Direct and Indirect Counseling

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about counseling:

When do I use indirect and direct forms of counseling with my employees?

Signed, Wondering

Dear Wondering:

Those terms, direct and indirect counseling, are most often used to refer to guidance and mentoring activities at work. If you are helping an employee decide about something or just helping an employee think through a problem or situation, you do direct counseling if you give him or her specific advice. You provide indirect counseling if, through questions and discussion, the employee is encouraged to think through the situation and make a decision.

Direct counseling is appropriate when you think the employee does not have the knowledge, experience or thought processes to be able to analyze a situation and make a well-reasoned decision. In that case, you would want to at least provide very clear guidelines. In that way he or she can make effective decisions, learn from the process, gain confidence, and be more able to decide the next time.Indirect counseling might be best when the employee has the experience and knowledge to make an effective decision, but your help and support will not only improve the quality of the decision, it will also show confidence in the employee.

Having said that, let me mention that the term “counseling” often refers to corrective conversations in which the employee is counseled about behavior or performance and told what is required or needed instead. In those cases, direct counseling is usually best, because otherwise the employee can say he or she didn’t understand what was expected in the future.You could probably find some other Internet sources about this topic. Most often it will be on sites related to career counseling or private therapists and their indirect counseling methods.Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.