see the client’s behaviour and pick up non-verbal messages in order to understand experiences.  Observation can be from three points of view: Physical: e.g. body build, physical appearance, level of energy (that is whether client looks fatigued, happy, etc); Emotional: e.g. facial expression, posture, grooming; and Interpersonal: e.g. how they relate to you: positively, negatively, neutrally.

  1. iv) Listening Skills

Active listening is the active process of paying undivided attention to what the client is saying and “what they are not saying”. Active listening helps establish rapport, trust, and bridges differences; it helps clients disclose their feelings; it helps gather information and create a base of influence; it helps clients assume responsibility. People want the presence of the other person not only the physical presence, but also their presence psychologically, socially and emotionally. Listening is an important part of effective communication and takes place at two levels namely the level of content or words and the level of feeling.

  1. v) Reflecting feelings

This involves understanding a client’s emotional responses and communicating this back to him or her.

 

b) Responding Skills

  1. i) Questioning

The type of questions used determine how the session progresses.  This is because they can solicit answers that are brief, accurate, informative, misleading or vague. There are two types of questions that can be used: Close-ended Questions and open ended questions. Closed-ended questions solicit a “Yes” or “No” answer. These kinds of questions do not encourage the person being counselled to talk more. Open-ended questions allow the patient to express as much information as he feels is necessary when answering a question.  These questions usually have: who, why, where, what, when, can and how at the beginning.

  1. ii) Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Summaries are brief statements which bring together the key points from a counselling session.  The purpose of summarizing is to help ensure that the counsellor and client understand each other correctly.  The counsellor should review the important points of the discussion and highlight any decisions made. Summarizing should be used through out the counselling session, not only at the end.  Offer support and encouragement to clients to help them carry out the decisions they have made.  Paraphrasing involves restating something that a client has said using different words in order to make clear what the client is saying.

Common Counselling Mistakes

The principles of counselling are easy to learn but difficult to apply and service providers can easily make mistakes, such as the following:

  • Controlling rather than encouraging the client’s spontaneous expression of feelings and needs;
  • Judging, as shown by statements that indicate that the client does not meet the service provider’s standards;
  • Moralizing, preaching, and patronizing i.e. telling people how they should behave or lead their lives;
  • Labelling, rather than finding out the person’s motivations, fears and anxieties;
  • Reassuring unwarrantedly i.e. trying to induce undue optimism by making light of the client’s own version of a problem;
  • Not accepting the client’s feelings by saying that they should be different;
  • Advising, before the client has had enough information or time to arrive at a personal solution.
  • Interrogating e.g. using questions in an accusatory way; ‘why’ questions may sound accusatory.

7.5Employee Behavior That May Give Rise to Need for Counseling

Apart from their personal problems, there are various reasons which can create stress for the employees at the workplace like unrealistic targets or work-load, constant pressure to meet the deadlines, career problems, responsibility and accountability, conflicts or bad inter-personal relations with superiors and subordinates, problems in adjusting to the organizational culture. Counselling helps the employee to share and look at his problems from a new perspective, help himself and to face and deal with the problems in a better way. Counselling at workplace is a way of the organisation to care about its employees.

 

Some of the employee conditions that may require counselling are:

  • Anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional problems and disorders
  • Family and relationship issues
  • Substance abuse and other addictions
  • Sexual abuse and domestic violence
  • Absenteeism
  • Career change and job stress
  • Social and emotional difficulties related to disability and illness
  • Adopting to life transitions
  • The death of a loved one
  • Appropriate referrals after assessment.

7.6 Review Questions

1. Define the term counselling

2. Explain three methods used in employee counselling

3. Explain the role of employee counselling in an organization

4. Distinguish between directive and cooperative counselling

5. List five qualities of a good counsellor

6. Briefly explain the employee counselling process

 

References

1.Armstrong,M.,(2006), A Handbook of Human Resource Practice (10th Ed),Koganpage.London

  1. Dessler& Cole (2011), Human Resources Management in Canada (11th Ed) Pearson Canada Inc.

3.Hackney and Cormier (2005), The Professional Counselor, Boston. Pearson

4.Joshi, M.,(2013),Human Resource Management (1st Ed), Manmohan. Bookboon.co 

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