“Can I say ‘Skip the PIP’ and go straight to severance?”

Question: I expect to be put on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) very soon after many years of employment with the same company with excellent performance reviews, except for the last two years with a new supervisor who did not like me from day one.

Can I just say “Skip the PIP and just terminate me?” I want to be terminated. I am of age to retire and start collecting Social Security and unemployment. I don’t want to go through the humiliation of a PIP, but don’t want to jeopardize collecting unemployment benefits as I believe I am entitled.

How should I handle my upcoming meeting with HR?

Morganville, New Jersey

Answer: Dear A-C: Your dilemma is a common one. Here is what I’ve learned over the years helping clients like you:

1. There is nothing wrong with your being frank with HR, so long as you do it (a) in writing (preferably in an email) and (b) carefully. If your sense is that you do not deserve the PIP, and you are amenable to leaving, that is an acceptable message to give to Human Resources, provided you convey that message (a) in writing and (b) carefully. You can discuss it at the meeting, but it is important that you confirm what you said in an email as soon as the meeting is over. You can send it to HR before your meeting by email, or send it to them after your meeting by email. Handing it to HR at the meeting is not a good idea, as it cannot later be proven that you did so.

2. The reason it has to be in writing is that there needs to be a written record of exactly what you expressed, and how you expressed it, because it is so important to you. Whenever my clients communicate with HR or their bosses on a subject of importance, I worry that (a) my client will accidentally say something they should not; (b) my client will forget to say something they planned to say; (c) my client will say something, but not say it clearly; (d) HR or their boss will not understand exactly what my client said; (e) HR or their boss will not remember all of the things my client said; (f) HR or their boss will not be honest about what my client said; (g) HR or their boss may say my client said it with a “bad attitude,” or “loudly,” or (h) there will arise some other issue about what was said, what was not said, or how it was said.

When something is expressed in writing, and sent by email, these potential pitfalls are drastically reduced, if not eliminated entirely.

3. By “careful” I mean (a) making sure it is not considered an admission that you have done something wrong, and (b) making sure that no one can say it was an offer to resign. (a) When discussing a PIP, it is important to be and remain clear that you do not think it is justified, that you have performed admirably, and that you have done nothing wrong. (b) When discussing a possible departure from employment, it is important to be clear that the email (and any related discussions) do not constitute a resignation itself. Instead, you should be very careful to say The PIP is not correct, but IF WE CAN AGREE ON ALL TERMS, IN WRITING, I would be willing to resign.

It’s not easy to “Stand Up and Push Back” to a Performance Improvement Plan. To help you, we offer a “Model Response to Receiving a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”). It shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

4. Terms to agree on include each item that is important to you about the (a) timing, (b) terms and (c) tone of your departure. Consider the several things that are important to you: so far you have mentioned (i) retirement, (ii) Social Security, and (iii) unemployment benefits. Any agreement must be protective of each of those three things, and any others you may feel are important.

Because this transition is quite important, you might be wise to consider the assistance of an experienced employment attorney in your locale. You can locate such attorneys on our blogsite, if you wish, by [clicking here].

A-C, thanks for writing in. And good luck in moving forward. Please consider viewing our Sklover On Demand Videos, and using the services of those advertisers you see on our homepage – they help support our efforts on behalf of employees worldwide.

Al Sklover

P.S.: One of our most popular “Ideal Packages” of forms, letters and checklists is entitled “Ultimate Severance Package” consisting of four Model Letters/Memos for severance negotiation, as well as our 94-Point Severance Negotiation Checklist.” To obtain a complete set, just [click here.


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