Using Body Language to Counsel Employees

28 Fist Bump

When counseling an employee for misconduct, performance issues, or in developing their skills further, there is typically a lot of preparation before the meeting. The manager must think about the employees own strengths, weaknesses, and communication styles and make sure the message is delivered in a clear and concise way that the employee will easily understand.

But how often do we think of the non-verbal comments we make? If were having a particularly stressful conversation, for example, are we presenting ourselves as closed off by crossing our arms? Sometimes our body language can speak even louder than our words do, and it is important for managers to understand the unspoken messages they may be giving to employees.

My own experience in the military helps illustrate the importance of body language in counseling employees. During Officer Candidate School, we were assigned an instructor to help teach us military skills. The class is a huge transformation in a person’s career and is often accompanied by great stress and physical demands.

Our instructor used several nonverbal cues during our training. If he gave you the eye and crossed his arms, it meant you had been caught doing something wrong. Many soldiers would immediately correct their behavior based on that posture alone, with no words ever said.

During instruction, he also used his body language to show engagement. He smiled when students asked questions, encouraging a free flow of knowledge. He stood square with the person asking the question, not once breaking eye contact as they spoke. His lectures were more conversational, lively, and students asked more questions.

The instructor rarely counseled from behind his desk; he preferred to look the person in the eyes and face him or her square on. He stood to greet anyone; a non-verbal cue to open the session. His eye contact was always on the speaker; he nodded his head with intent, giving real-time feedback that the message was understood. His arms were rarely crossed and his facial expression matched the mood of the conversation. If he was presenting good news, his tone was bright. If it was a corrective action, he was calm and deliberate. He always closed each session the same way he opened; standing, firmly shaking the person’s hand, and looking him or her in the eye.

Managers can utilize nonverbal cues like the instructors in their own companies.

  • Eye-contact and focused attention shows the employees that you are engaged in what they’re saying.
  • Avoid crossing your arms during counseling; it can send a message of defensiveness or being closed-off.
  • Match your tone of voice to the conversation at hand and to help guide the tone of the meeting.
  • Above all, convey respect and attentiveness through your actions, whether the counseling is supportive or corrective.

For human resource guidance on counseling your employees, please contact Nextep’s HR team.

Also on Nextep

Find the Best Candidates You may be recruiting new employees to ensure full staffing for the months ahead. Here are 3 ways to find and recruit top talent for your company. 1. Use technology Start with the most straightforward recruiting solution: post an ad online. Today’s online job posting tools go beyond the average resume […]
Read more
Rest Up! For Illinois Workers, ODRISA is Now Law Beginning in 2023, The One Day Rest In Seven Act (ODRISA) allows Illinois employees the right to take one day off in seven, plus breaks during a long workday.  Here’s a breakdown of the basics: Employees must get a minimum of 24 hours of rest every […]
Read more
Starting in 2023, Illinois workers have expanded job-protected bereavement leave under the Family Bereavement Leave Act (FBLA). Let’s dig into the details. FBLA allows eligible employees to take up to 10 work days of unpaid leave following the death of a family member. Specifically, they are allowed time for any of the events covered by […]
Read more
How to Ask the Right Things, Plus 25 Sample Job Interview Questions When searching for the right employee to join your team, job interview questions are essential in narrowing down an employer’s candidate pool and allowing top candidates to showcase their innovation, ideas, and goals.  But sometimes, it’s even more important to consider how you […]
Read more
Asking about criminal history is risky business. Here’s what to do instead. You may be breaking the law if your job application includes a checkbox asking the candidate if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime. Banning this question during the application process, sometimes referred to as “ban the box,” gives people with criminal histories […]
Read more
Your medical leave could qualify for paid time off if you work in Colorado.  We’re familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), allowing qualified employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for themselves or a family member during certain medical or family events. But the FAMLI program takes this coverage […]
Read more
Asking about salary history may be banned in your state. “So, tell me about your salary history at your current job.” It’s a typical job interview question, often used by recruiters to help gauge whether the candidate would be satisfied with the salary offered at their company. Sometimes, though, the question can help them determine […]
Read more
If you don’t have transparent pay, you may be legally obliged to do it soon.   California is the latest of several states to mandate transparent pay in job postings.  When advertising a job vacancy, California businesses with 15 or more employees must now show a salary range that the employee may expect to earn […]
Read more
Regardless of the turnover rate, every company at some point has faced the struggle of employee recruitment. Selecting the right candidate for your workforce is tough, and there are many factors to consider.  The action items below can provide your company with tactics to minimize risk and help ensure you hire the right person to […]
Read more
The new year brings both new resolutions and state minimum wage and tax changes. We’ve compiled what employers need to know to stay compliant and prepare your 2023 budget! Minimum Wage Several states are increasing their minimum wage. As a reminder, when federal and state or local payroll laws differ, the employer must adhere to […]
Read more
How do you handle employee promotions? When promoting one of your star employees to a management or supervisory position, companies should take the time to train and help the manager adjust to their new role.  An employee’s relationship with their immediate supervisor is one of the top five factors in job satisfaction, so a new […]
Read more
It should be no surprise that your employees post on social media or even blog throughout the day ─ maybe even on company time or equipment. And while they may not post on the clock, it’s unlikely that after hours they think their social media or blog posts could have consequences at work. While employers […]
Read more

Download Our App