“Am I supposed to have access to my Performance Action Plan or Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), and the progress I am making on it?”

Question: Is an employee supposed to have access to his or her PIP, either by a computer or a paper copy?

And, as I am evaluated over time regarding progress I am making, am I supposed to see comments in my file?

Human Resources says that “Your PIP is a living document.”

         Bakersfield, Callifornia 

Answer: Laverne, your question is one of those I like so much, because it seems simple, but in reality the answer to the question is not.

First, Look at Your Employee Handbook:

Quite simply, whether or not you are entitled to have access to your Performance Improvement Plan should be set forth in your Employee Handbook, or your Company Policy Book. I write “should,” because I know it would be right to have rules and regulations about PIP’s set down in writing, but my experience is that Performance Reviews, Performance Appraisals, Performance Action Plans, and Performance Improvement Plans rarely, if ever, have any set of “rules” about them. Instead, they are applied without safeguards, rules, or limits, and usually quite unfairly.

Second, Don’t be Surprised to Find “No Rules”:

So often, Performance Action Plans or Performance Improvement Plans (same thing) are quite unfair in their design, and in how they are carried out. “Unfairness Number 1” is that they are usually so subjective, that no one can be sure if progress, is in fact, being made. If, for example “Demonstrate Good Communication,” is a required area of improvement, “Who is the judge?,” “How do you demonstrate?,” and “What is good communication?” This seems like setting someone up for failure. A fair set of rules would require an objective measure of success.

“Unfairness Number 2” of Performance Action Plans (or Performance Improvement Plans) is that the judge of whether or not sufficient improvement has taken place is often the very same person who has assigned the original PIP in the first place. So, if the person who decided a PIP was necessary did so out of personal dislike, or illegal discrimination, or in retaliation for reporting impropriety, chances are that same person will not find that the PIP has been successfully completed. A fair set of rules would require an independent, unbiased review of PIP progress.

“Unfairness Number 3” and “Unfairness Number 4” are being provided with insufficient time to complete the PIP, and insufficient resources to do so. A fair set of “Rules” would preemptively address both of these concerns.

I suggest you request – in an email – the right to Access your PIP, and your Progress on it: In a respectful email to the Head of Human Resources, suggest that basic common sense and fundamental fairness would seem to require that you have access to your PIP, and to comments regarding your progress in achieving its goals. Suggest that integrity requires honesty and fairness, and both honesty and fairness seem insufficient here.

Sorry for such a long answer to such a seemingly simple question, but I have so many blog visitors and clients report abuses to me regarding performance reviews and improvement plans, that I have a lot to say.

In all events, I hope this is helpful to you. Thanks for writing in. Hope you’ll consider subscribing to all of our posts; it free!!

          Best, Al Sklover  

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.