Coaching vs. Counseling in the Workplace

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  • 0:03 Workplace Coaching Vs.…
  • 3:00 Role of the Supervisor
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Caroline DaSilva
Coaching and counseling are two popular workplace employee strategies used by organizations today. This lesson describes the differences as well as their commonalities and gives a useful example of the two processes in a real-world setting.

Workplace Coaching vs. Counseling

It is almost impossible not to hear about employee coaching or counseling in today's workplace. The two terms refer to strategies that supervisors can use to help their employees succeed and are often used interchangeably. But are they really just different terms for the same idea? Surprisingly, while the idea of providing support and advice to an employee is common to both, in practice, they are very different. Some of the main differences can best be explained by using an example:

John is a long-time employee who works at a manufacturing plant. He does above average work most of the time, out-performing others on his team with the same experience and qualifications. He has told his supervisor Angel several times that he would like to be promoted to a new position with more responsibility, but he is unsure what skills he will need in order to be ready for a new position. Lately, he's been spending time telling everyone who will listen about his plans, and it has caused his production as well as his team's to drop.

Should his supervisor coach or counsel John? Before you can decide, you need to know more about each of these terms:

  • Coaching is an ongoing developmental process that enables employees to develop whatever skills they need to improve their performance within a constructive environment. Coaching is usually handled by a supervisor who provides support and advice. Coaching helps a person to learn, whether they are high or low performers or somewhere in between.

  • Counseling has a very different tone and purpose. While similar to coaching in that it is a one-on-one activity, coaching comes into play when the employee is having issues or challenges that are affecting their work. These issues could be either personal or professional but are always work-related.

Which do you think John's supervisor should do?

If you said ''both,'' you are absolutely right. John has two identifiable behaviors that will need to be addressed, and each one calls for a different approach. Because John is looking toward advancing in his field, he will need coaching on what steps he will need to take to reach that goal. Setting goals is a key component of job coaching. A popular goal-setting process commonly used in the workplace is SMART (specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, and timed). Coaching usually occurs over the long-term. Angel will coach John toward his goal over time, supporting him as John learns what he needs to move forward.

On the other hand, John has another issue that Angel, his supervisor, will want to resolve. His inappropriate use of his time, as well as that of his coworkers, has meant decreased production for the team. John will need to be counseled about what needs to be changed and how best to go about changing. In John's case, his issues are both personal and professional, and both are adversely affecting his team. It is his supervisor's responsibility to help guide John toward correct action. Angel will need to step in and counsel John about what needs to be done immediately. Counseling usually occurs over the short-term as it functions to change behaviors as soon as possible.

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