General Info Archives

“HR says my PEP (Performance Enhancement Plan) is not a PIP. True?”

Published on July 16th, 2019 by Alan L. Sklover

Sklover Working Wisdom Caution

Question: Two weeks ago I received from my manager a document with the title “Performance Enhancement Plan.” It basically says that I am not performing satisfactorily (which is untrue), and unless I immediately improve drastically in vague ways (like “make me feel confident in you”) in 60 days, I could get terminated.

The last sentence of the Performance Enhancement Plan is this: “Failure to show immediate and sustained improvement while in this PEP may result in additional disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”

I used your Model Memo to “push back” and was invited to a meeting where I was told by HR and my Manager not to worry because what I received is not a PIP, but instead is intended to show that I am trying to be a better employee. It seems the situation is stable for now. Should I trust that?

Gretta W.
Brisbane
Queensland, Australia

Answer: Dear Gretta: For over 20 years I’ve been heavily involved in helping employees, worldwide, address Performance Warning and Performance Improvement Plans (“PIPs”). Take my word for it, PLEEEZE: A PEP is a PIP is a PAP is a POP, so long as it says, one way or another, what your “PEP” says. Do not let trust their unwritten assurances; don’t forget their written, decidedly non-assuring paper trail.

Take it from me, your Performance Enhancement Plan is a PIP, and don’t believe for one moment that it is not. Whether called a PEP (Performance Enhancement Plan) or anything else, it is a THREAT to your livelihood.

Here are seven points to keep in mind:
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“Performance Improvement Plans – Resign or Attempt? Choose the Third Alternative”

Published on February 3rd, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

“Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.”

– Proverbs 2:11

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES: Katherine, 53, a Logistics Analyst for an international freight-forwarding company based in Seattle, had received “Strong Performer” performance reviews for each of her last eight years. And just three years earlier, she had been selected as an “Outstanding Contributor” at the company’s national conference.

In light of a downturn in business due to a series of West Coast union slowdowns, Katherine thought her employer might initiate some layoffs. And, too, she expected her annual bonus might not be increased this year, as it had for six years in a row. But she sure didn’t see what was coming her way.

In early November, she was asked to attend a meeting with both her manager and an HR representative. “Most probably,” she thought, “I will be told of a potential promotion.” After all, she was surely seen by everyone as an “up-and-comer.” To Katherine’s surprise, she was handed a Performance Improvement Plan, or “PIP,” that said (a) her work was woefully inadequate, (b) she had to improve in 24 different ways, and (c) she had just 30 days to “make her Manager confident.” Nothing less than a curve ball from left field!

This is what Katherine was told: “You have a choice: resign now, which will look better in your HR file, and will look better to future employers, and we might even give you four weeks of severance pay. Your other choice is to take a chance and try to satisfy the PIP. But if you choose to take your chances with the PIP, and do not succeed, you will be terminated for poor performance, and denied any severance, in which case you will never be permitted to return to work for this company.”

Katherine saw the two alternatives given to her to be like “Either jump off a bridge voluntarily, or we will throw you off ourselves,” a kind of “devil’s choice,” in which both alternatives would inevitably be quite detrimental to her.

Fortunately, Katherine did not choose either of the two alternatives presented to her. She felt, instinctively, that she was being urged to do what her employer wanted her to do, and would be in its interests, but not in hers. Fortunately, she googled “performance improvement plan,” and came upon our blogsite and learned that there is, indeed, a third alternative when given a PIP: to respectfully and effectively “push back” at her Performance Improvement Plan.

Human Resources representatives and managers will not tell you that “pushing back” to your Performance Improvement Plan is an alternative available to you. Rather, they will try to convince you that you have only two alternatives, both of which are almost always bad for you. They try to limit your “vision,” restrict the agenda in your mind, and prevent you from doing what is often the best thing to do – for YOU.

What do we mean by “push back?” Simply put, to (a) respectfully questioning its facts, (b) reviewing the bona fides of its conclusions, (c) pointing out inadequate process or procedure, (d) suggesting improper motivations, and (e) requesting alternatives to the PIP and its probable consequences.

LESSON TO LEARN: In difficult times, layoffs and downsizing are often disguised as performance issues. Thus PIP’s are used to “thin the ranks without thinning the corporate wallet,” by denying customary severance. If you are given a Performance Improvement Plan, don’t be fooled, tricked or intimidated by being told that you have only two alternatives available to you: that is, (1) resign or (2) “give it a try.”

Imagine, for the moment, you went to a car dealer to purchase a particular model in blue. Imagine, also, that the car dealer had no blue cars in stock. Well, that car salesman would likely try to convince you that (a) they don’t make the model you want in blue, (b) the blue that your model is made in is not an attractive blue, (c) they made your car in blue, but the blue paint turned out to rust easily, or (d) they made so few cars that year in blue, that even if you can find one, it will cost you an extra $20,000. The lesson to remember is this: others will often try to convince you that your choices are limited to options that are good for them, and not good for you.

You surely do have other options, despite what you are told, and respectfully and effectively “pushing back” to the Performance Improvement Plan is surely the best one there is.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you are ever presented with a Performance Improvement Plan, if you think about it, the choices offered to you – and described as the only choices available to you – are not as good as the “third choice” not mentioned. Consider these eight thoughts:
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“Can I be treated differently than others while on my Performance Improvement Plan?”

Published on August 13th, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Can an employer single out an employee who is on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”)? 

I have been given a deadline of completing my work by 8:30 am, while my co-workers are not given any deadlines at all. Also, deadlines given to me are truly impossible to meet. 

                                                             Javier
Cedar Park, Texas

Answer: Dear Javier: In some ways you can be treated differently, and in some ways you can’t be. Please let me try to explain; here’s my best:   

1. As a general rule, every employee is a unique and different person, and the law does not require that every employee be treated in the exact same way as every other employee. Whenever I am asked a question like yours, I always say, “What would you say if your child told you, ‘Mom, you must treat me the exact same way you treat my brother and sister’?” I’m pretty confident you would say something like “Says who?” or “No way, everyone and every situation is a little different.” Well, it’s pretty much the same way in the employment context: no two employees and no two employment situations are exactly the same, either. So, treatment of different employees does not have to be identical. 

2. That said, there are some limits to how differently an employer can treat its employees. (Let’s call these “over the line differences.”) For example, an employer cannot simply deny certain employees a safe working environment, or the protections of the minimum wage and overtime laws. And, too, an employer would be on very shaky legal ground if it promised all of its employees a right to be free from illegal discrimination or retaliation, but fulfilled that promise only to some, and not to others. Thus, though employer’s have a degree of freedom, that freedom – like every kind of freedom – has its boundaries.  

3. What is certain is that employers cannot treat employees in varying ways due to the the employees’ age, gender, race, disability, ethnicity, pregnancy, and other so-called “protected categories.” (Let’s call these “improperly motivated differences.”) I know this may sound odd, but all people, and that includes employers, are actually quite free to “discriminate” in many different ways, but not on the basis of these “protected categories.” So, an employer is free to say, “We will only hire tall people.” Or “We do not want to hire people who smoke cigarettes, or who have college educations, for this particular job.” Those kinds of “discrimination’ are not prohibited, although they definitely are a kind of “discrimination” and result in a clearly “unequal treatment.” Seems unfair? Well, our society has not decided that all forms of discrimination are so unfair to be made illegal, only a few certain kinds.  

4. My view is that Performance Improvement Plans follow the same rules: they can and should result in some degree of different treatment, but not (a) “over the line different ways” or (b) “improperly motivated different ways.” If you start work at 8:15 am, and you are expected to complete a full day’s work by 8:30 am, and no one else has such “wacky” deadlines, well, that is simply “over the line.” Also, if you are given deadlines that seem to be set so that you are being “set up to fail,” then that is a kind of fraudulent motivation, and so is improper and illegal.  

5. If you believe how your Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) is being carried out is either “over the top different” or “improperly motivated different” you really do need to report it to Senior Management and Human Resources. While Performance Improvement Plans can be tools of constructive collaboration, (a) the decision to place someone on a PIP, (b) their design, and (c) how the PIP is carried out often end up improper, illegal and fraudulent. Through them the employee can be denied his or her legal and workplace rights, and the employer – including the employer’s shareholders or other owners – can be wrongfully and fraudulently deprived of a good, loyal and valuable employee.  

It’s not easy to “Stand Up and Push Back” to a Performance Improvement Plan. To help you with “What to Say and How to Say It”™, we offer a Model Response to Receiving a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”). (Though intended to “push back” to receipt of a PIP, it can be adapted to be used to “push back” to how a PIP is carried out.) To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

This kind of “Pushback to a PIP” is an important part of your standing up for yourself and should not be avoided. Fact is, Javier, you have little to lose, because if you don’t “Stand up and push back” then sooner than you think you will probably be out of a job. 

You face a challenge, no doubt about that, but many, many people overcome that exact kind of challenge every day. You can, too.

My Best,
Al Sklover

 P.S.: Standing Up to a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) is one of the “scarier” experiences at work. To ease your mind and help you, we offer a 152-Point Guide and Checklist for a PIP. To get your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

Help Yourself With
These Unique PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT PLAN (PIP) Materials

PIP 1: Model Response to Receiving a PIP
PIP 2: Model Second Response if Your First Response Does Not Work
PIP 3: 152- Point Step-by-Step Guide and Checklist for a PIP
PIP 4: 3 Memos Seeking Feedback of Clients, Customers, Colleagues for Use in PIP Pushback
PIP 5: Final Memo to Delay PIP Conclusion to Continue Job Search
PIP 6: After Successful PIP Pushback, Suggesting Positive Next Steps

[ Click Here ] and Go to Section "H"

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time™

© 2013 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“Threatened PIP has not arrived; should I do anything?”

Published on February 8th, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Alan- I really appreciate your blog and its insights. It is great. I have a question on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”). 

I had a poor performance review two weeks ago. I was informed I would be placed on a Performance Improvement Plan. Here we are two weeks later, and they have not provided me with any documentation or direction. 

Is it my responsibility to follow up and ask for the PIP, or should I wait because it is a sign of lack of direction and follow up on my manager’s part?

 James
New York, New York

Answer: Dear James: First, thank you for your kind words. For me, appreciation is motivation, and I am so glad to hear that my readers see value in my thoughts. Performance Improvement Plans (or “PIP’s,” as they are often called) cause an awful lot of stress and anxiety even though – as seems to be happening to you – they may not yet have arrived. Here is how I see things:  

1. If you have not yet received your Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), you have no responsibility to your employer to go out and seek it, although it might be wise to make sure it was not “lost in transit.” Just because you were told two weeks ago that you were going to be placed on a PIP, that did not necessarily mean that it would arrive immediately. My guess is that it is “in the works” at Human Resources, “on somebody’s desk,” or simply misplaced. You can never underestimate lack of direction and follow up, just as you point out. Don’t worry – or maybe I should say you should worry – the PIP will almost surely “find you” pretty soon.  

As a precaution, though – just in case it was sent to you and somehow “lost in transit” – you might simply send an email to your manager asking if the PIP was sent, as you have not, to your knowledge, received the PIP from him, her or Human Resources. 

2. I do think you owe it to yourself and to your family to prepare for your probably-soon-to-be-arriving PIP. Whether or not your “promised” Performance Improvement Plan ever does arrive on your desk – and it probably soon will – you should get yourself ready for it. There are several things you might do to get ready to be “PIP’d”:

(a) You might review our free YouTube video on Performance Improvement Plans. It is just a [click] away. 

(b) You might review our many Newsletters and Q&A’s on Performance Improvement Plans. You can do so by a simple [click here.]

I personally recommend you consider obtaining a copy of our “152-Point Step-By-Step  Guide to Performance Improvement Plans,” by clicking [here.]  

3. Here are seven additional practical ways to prepare yourself to receive your PIP. Consider these seven steps to prepare yourself while you have the time: 

(i) You might review your company’s website, Employee Handbook, or other sources for the company’s procedures for receiving, and responding to, Performance Improvement Plans;

(ii) Gather together past Performance Reviews, commendation letters and other proof that you have done a good job;

(iii) Gather together, and seek some more, letters from customers, colleagues, vendors, subordinates and even former employees attesting to your proven value;

(iv) Identify what your goals have  been, whether or not they were reasonable, whether you were given sufficient time and resources to reach those goals, and whether you received due credit for all you have achieved;

(v) If there might be an “improper motivation” taking place that is responsible for your bad review, consider what it might be, including discrimination, harassment or bullying;

(vi) Assess what you might need during a job search period, including getting a good picture of what your financial needs and resources are; and, last but not least;

(vii) Engage in additional stress-reduction activities, such as prayer, exercise and meditation, for they produce a sense of clarity and calm that can only be helpful to you.    

You might also consider our Ideal Package for Dealing with Performance Improvement Plans by clicking [here.] 

James, Performance Improvement Plans represent a real risk to your employment, finances and career, and so should never be taken lightly. You are wise to be wary, and to wonder what you can do to lessen the risks in front of you. But, please don’t become fearful, because fear is disabling and destructive, and never wise. Instead, do what you are now doing: inquire, respond and stand tall. And, if you wish “fold your parachute,” too. 

As always, I truly hope this has been of some help to you.         

My Best to You,
Al Sklover

P.S.: Want to learn more of this “good stuff” regularly? You can Receive Each of Our Blog Posts Automatically, For Free, if you just [click here.] And we promise: we never sell, lease or let anyone see our subscriber list. Never, ever.

Help Yourself With
These Unique PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT PLAN (PIP) Materials

PIP 1: Model Response to Receiving a PIP
PIP 2: Model Second Response if Your First Response Does Not Work
PIP 3: 152- Point Step-by-Step Guide and Checklist for a PIP
PIP 4: 3 Memos Seeking Feedback of Clients, Customers, Colleagues for Use in PIP Pushback
PIP 5: Final Memo to Delay PIP Conclusion to Continue Job Search
PIP 6: After Successful PIP Pushback, Suggesting Positive Next Steps

[ Click Here ] and Go to Section "H"

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2013 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“Offered severance at the end of a Performance Improvement Plan; can I ask for more?”

Published on July 12th, 2012 by Alan L Sklover

Question: First let me say that I appreciate and think your blog is a must read. I wish I could afford you as my attorney! But this is not about me, but my wife.

She was put on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) at first for 30 days, then for 60, and now she is told that she has to resign “or else.” She has been with this company for 8 years, 11 months with no previous performance issues. They are offering her a severance package of 13 weeks, plus she would get her quarterly bonus. She has a very poor director she reports to and can not work for this person any more.

What else should she negotiate into her package? And can she get unemployment in Ohio after the severance is paid out?

Thank you for your advice, and I hope one day I can repay the favor.

Dave S.
Grove City, Ohio
Retired Vietnam Veteran

Answer: Dear Dave, First let me say to you that I humbly salute you for your service to this country that, sadly, was not sufficiently appreciated by enough people. Compared to your efforts on this country’s behalf, my blog work is downright trivial. Dave, you have nothing to repay me for; every American and I owe you plenty.           

1. Whenever an employee is terminated – whether for alleged performance or otherwise – severance is a negotiable transaction. No matter what your wife may be told by Human Resources, severance is highly negotiable. Sure, when being terminated employees feel powerless, overwhelmed, and weak, but it is important that they understand that they are actually in a stronger bargaining position than are their employers. Heck, after losing your job of 9 years, and being falsely accused of being a poor performer, there’s not too much else to lose. I hope you and your wife have reviewed the many articles and videos I have on the blogsite about severance.

I particularly hope your wife reviews my YouTube video entitled “The Six Sources of Leverage in Severance.” She can do so by [clicking here.]  

2. There are five things most commonly asked for – and granted – in severance. They are (i) more payments of base salary, (ii) more bonus, (iii) extension of benefits usually provided, especially healthcare related, (iv) additional contributions to 401(k) or pension, and (v) a positive statement about departure, we call a “departure statement” attesting to positive attitude, loyalty, and dedication, all of which your wife surely exhibited.

By the way, if your wife can simply request leaving her job a month later than her employer had planned, that would give your wife the equivalent of (i) one more month of salary, (ii) one more month of bonus, (iii) one more month of benefits, and (iv) one more month of 401(k) or pension credits. It would also give her an opportunity to look for a job while employed, which always makes a job applicant appear more valuable.

3. These are the five things that are next-most commonly asked for – and granted – in severance: (i) an extension of time before termination, as noted above, (ii) more stock options or other “equity” to vest, (iii) freedom from future non-compete restrictions, (iv) outplacement or educational assistance, and (v) most importantly for your wife, that the company will not contest her application for unemployment benefits.   

Dave, it is a general rule that people who have become unemployed due to a resignation are not entitled to unemployment benefits. Of course, your wife is not truly “voluntarily” resigning. But that can be confusing to a clerk in the Unemployment Office. Also, it gives your wife’s employer a way to deny her unemployment benefits. Make sure she requests – in her severance agreement – that her employer will not contest any application she may make for unemployment benefits. And make sure, too, that she does not indicate on her unemployment benefits that she voluntarily resigned, but rather that she was truly fired, which she is being, in reality.  

4. Severance requests are limited only by your imagination: whatever can help you “get to a better place” in life is something you should consider asking for. In my book, “Fired, Downsized, or Laid Off,” my favorite chapter is Chapter 18, which is entitled “Customize Your Requests: The 101 True Severance Secrets.” It sets forth 101 different things a terminated employee can ask for. The real “secret” to severance is that it is, and should be, “customizable” to a person’s circumstances. To obtain a copy of Chapter 18 simply [click here.]

5. In Ohio, receiving severance will not prevent collection of unemployment benefits, but the number of weeks unemployment benefits will be paid to such a person is reduced by the number of weeks the unemployed person is paid severance. This scenario is becoming more and more common, as states seek ways to control their unemployment burden.

Notice this strange effect: If your wife’s employer would be willing to not pay her any severance, but instead keep her “on the books” for 13 weeks (perhaps while she stayed at home), then (a) she would get 13 more weeks of employment benefits such as continued healthcare, and (b) when she was let go, she would not suffer any reduction in the number of weeks she would receive unemployment. That makes such a request even more valuable than is commonly the case.

If you would like to read more about how Ohio addresses eligibility and calculation of  unemployment benefits, just go to www.unemployment.ohio.gov

And we also offer (i) a Model Memo to Request More Severance [click here], (ii) our 94-Point Master Severance Checklist [click here], or (iii) our “Ultimate Package” of Severance Memos, Letters and Checklists [click here.]

Dave, I truly hope this is helpful. Thanks so much for writing in. Please tell others about our blog – there are a lot of people facing difficulties out there. Once again, I salute you! 

My Best,
Al Sklover

Help Yourself With
These Unique PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT PLAN (PIP) Materials

PIP 1: Model Response to Receiving a PIP
PIP 2: Model Second Response if Your First Response Does Not Work
PIP 3: 152- Point Step-by-Step Guide and Checklist for a PIP
PIP 4: 3 Memos Seeking Feedback of Clients, Customers, Colleagues for Use in PIP Pushback
PIP 5: Final Memo to Delay PIP Conclusion to Continue Job Search
PIP 6: After Successful PIP Pushback, Suggesting Positive Next Steps

[ Click Here ] and Go to Section "H"


 

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© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.


Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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