Job Doc

A surprise PIP, now what?

Pattie Hunt Sinacole shares some feedback on how to respond to a PIP

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Q: After 12 years with my current company, my manager gave me a performance improvement plan.  I was stunned and I had no idea this was coming.  There are very specific requirements in the document.  If I don’t meet these specific requirements, I could be fired.  What is your take?  Does this happen often?  I am angry and afraid.  What do you suggest that I do?

A: A performance improvement plan (PIP) should almost never come as a surprise unless there was something you did that was so concerning and unexpected that a PIP needed to be developed quickly to address the concern.  Typically, a PIP is the step taken after there has been significant counseling and coaching.  In most cases, I would expect a verbal warning to be given before a PIP was issued. 

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In almost every company across the US, managers are addressing performance concerns nearly every day.  Concerns around employee performance range from an employee arriving late to work on a regular basis to an employee embezzling funds from their employer.  Managers are often responsible for the performance of their department, function or business unit.  Often a poorly performing employee hinder the productivity of others. 

This may not apply in your case, but I know of situations where employees are shocked when they have received a PIP, even though there has been considerable discussion around the employee’s performance.  The employee has been counseled, coached, warned, given significant feedback and the employee stills seems surprised when a PIP is presented. 

If I were you, I would read the PIP carefully.  If you feel the document is inaccurate, I would request a meeting with your manager.  I would ensure that you are prepared for the meeting, with a written list of your concerns.  Do your best to maintain a professional demeanor in your day-to-day interactions and during this meeting.  During this meeting, your manager may provide some clarity on expectations, concerns, etc.  You can also write a rebuttal explaining your position regarding the PIP.  However, your memo does not invalidate the PIP. 

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I understand your concerns.  Receiving a PIP is stressful enough, but receiving it unexpectedly is beyond stressful.     

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