what to do when you’re put on a performance improvement plan

by Ask a Manager on May 24, 2013

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A reader writes:

Yesterday, I was put on a month-long performance improvement plan. I have made some mistakes, and let things fall through the cracks. I take responsibility for them, and the plan is mostly centered on proving I can be dependable. I agree that there are things I need to change and get better at, and I am willing to work really hard to prove that to my boss.

I’ve only had one other job after college, and it was in a TV newsroom. The skills I’m working on/learning are related to following through with each task before moving onto the next one, and getting my tasks done completely, even if I don’t get everything I need to done each day. In a newsroom, this isn’t possible. Getting everything done (even with a few mistakes) is more important than completing whole, finished, and correct tasks over a longer period of time.

Overall, I’m nervous, because I’ve never been in this situation before. I know what my expectations are for the plan, but I really don’t know what else to do. Should I start looking for another job, in case I don’t improve enough in the next month? Should I focus all of my attention on getting better, and start a job search only if it doesn’t work out? I really think I CAN improve, but again, I’ve never been here before, and am scared about not being in control of the situation. I don’t want to leave my job, both because I’ve only been there since October, and because I want to prove I can do it, move through issues, and really take control and ownership of my assignments.

Okay, here’s the deal with performance improvement plans: They are indeed very often the last thing that happens before you’re let go. In theory, if you meet the terms of the plan, you’ll preserve your job and be able to move forward, but in practice, by the time you’re on one, it’s often because things aren’t working out and aren’t likely to.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean that PIPs never end in success. Sometimes they do. But because they so often don’t, it’s smart to be job-searching meanwhile, because they’re so very much the writing on the wall giving you a warning that you might lose your job at the end of the process. (However, don’t let your job search interfere with your focus on work. If you have to pick between the two, choose work if that’s likely to make the difference between meeting the terms of the PIP and not meeting them.)

Meanwhile, take the PIP very, very literally. If it says that you need to do A, B, and C, you must do A, B, and C to the letter, precisely as described. You can also check in and ask your boss for feedback earlier than the PIP’s end point if you think that would help. And showing that you’re genuinely concerned and want to improve is important.

Also, have you told your boss what you wrote here about having previously worked in an environment where getting everything done, even with mistakes, was more important than getting everything correct? If not, it might be useful to give her that context, so that she understands that this has been — at least in part — about needing to re-learn work habits that were different somewhere else, and not about a plain old inability to produce error-free work. Don’t say it as an excuse, because it’s not one, but you could say it as context for why you were having trouble earlier.

Do your best, make it clear you’re taking it seriously, and prepare for the worst but hope that you won’t need it. Good luck!

{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

ExceptionToTheRule May 24, 2013 at 1:01 pm

After almost 20 years in the business, I can say that most TV newsrooms allow for both behavior and performance that would get people fired in 5 minutes at “normal” jobs, primarily because they’re also asking for people to meet deadlines that just aren’t humanly possible. The upside is, when you went home, your job was done and the next day was something fresh and new. You couldn’t leave anything on your desk.

You can’t think like that anymore. Keep reminding yourself that your deadline isn’t immediate and definitely talk to your supervisor about how to overcome that type of ingrained mindset that we have that all the work has to be off your desk at the end of the day.

Good luck.

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pidgeonpenelope May 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I was on a PIP and it ended quite successfully for me. So much so that my supervisors trusted in me much more. If an issue was addressed with me, they trusted I would resolve it. I made my PIP end successfully by doing precisely A, B, and C and by doing so with a positive attitude and owning my mistakes.

I had seen other coworkers get let go after a PIP and from my observations, this was because they had a negative attitude. They would go around talking to the rest of us blaming the bosses for it and coming up with excuses.

So… have a positive attitude and own it while making the changes. You should come out well.

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BEENTHERE May 24, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I was on a PIP and it ended successfully. I truly now an owning my job and have become very proficient at it. It was a wake up call for me as I am very used to being the go-to person. I too stepped into a ‘different’ situation. Look at it as a chance to not to improve your past skills but to add to them. This way you know two sides of employment cultures. Yes, do everything you manager wants you to do per the PIP. I even wrote up a counter PIP and told her what “I” was going to do to improve. I met with my manager every 2 days and asked for advice and more improvement ideas. I am stil working here 2 years later. Good luck and PRAY! and I will too for you.

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Kethryvis May 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Okay i have a question. At the end, AAM says “don’t use this as an excuse, use it to give context.” What’s the difference between an “excuse” and “context”? I’ve had situations where i offered up context for why something went wrong, and was told to “stop making up excuses.”

Where’s the line?

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LisaLyn May 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I would love to hear AAM’s take on this! I’ve often wondered about this myself.

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Ask a Manager May 24, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I’d say an excuse means you’re saying “it’s not a big deal that I did this because of (excuse), and so you shouldn’t hold it against me.”

Context is an explanation for what happened that lacks any of the above. Unlike the above, you’re acknowledging that it wasn’t okay, shouldn’t have happened, and needs to not continue happening.

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Kethryvis May 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

i can see the difference, but i have to wonder if it’s more subjective than anything. If someone already has a negative opinion of you, context can very quickly sound like an excuse. And if you already have a positive view, then an excuse can look like context.

The only way to win is not to play? (that seems to be the theme of my week!)

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Ask a Manager May 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm

So much of it is tone. If you’re aware that it’s important not to be perceived as excusing it, and you pick your tone and framing with that in mind, it often comes across quite differently.

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Jessa May 24, 2013 at 9:27 pm

It’s so about tone, yes. There’s a difference between something slightly whingey like “Well that’s what we did at my old job” and “you know, until you actually mentioned all of this I didn’t realise that this new job had these particular priorities, my only other job was so different, well I will totally be paying attention to this now. I am so sorry.”

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Brooke May 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I think that it depends on your personality. I am much more inclined to listen to “context” when it’s coming from someone who, as Alison said, usually owns their mistakes. However, on the flip side, if you are an employee who consistently feels the need to give “context” every time something is brought to your attention, I’m more inclined to believe you are offering me an excuse. I currently manage a group of people of which one constantly feels as though she has to give a “reason” as to why she made X mistake. As soon as I hear, “Well, let me explain..” I will admit that I shut down because I have heard it from her one too many times.

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Brooke May 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm

And now that I think about it, the employees that probably would have reasonable context to explain are the ones that won’t offer the context. They just own their mistakes and promise to improve.

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Ruffingit May 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Just curious if you’ve ever said to the employee “No need for an explanation, please fix the problem.” I am sure you have. Some people just can’t stop themselves from explaining. I agree with you that those who don’t offer up context or an explanation are usually the ones who just own it and fix the problem.

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Brooke May 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I don’t tell them what they did incorrectly and follow it immediately by, “No need for an explanation…” but actually, just last week, I was going over things that needed to be corrected with a couple of the employees and one of them had stopped me twice to say, “Yeah, that was me and let me tell you why I did it that way…I just want to explain…” and I let it go the first two times, but the third time, she went to speak, I stopped her and said (as matter-of-factly as possible), “If this is a reason or an excuse as to why you did this, I really don’t need to hear it.” She put her hands back in her lap and just said “Ok” and I continued on with what I was saying.

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fposte May 24, 2013 at 4:09 pm

And honestly, those people who can’t stop themselves from explaining need to learn to stop themselves. That’s not an effective use of people’s time and attention when there’s a mistake to be fixed.

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Ruffingit May 24, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Absolutely agreed fposte! There may be a difference between context and excuse, but in my 20+ years in the working world, I’ve found that in general people aren’t interested in either of those things, they just want the problem taken care of.

April December 11, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Ruffingit, maybe it’s just how I think and other people’s brains work differently, but how can you figure out how to fix a problem without first considering why it happened? When I approach a problem I first ask (mentally) “Why did this happen?” and then “What can I do to change that?” I’ll bet some people who appear to be overexplaining/giving excuses are actually thinking out loud the mental steps needed to find a solution. They are doing it out loud so that you a) know they are actually thinking/trying to solve problem (too many people interpret silence as stolidity) and b) so that you have opportunity to give feedback on their thoughts/plans because they don’t want to go off on the wrong track again.

fposte May 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I think it’s usually clearer than that, though. This post is a slightly greyer context than most, in that the context doesn’t contribute to preventing the mistake from happening again, so it’s dependent on a manager who really wants to understand and help the employee succeed. Most of the time context helps identify a weakness in the process that’s worth examining, so it can come up as part of the resolution.

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Tinker May 24, 2013 at 5:44 pm

I do think that, like all communication, it depends on how it’s received, and some of that is dependent on the preferences of the recipient. Some people have a very broad definition of “excuse”, and if you know this is the case for someone, the best approach is obvious.

Outside of that case, I think I favor providing context with the stuffed and mounted corpse of the problem. That way your commitment to the solution is evident and you’re more likely correct about the actual cause.

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Jennifer May 24, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Beats me. I have gotten In Trouble for explaining why I did something when all they wanted me to do was shut up and obey. I don’t think they actually want to know why or that you are trying to stand up for yourself or justify it or something.

Many yonks ago, I got a call for a job interview 2 days after I’d been very unexpectedly dumped, and I was still moping around the house devastated. I did not answer the phone with vim and vigor, if you know what I mean. Two years later when I’m about to get the boot myself, partly because she just doesn’t like my voice, she brings it up again. I had demurred as to why I was not answering the phone in a sparkling manner for years, but finally I just said, “I had JUST gotten dumped two days ago. I had forgotten about job hunting altogether at that time.” That’s about the only time I didn’t get In Trouble for explaining why I did something–and I still got canned anyway, so what can you do.

In this case, job hunt. It’s rare that one saves their job once they go on a PIP plan. I have one friend who did it, but she still ended up getting another job a few months later anyway.

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Ask a Manager May 24, 2013 at 1:26 pm

But you’re dealing with a crazy person in that situation. Because only a crazy person brings up two years later how you answered the phone when you weren’t even working for them.

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Legal Eagle May 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Agreed!

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nyxalinth May 24, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I had a similar thing, except my room mate had answered and sounded less than happy about it because she thought the guy was a telemarketer. He was calling me for an interview, and I got told off about my “rude room mate”. (She wasn’t rude, just using her stern “I don’t wish to be bothered by telemarketers” tone). I didn’t get the job, but I figure I dodged a bullet that day. She was far from rude, but some people think you’re rude unless your voice drips sugar and sycophancy, and I figure he was one of them.

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KellyK May 24, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I think that’s going to be really subjective, but for me, the difference between “context” and “excuse” is whether you expect to be let off the hook or not.

To make it clear that it’s not an excuse, I would point out that you know your previous background doesn’t excuse the mistakes you’re making, and that you’re working on shifting out of that “deadline is the biggest priority” mindset.

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Jamie May 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm

A lot of it is tone which is impossible for me to convey in type, but I know it when I hear it (both in myself and others).

Giving context is still owning your mistake, but giving a little back story about why it happened because since you know why it happened you are using they knowledge to make sure it doesn’t happen going forward.

Case in point – When I was brand new on this job I had come from a VERY micromanaging horrible boss. I mean every freaking comma (even when they should have been semi-colons) had to be approved. So when I got here I was sending emails asking for permission to order flash drives. Or a length of cable. By the end of week one he had emailed me begging me to just get what I need and “if it’s over 10k we’ll talk…” and basically crying for mercy so I’d stop the email bombs. A little explanation of the rules from my previous regime and he understood that it wasn’t my own insecurities, I was just erring on the side of caution till I got the lay of the land.

Explanation =/= excuse and you can tell when you hear it.

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fposte May 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

It also depends on what comes out first in response to “There’s a big wrong thing here.” The first thing should be “You’re right, that shouldn’t have happened. Here’s what I’ll do to fix it.” If instead you respond with “Here’s why,” that’s an excuse *then* even if it would be contextualizing later, because it’s ducking the key responsible parts about 1) acknowledging that it’s a bad thing and 2) prioritizing the repair over the defense.

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Jamie May 24, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Right. You have to own it first or the conversation is dismissed as being an excuse or diverting blame.

It’s not much talked about, but by owning your own mistakes you can’t help but gain credibility. If you have a reputation for holding yourself accountable you will get the benefit of the doubt when you need it. It’s not a glamorous way to climb the ladder, but it’s huge.

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pidgeonpenelope May 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Agreed. I even would do this voluntarily if I noticed I was making a big mistake. Lets say I was late twice in the same week (I’m not salaried). I would email my boss and say that I recognize I was late twice and I know it’s not ok. I would then offer up my plan to make this not happen again. Then, I would implement said plan and not come in late again. My boss loves that because she doesn’t have to bring things up. If by chance she did, she knew I would own it and fix it.

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NatalieR May 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I’ve framed it before as “In thinking about the issues we discussed, I realized that X is at the root of the problem. Do you have any ideas how I can transition from my former mindset/environment to something that suits your needs (or the office’s) better?” I think that sets it up as something you are looking to address rather than an excuse for your behavior.

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LisaLyn May 24, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I agree that the PIP is a last ditch sort of deal. Both parties have to have the right attitude in order for it to be successful. OP, it sounds as though you have a very good attitude and it sounds as though you are doing everything you can to make this successful, so as long as you continue with that, it may work out. That is, as long as your employer is still open to the idea that you can make the improvements that they feel need to be made.

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Greg May 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm

The other thing I would add is to try to get a sense of how your boss really feels about you, along with any broader issues going on at your company. It matters whether your boss is genuinely pulling for you, or if they’ve already crossed you off in their mind. Or whether they’re under pressure from their boss to make cuts.

As Alison said, none of this should affect how hard you’re willing to work while you’re still there (if for no other reason than doing a good job will help rebuild your self-confidence), but it might give you a more realistic sense of what to expect, and possibly motivate you to kick the job search into high gear.

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KarenT May 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm

The other thing I would add is to try to get a sense of how your boss really feels about you, along with any broader issues going on at your company. It matters whether your boss is genuinely pulling for you, or if they’ve already crossed you off in their mind

This is very, very true. I’ve seen managers use PIPs as the final nail in the coffin, and I’ve seen managers genuinely give an employee a chance to turn things around.

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AMG May 24, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I agree with all of the previous comments. I have put people on PIPs and genuinely cared and wanted them to improve. As soon as I started getting attitude and snide remarks, I just wanted them gone ASAP even though they were trying to improve their job task performance. Be positive and do the work as outlined.

I’ve made lots of mistakes so I can assure you there is such a thing as a second chance.

Let us know how it goes!

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Bryce May 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Many organizations make a PIP part of their policies and procedures for dealing with performance issues. I am NOT a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I’d sat that the reason why is because PIPs are a way for organizations to cover their assets when it comes to wrongful termination suits and unemployment claims. In other words, doing a PIP means “we gave the employee ample warning and a chance to improve” in the eyes of the law.

That said, I’d make sure I went above and beyond to abide by the terms of your PIP, such as checking in as often as possible and showing your concern and willingness to improve.

I’d also take some not-so labor-intensive “baby steps” to build my ark before it starts raining, so to speak, such as updating my resume and my LinkedIn profile, securing some good references, and scoping out some job listings.

If you feel that things wouldn’t work out for whatever reason, it may make sense to say to your boss, “I’m willing to work with you to make this work, but my gut says that this position isn’t the right fit for me. Might it make sense for us to talk about the possibility of a transition out that meets both our needs?” Keep in mind that this may be a risky approach, because it could be taken to mean you’re quitting, which could make you ineligible for unemployment benefits, plus you could be made to leave right then and there.

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De Minimis May 24, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I don’t think a PIP would protect again unemployment claims in most states, but then again, I’m not a lawyer either. It could if it demonstrated that the person was deliberately underperforming tasks that they had satisfactorily performed in the past. But usually newbies that don’t make it usually have a pretty good shot at collecting unemployment even if they’re fired. Of course, these days, unemployment does not last a person through long-term joblessness the way it did a few years ago either.

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Anonymous May 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm

A PIP is a chance to get better, but it’s not exactly ample warning, especially when served up with a heaping side of denial that the person’s job is actually in jeopardy. This is what bothers me about employers, I’ve dealt with a couple that would tell me something needed to improve, but weren’t straightforward about the stakes. I know I shouldn’t need to be threatened with termination to improve, but if my job is legitimately on the line you need to actually tell me, not say “there will be consequences” with a creepy smile.

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AmThere May 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm

What if the PIP doesn’t have an end date? And if there’s no formalized (& regular) reviews on progress other than annual evaluation? Is it just a slap on the wrist with confidence I’ll improve?

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Ask a Manager May 24, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Does it say anything about consequences? If not, that’s a pretty poorly written PIP. The point is to say XYZ must happen or you’ll be let go.

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AmThere May 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Hah, I’m in a right to work state. It just reminded me of that fact.

It’s been a year and 2 months since the PIP and we’ve yet to sit down and point by point, review my progress on each area of improvement.

The worst thing? I got in trouble for getting upset about these kinds of things and pointing them out. See #4 on your 3/11 post – thanks for replying btw.

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Ask a Manager May 24, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Just to clarify, “right to work” actually means that you can’t be forced to join a union, so it’s probably not relevant here!

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AmThere May 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm

From experience when I used to be a supervisor at the same company, they used the guise of a PIP to fire decent employees that were low performers at a time when layoffs were necessary (because of the downturn). I’m guessing this was the case for me.

Not sure if there are any legality issues there, especially under “at will” employment.

Oh well, positive attitude has been working for me great so far. I just find all the background stuff (reasoning, proper process, etc) interesting.

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Ask a Manager May 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm

“decent employees that were low performers” is sort of a contradiction though. If you’re a low performer, you should be let go if you can’t improve, whether layoffs are going on or not.

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AmThere May 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm

There was a shortage of people in this knowledge area and they were willing to pay for a lower performer for a time….and then the time came to end that relationship after they didn’t improve.

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fposte May 24, 2013 at 3:54 pm

It does sound like that was more of a warning than a PIP, whatever they chose to call it. And if they haven’t done anything about it in over a year, it’s not a stealth route to getting rid of you, either. Keep your attitude positive, as you say you are, but since you really don’t seem to like them much I’d recommend starting to hunt for a new position while employed. (Wow, I almost never tell people to look for a new job and I’ve done it twice today.)

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AmThere May 24, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I have been looking, applying, interviewing, etc. Tough part was my bitter attitude about things for quite a while and it affected my interviews.

Doing my best to turn things around now. I made amends with my manager and HR, apologizing for past mistakes – which I admit that there were some. I do have great ideas – hopefully they’ll trust me in the future to seek them out. If not, some other company will eventually pair up with me to do awesome stuff.

Thanks for the guidance.

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fposte May 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Tough to call from here, but that could certainly be it. It sounds more like what most workplaces would call a warning rather than a PIP, since the last P is, you know, the Plan.

It might be effective for you to take some initiative and make it into a plan yourself, as pidgeonpenelope reports doing upthread. If you think management would consider it useful, that initiative could include requesting a meeting to discuss your progress on meeting expectations after, say, 60 days, and you could bring your documentation of your improved performance. That’s a bit of an “it depends”–if your boss really just wanted to say “Dude, you can’t be late any more” and stop thinking about it she may not want to see a spreadsheet of your arrival times, so you’re going to want to take a read on whether your workplace would welcome that.

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excruiter May 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm

A PIP with clearly defined goals and issues can really be a great tool. Even if you cannot make it work at your current position, take the (legitimate) feedback to heart. It can help you avoid the same mistakes at a new job.

I received what should have been a PIP but was instead a vague warning at a previous job. It did not work out in my favor but I have taken the information I was able to decipher as a way to improve myself. In my case, it was an attitude issue stemming from an overly negative, unsupportive, unsatisfying work environment. Had I not given in to wearing my anger and despair to work, I could have avoided the termination while searching hard for another job. I have since made it a point to avoid expressing any unhappiness at work unless I am willing to actively campaign for a solution.

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Anonymous May 24, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Agree that PIPs are often used as a way to ease you out the door because you are not well liked or are even very disliked.

The surrounding environment should give you that clue, and how it is presented to you. I fought with a supervisor on a point of ethics and was shortly afterwards presented with a PIP based on my “extreme incompetence.” The supervisor was rude, insulting and told me she wanted me gone so – really she did me a favor by being so honest altho it was clear enough what was going on.

If someone wants to help you they will, if they don’t want you to be successful they will help you to fail.

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Anonymous May 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Oh my god, are you me?? Haha, I was let go from a recruiting position too, for being obviously unhappy with my manager. It was a PIP, but a really vague and, honestly, not a well handled one.

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SB May 24, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I have to put an employee on a performance improvement plan in a couple of weeks. I don’t have high hopes that they’ll improve, but rather realize that the industry isn’t a great fit for them. Also, the things that have to be improved upon are really major – think like “remembering things that we teach you” and “writing grammatically correct emails.” We’ve been talking about these improvements for months, so hopefully they’ve seen it coming.

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Elizabeth West May 24, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I got put on one at OldJob. Yes, it was my fault–my attitude. I had trouble getting what I needed to do my job and I let it be known in a not-so-nice way. What I should have done was just shrugged and did what I could.

The thing was, I thought about the PIP and decided I would do the improvements for myself, not for them. I had already given up on the job, but damned if they were going to fire me because I screwed up. So I made a real effort, and in 30 days, was told how much of a pleasure I was to work with and let off the plan. And I started looking around for something else.

When I was laid off in January (they eliminated my and another person’s position–there have since been several layoffs there), they assured me that it had nothing to do with my performance, which had been 100% better. So even though it didn’t have a good ending, I felt that I had done the best I could to make things right, even if they didn’t retain me. And I could call it a layoff, and even got six week’s severance at full salary.

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KarenT May 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm

It sounds like you handled your PIP really well, and that you turned a negative situation into a positive one. Definitely the best thing you could have done for yourself and I’m sure it drastically changed the type of reference they will be giving you!

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Elizabeth West May 24, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Thank you. They had a policy that they didn’t give references, but at least I knew they wouldn’t say anything negative off the record. And if I HAD gotten fired, there’s no way I would have gotten severance. That really helped, since it took me a year to find NewJob, which I didn’t get until the very end of the last tier of emergency unemployment extensions. 0_0

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Risa May 24, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I just completed a PIP with an employee that I think has a happy ending. I had a supervisor who works for me who was really struggling to complete her work by the deadlines. She went on a PIP that very clearly spelled out what items were due and when they were due over the next 30 days. The easier ones she completed with no problems, but she was continuing to struggle with tasks that required judgement and/or a higher level of organization. It was getting to the end of the 30 days, and I was contemplating how I was going to deal with dismissing her. I sat down with her one last time and asked her point blank if she felt like she was still capable of handling a supervisory role in our department.

Turns out that she was still struggling with grief from the loss of her father last summer, and now her mother was in the hospital with kidney failure. She’s the family decision maker at home, and the one who the responsibility of care was really falling on. So when she was coming into work, she just couldn’t function at a high enough level to be a supervisor making decisions in the department.

Once she started talking to me and telling me what was actually going on, I had options to work with her. In the end, we reduced her role in the department. A win for me, because I could retain a long-term employee. A win for her, because she kept her job, and alleviated some of the stress in her work life so that she could focus on home.

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Elizabeth West May 24, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Yay!
Not yay about her situation; but yay that you managed to work things out favorably for both of you.

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Joey May 24, 2013 at 11:49 pm

What to do?

In your case I would say it depends heavily on the size of the performance gap. Big gap=your chances of being fired are pretty strong.

I’m not sure providing “context” won’t come off as an excuse. Didn’t you have to follow through and fully complete tasks to get your degree? I mean, I know there’s a lot to learn when you’re fairly new to the work world, but following through is not something most employers expect to teach.

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Mike August 5, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I was placed on a PIP the end of March with a deadline for satisfaction 5/15. The biggest point of the performance “flaw” was pulled as an expectation shortly afterward, but the PIP remained. I think I fulfilled the remaining requirements, but I was not given any feedback. My manager left shortly after the end of the PIP and my new manager told me they were extending the PIP and re-writing it. That was over a month ago and I have only been told it is still in process, but because I’m still under it I will not be receiving the pay increase other employees will be receiving.

Is it really possible to successfully contest one of these? I am looking for another job, but I like what I do.

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Greg August 5, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Not sure what you mean by “contest”. Do you mean have your PIP status removed? It’s possible, but as I said upthread, it’s as much about management’s motivation as it is your performance. Just guessing, but in your case it may be a situation where they’re trying to figure out why your previous boss put you on one, and whether it’s something they need to worry about.

Are you still in touch with your old manager? You could try reaching out to her and finding out what info she passed along before leaving. But yeah, you may just need to find something else. However management may feel about you, it’s not like they’re going out of their way to keep you.

Also, I’m sure you know this, but for God’s sake, don’t tell any prospective employers that you’re leaving because you were put on a PIP. Come up with another reason that doesn’t reflect negatively on you. That’s the benefit of looking while you’re still employed.

Good luck!

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frank richard August 11, 2013 at 12:28 am

New supervisor cornered me one day with a “performance improvement plan”. The justification included nothing more than personality characteristics he found out of line with the work group. Personality characteristics discussed previously with a conclusion a promotion to a better fit supervisor was the better option given the high performance ratings. And once again the terms Aspergers and ADA were discussed in details and once again HR sat with a deer in the headlights look. And once again I asked the supervisor how he expected me to “improve” personality characteristics associated with a disability? The same justifications were used for a low rating on a performance review the next week. The issue is now in the hands of the EEOC. I fault HR as the supervisor was too new to evaluate staff or to understand the consequences. I fault the supervisor for the bully tactics.

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trevor August 26, 2013 at 3:37 am

I agree with your post

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Beth November 28, 2013 at 9:45 pm

I was put on a PIP for 90 days which concluded last week. My manager has said to me several times she is happy with my improvement and we will get together with HR and discuss. We have a new HR person so things have been a bit hectic and no meeting has taken place. What is the procedure? Do you need formal documentation in your file that you have completed the PIP or does it just go away after the 90 days?

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Red December 12, 2013 at 10:54 pm

When searching for a new job while on a PIP, do you tell prospective employers that you are on a PIP? If so, how do you explain it? There’s a good chance that a new employer could find out, so it seems like you disclose it.

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Greg December 12, 2013 at 11:34 pm

How would they find out? They’re certainly not going to contact your company before they make an offer — if they did that, they’d never be able to recruit anyone who was already employed. And no HR department is going to volunteer that information.

I suppose if you were dumb enough to list the boss who put you on a PIP as a reference, then they might blurt it out. But you certainly shouldn’t volunteer that information.

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bmb February 4, 2014 at 10:54 pm

I was put on a PIP back in October. My manager followed it for the first month until he left the company. I then got a new manager which recently left as well but since my first manager left, I have not been asked to go over a review or anything. My subsequent managers didn’t follow it or anything. NOW they want to start following it again but I hear rumors that they plan on firing me upon completion of the PIP. Is this contestable or worth hiring an attorney for?

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Greg February 4, 2014 at 11:18 pm

I think you should consult a lawyer if you believe there is a specific employment law the company may have violated. But based on your description, I don’t see one. Last I checked, “jerked me around and gave me false hope that I was in the clear” is not illegal in any state.

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PIPer February 13, 2014 at 6:50 am

I was recently placed on a PIP. I take responsibility for the mistake made. However, I feel training was an issue. I am on a 90 day PIP.

I want to put in writing why I feel the PIP was unwarranted. Is there a correct way to go about this? Would this be seen as an excuse?

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Greg February 13, 2014 at 11:40 am

And what do you hope to accomplish by doing that?

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george March 25, 2014 at 7:02 pm

I have just been pu
t on a PIP today. I was told it was to help me with what i am doing. I am juggling not one but 2 positions abd they expect me to be supernan when something needs doing. I know i am been forced out of my job and this is the only way they can do. This company is so family orientated that a superviser who’s Mother is second in command does not stand the ground i walk on and all because i started on the floor and got an opportunity to bettrr myself. She has taking upon herself and her little chain gang to make my life a misrry. There bullies and i won’t let them do it to me. You can’t make a complaint because Mammy won’t hear of anyone making complaints against her daughter. Employees are treated like dirt with this company. All they want is money for there retirement. I am a hard worker and i know some times i might leave a few minor things on the long finger but i get them done. 6 years and no payrise whist the telltailers get bonuses and whatever courses they need for there position. I feel depressed by all of this but i have to motor on for my family. Can i do anything or just get out as fast as i can.

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george March 25, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Sorry about my spelling. Can’t find my glasses

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Mike May 5, 2014 at 10:53 am

Regarding the PIP’s – what do you do when your supervisor hands you a “PIP” that states:
Measurable/Tangible Improvement goals
1. Improve communication skills with coworkers and supervisors

No additional information, except to tell you to write your own PIP, describing how you will accomplish the stated goals?

The month prior to receiving this PIP notice, I received an outstanding performance review from my immediate supervisor. However, this “PIP” came from my supervisor’s supervisor – who seem quite perturbed over the fact that I had received an outstanding performance review.

In researching PIP’s, generally PIP’s are simply a CYA for management, to avoid lawsuits when they dismiss employees without valid reasons. Worse, if an employee is given a VAGUE, highly subjective goal, such as “improve communication” – that’s a clear signal the supervisor wants you out of the organization.

PIP’s need SMART goals. None in the PIP I was handed, and how does one write their own PIP, with SMART goals, over “improve communication”. How does one measure “communication”?

Additionally, HR is supposed to be involved in the process, which they are not in my situation.
Organizations are to offer training, mentoring, etc., in order to assist the employee attain the PIP requirements, but again, nothing in the PIP I received.

Considering that the director of the umbrella organization that oversees my workplace, held a meeting at my workplace with all employees about 1 month ago, stating that my workplace is a “Toxic Work Environment” in desperate need of a culture change, my ultimate goal is to get out of the organization ASAP.

However, as it is easier to find employment when one has employment, rather than when one is unemployed, what do I need to do, right now, in terms of writing a valid PIP?

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Justin July 22, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Mike,
I just got off a PIP that ended badly for me and it was just as vague in the goals. With my now former organization, PIPs are specific to head off legal action. But company politics can override proper action. The plus side is that HR tagged me as eligible for rehire as an end-run around that.

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