“Can my manager put ‘hearsay’ into my PIP?”

Question: My new manager, who has never been in management, and has not been trained by her supervisors, gave me the worst performance review in my 35+ years of employment, and also placed me on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”).

I have two questions:

First, I signed the PIP, but did not realize that by signing it, it meant I agreed with it. Can I “retract” my signature?

Second, in my PIP, my manager wrote things that will totally ruin my reputation. She wrote that she “heard” I had said negative things about the company – actually slandered the company – and that this had hurt my reputation internally. Can she legally write things based on “hearsay,” and can I ask her to prove it?

Calgary, Alberta

Answer: Let me answer your two questions in the order you presented them:

1. First, if you signed your PIP, and by doing so unknowingly acknowledged things that you did not mean to acknowledge, by all means I believe you should write a letter to both the Head of Human Resources at your company, and perhaps the CEO or President, as well, and tell them that you did not understand your PIP, you did not understand what signing it meant, and that you would like the opportunity to withdraw that signature and write a letter protesting it, to be placed into your HR file.

2. Second, I have never heard of any company that limits what a manager can or cannot put into a PIP. I expect that almost every company has an implied “common sense” limitation on things that can be put into a PIP – rumors about your intimate life, for example, would surely not be proper. However, I believe that if your manager heard that you were often highly critical of the company – to the extent that you were hurting the morale of your colleagues – I would say that would be relevant material for your PIP.

I want you to note an observation: in the very first sentence of your letter to me, you criticized your manager in two ways: regarding both her limited experience and her lack of training. Might that be an indication of how you commonly speak or write about her, or her superiors, or company management? Sometimes people are quite critical, and with good reason, but do not understand the effect it has on the morale of those around them. Might this be your case?

I always suggest that people “push back” at PIP’s, and do so in writing. For help in doing so, review our Resource Center by [clicking here.]

We also offer either a Model Letter to Help You Push Back at a PIP, or our Ultimate Package of Model Letters, Memo’s and a detailed Checklist for Pushing Back at a PIP. If you’d like a copy, simply [click here.]

I hope you will push forward, and not accept what has been written about you. No one can do that for you; you must do it for yourself.

Best, Al Sklover


© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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