“After resigning, must I ‘close out’ a Performance Improvement Plan?”

Question: I tendered my resignation in October, and am serving three months resignation notice before I leave. I have received two Performance Improvement Plans (“PIP’s”) and it is obvious my boss will not let me pass through my second PIP before I leave. If I don’t complete it, it would leave a bad record, he says. 

My colleague, who was put on a PIP, resigned like I did, but left without even touching his PIP. I called him and he said he never heard of a boss asking to close a PIP. 

What am I supposed to do?

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Answer: Dear Balqis: Though I help many, many clients with concerns about Performance Improvement Plans, and many people write in to me with questions about PIP’s, I must admit that I have never heard of the problem you now seem to face. This suggests to me that there is probably something a bit “unique” about your boss, or the circumstances he or she faces. Here are my best thoughts:  

1. In my attempt to gain some understanding of your boss’s perspective, I consulted a veteran HR professional, whose thoughts were interesting. A long-term client and friend, who is a senior HR professional, said that she had never heard of an employee, who had submitted a resignation, being required to complete a PIP before leaving. 

Her thoughts were essentially my thoughts: if the employee is leaving anyway, why go to the trouble of having him or her complete a Performance Improvement Plan? Isn’t the whole idea behind the Performance Improvement Plan to help an employee improve future performance, or face departure? Aren’t both alternatives – improvement or departure – here made unnecessary, irrelevant and moot?  

2. My HR friend did add, though, that she thought it is possible that your boss is being evaluated, himself, in this instance. My HR friend suggested that it is quite possible that your boss, himself, is being evaluated for his ability to be a leader, a mentor, and a teacher. If he cannot get his employees to do a good job, or even to stay in the company, it is very possible he should not have his own job. Thus, he may be under pressure to show he can get you to successfully complete your own PIP. The pressure he is giving you – with no apparent reason – might just reflect that he is under some pressure, a requirement or a certain directive from his  supervisor to complete the assignments given to him, on time, without excuse, and those “assignments” just might include completion of your Performance Improvement Plan. 

3. You might consider asking your boss, in your own way and style, “If I am leaving in a few weeks, anyway, why do you wish that I ‘close out’ my Performance Improvement Plan?” I believe in the simple saying, “The more data, the better the decision.” And I believe, too, that there is no downside to making an inquiry, so long as it is made respectfully, if it is reasonable to make under the circumstances, and if there exists a good reason to ask it. As a precaution, you might consider submitting this question to your boss in an email, because it cannot be mischaracterized or unfairly described to others. 

4. I am not a person who generally believes “bad records” exist on employees that can hurt their futures. As to your boss telling you that, if you do not “close out” your Performance Improvement Plan, you will be leaving behind you a “bad record,” I really don’t believe that. Employers don’t spend their time worrying about the HR files of former employees, and in fact almost all employers these days simply answer employment inquiries with (a) confirmation that you were an employee, (b) your title or titles, and (c) your dates of employment. Very, very few employers give out information beyond that, for fear of being sued by former employees.

 Might your “unclosed” PIP make it difficult for you to obtain another job with this employer in the future? I guess so, but being placed on two PIP’s will probably make it hard enough for you to do so already. I rather doubt that an uncompleted PIP would make any difference. 

5. At the same time, if it is not too much effort, and if it is possible in the time left, you might consider taking time to complete the PIP. In your short note to me, you did not mention (a) whether it would be a hardship to complete your Performance Improvement Plan, or why you felt your boss would not permit you to complete it. If it would not be an undue hardship, you might consider, at the least, doing what you can do to complete the PIP before you leave, to your best ability, regardless of your boss’s possible interference.  

6. When faced with a difficult situation, always “default” to your values: (a) respect: caring about others’ points of view, (b) truth: not fearing to ask the right questions, (c) faith: not acting out of fear. The question you posed – “What am I supposed to do?” – suggested to me that you are rather confused by your circumstances. When faced with a difficult situation – what might be considered a blinding storm – I rely on my “trusted compass,” that is, my basic values. I consider which of my basic values come into play in a certain situation, and I then follow my values to my actions:  

(a) Here, consider what others’ perspectives might be, as we have done above, and take those perspectives into account.

(b) Don’t fear the truth; rather, pursue it vigorously, because the truth cannot be “outrun.”

(c) Don’t fear asking questions; fear not asking them, because the more information you have the wiser the choices you will make.

(d) Have faith in your own instincts and your innate goodness, and faith that your goodness will protect you. Don’t operate out of fears that others throw in your way, or implant in your mind and soul. Faith will always get you through the toughest times; on that you can surely depend.   

Balqis, you are in a circumstance that even very experienced professionals have a hard time understanding, and that fact suggests “something else may be going on.” In such times, the smartest course of action is to act in good faith, and rest on your faith, and faith will surely get you through the “storm.”  

Thanks for writing in from Kuala Lumpur. Hope you’ll tell others in Malaysia of the resources our SkloverWorkingWisdom™ blogsite offers. My best wishes for a smooth transition, and a new and more prosperous beginning.  

My best to you,
Al Sklover 

P.S. We now offer Model Letters entitled “Model Letter for Objecting to Illegal Discrimination – Age, Race, Gender or Disability,” that can be used to help people help themselves if they believe they have been affected by illegal discrimination. To obtain a copy of one of these useful model letters, just [click here.] [pips]

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© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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