Termination, Interviews and Future Employment Archives

“Problem Not Yet Solved; What’s My Next Step?” Your Five Alternative Next Steps

Published on April 5th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“One of the secrets of life
is to make stepping stones out of stumbling blocks.”

– Jack Penn

ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: A very commonly asked question is this: “I have followed your suggestions, but it has not yet worked . . . What do I do now?

The writer usually explains that her email memo to management “pushing back” against a dishonest performance improvement plan (“PIP”) did not get her what she wanted. Or, his request for better terms of severance achieved only minimal results. Or, perhaps, her attempt to get a waiver for a non-compete agreement received no response. Or maybe, even, his complaint of discrimination was essentially ignored.

There are five simple “next steps” available in each of those problem situations, and others, too, that remain unsolved despite your best efforts. While choosing which “next step” among them is the best one for you, surely one or more of them is the wisest one for you. And, in fact, you can try all five if you wish.

What needs to be kept in mind is that there is no problem without a solution. And many different approaches can be tried to solve a problem. It might even be your second, third or fourth attempt to solve a problem that turns out to be the most effective.

LESSON TO LEARN: Maybe you did not immediately get the results you wanted to get when asking for removal of a negative reference from your HR file. Or maybe you were turned down in your first request for an investigation of your complaint of harassment. Or, maybe, too, your repeated complaints of unsafe working conditions were simply ignored. In each of these instances – and many others, too – you would likely be frustrated, demoralized, perhaps even angry.

As the simple saying goes, “Don’t get angry . . . get even.” Or, as we are reminded, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Or, perhaps, bear in mind the adage, “There are more ways than one to skin a cat.” (My apologies to all of you cat lovers out there.) Don’t give up. Don’t get frustrated. Just keep going.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are your five alternative next paths available to you. Coincidentally, each path forward ends with the letters “ate,” as do the words “navigate” and “negotiate.” Might it be pure coincidence?:
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“After resigning, must I ‘close out’ a Performance Improvement Plan?”

Published on December 21st, 2012 by Alan L Sklover

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?

Balqis
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.]

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 ™

© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“I did not pass my Performance Improvement Plan. Is it too late to contest it?”

Published on September 5th, 2012 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I was put on a Performance Improvement Plan. This week after I completed the 30-day performance review period, I was told I had not met the job performance requirements. Therefore, I have two weeks of employment left, and will then be terminated with three weeks of severance. 

Is it too late to address the Performance Improvement Plan? 

Diana
San Mateo, California

Answer: Dear Diana: While it may be late to address the underlying truth or fairness of your Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), it is never too late. With me, so long as there is life, there is hope. Here are my thoughts:   

1. There is nothing wrong with trying your best to “pass” or “survive” a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), but it rarely – and I mean rarely – ever works. Many people who are placed on PIP’s say to themselves “I am going to do my best to succeed and fulfill the requirement of this Performance Improvement Plan.” Actually, I find that quite admirable. If (a) an employee is placed on a Performance Improvement Plan for honest and valid reasons, and (b) if the Performance Improvement Plan is administered in good faith, then that approach is probably the best approach to take. It’s simple: try to improve your performance with all the efforts and intelligence you have in you, and hope for the best.    

However, in my extensive experience over many years with employees and their PIP’s (also called Performance Action Plans), it is far, far more often the case that (a) employees are placed on PIP’s for the very purpose in mind of terminating them, with a “protective paper trail” and usually without any or any decent amount of severance, and (b) they are administered with little or no good faith. For these reasons the “I’ll do my best” approach almost always fails. I wish it was not so.  

For great info and insight, consider viewing our 12-minute Sklover-On-Demand Video entitled “Performance Improvement Plans – How to Push Back.” To do so, just [click here.]

2. Better late than never. Sure, it is rather late to raise the issue of the validity, honesty and propriety of your Performance Improvement Plan. And, too, it may look like you are now nothing more than a “sore loser” who failed to succeed at the task before you. All of that said, I am 100% in favor of your contesting your PIP now, in writing, along the path that I suggest in all of my writings and videos. You can read and view them from the blog.   

If you would like a helpful Model Letter to contest your Performance Improvement Plan, that tells you “What to Say, and How to Say It,” we offer one that you can obtain by simply [clicking here.]

3. Bear in mind that you will likely be asked to sign a Release of Claims in order to get any severance, and that release would surely include any claims related to your Performance Improvement Plan. It is almost always the case that employers require from departing employees a release of all claims in order to receive any severance. When an employee is terminated after a PIP, that severance is usually quite minimal. Indeed, in my opinion, that is usually the whole idea of Performance Improvement Plans: save money on severance. Bear in mind that your three weeks of severance pay, after taxes, may amount to less than two weeks of your usual pay.

4. Far worse is that, it is possible that in any Release of Claims you will be required to sign to get severance, you may be required to include a resignation, which would almost surely result in denying you the right to collect unemployment benefits. Yes, it is a fact in almost all states that, if employers can cut down on the number of their employees who collect unemployment benefits, the “rate” of contribution they pay for unemployment insurance coverage for their other employees is reduced, saving them a lot of money. You see, in industries with high or regular layoffs, such as construction, employers must pay more than they do in industries with low or rare layoffs, such as hospitals. This may be a great problem for you, because to gain three weeks of severance by losing perhaps 99 weeks of unemployment benefits makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Yet, many employees are tricked into doing just that – hurting themselves in the process.

For great info and insight, consider viewing our 12-minute Sklover-On-Demand Video entitled “The 12 Basics of Unemployment.” To do so, simply [click here.]

5. By contesting your Performance Improvement Plan, you can also ask for greater severance, because a false Performance Improvement Plan can be the perpetration of a fraud against you. The last step in my recommended path to contest a PIP is to suggest to your employer the wisdom of an alternative outcome to the one their HR team has planned for you. For you, that would surely include both (a) more severance, and (b) a confirmation that they will not contest any application you may make  for unemployment benefits. You should also request (c) that they will not say anything about you or your performance to your prospective employers. It is the fraudulent – or at least misguided –PIP that gives you the legal right to sue your company that they want to get a release  from.

You might be interested in obtaining our Ultimate Guide to Contesting Performance Improvement Plans, which offers a step-by-step Guide to this entire process. If interested, just [click here.]  

6. Another alternative might be to present what we have invented called an “Involuntary Resignation” that helps to preserve your rights, including those to severance and unemployment benefits. An alternative to being terminated is to resign, and an Involuntary Resignation – though it may sound like a contradiction in terms –is your best path forward if you decide to do so. It is a proactive way to put yourself in the best light when leaving. We invented the concept, and employees worldwide are now using it daily to their benefit.

One of our most popular Model Letters is our Model Involuntary Resignation letter. To obtain a copy, just [click here.]

Diana, I hope this is helpful to you. Performance Improvement Plans can be humiliating, infuriating and intimidating. The message for you is that they do not have to be any of those things. You can “turn the tables” on your employer in this process by using our methods and materials.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but as they say “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, either way, you are right.” Good luck!!

Best,
Al Sklover

P.S: Our Model Letters help people stand up for themselves at work. For a friend facing Job Loss, Severance, Resignation, Bully Boss, or Performance Improvement Plan, they are a “Helping Hand Gift for a Friend in Need.” Just [click here] to view our list.

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 ™  

© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“If I am on a Performance Improvement Plan, and fear I might get fired soon, should I tell a prospective employer who will soon be checking my employment history that I am thinking of resigning?”

Published on September 12th, 2010 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi, Alan. I am about to be fired for performance issues. I believe that because I did nothing to “push back” on this Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), and my boss and I are scheduled to meet in a week, and that is when I believe he will deliver the “news” that things are not working out, and I am fired.

Unfortunately, the PIP came as a shock, as I had not received any negative feedback in the previous six months. As our company is going through some realignments, I am not convinced this is totally about performance, but I haven’t said anything out of fear that if I did they would terminate me on the spot.

I have reached the final round of interviews for a new job with a different employer. I was wondering: (a) Do I tell my prospective employer that I am planning on leaving my present company in the next week? (b) Or just not say anything, and hope that the new employer does the employment verification while I am still employed?

I am hopeful that I could resign and my departure will be listed as a mutual separation. The timing of this thing has me very stressed, and I don’t know how to handle it.

         Theresa 
         Boston, Massachusetts

Answer: Theresa, just today I had a client in my office asking me almost the very exact same question. Let me tell you what I told her:

While there are no “guarantees” regarding how people will respond in any circumstance, it is my experience that you are more likely to be able to have some input on the timing of your departure from your present job if you are proactive, and not passive. If you continue to be passive, I agree you are likely to be terminated quite soon.

Instead, I think you should consider writing a respectful, thoughtful, reasonable letter to Human Resources – preferably your employer’s Head of Human Resources – explaining your belief that there is some other reason behind your Performance Improvement Plan.

Also tell the Head of HR what you told me: you have never received any prior negative feedback, and that you would have filed a formal objection, but you were fearful of retaliation if you did that.

Suggest that you believe this may even be a failure of corporate integrity, and perhaps there should be a careful and complete review of what took place; suggest that even the CEO should be asked to intervene, too.
 
I suggest, too, that you might suggest to the Head of HR that you could probably accept a phasing out of your duties, and eventual departure, so long as you had an opportunity to look for another job for, say, two or three months. Make sure, though, that you are clear that your email is not, in itself, a resignation.

Your memo has to be in writing, sent by email, and should be sent as soon as possible. This will likely give you some input in how fast things happen, when they happen, and even what happens.

Give it some thought. I know that fear can paralyze, but it’s important to stand up, and make your views known. Just the process of standing up for yourself shows people – and HR people, in particular – that you should be “handled carefully.”

Give it some thought. If you take this path, I think you’ll have, at the least, some time to get a new job, and a lowering of the daily anxiety you are experiencing. Remember that “Action is the antidote to despair.”

Hope this helps. Really do. Thanks for writing in; consider subscribing. It’s free.

           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"


 
© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“If I sign a Performance Improvement Plan, if I am let go, might I get a Severance Package?”

Published on September 5th, 2010 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I have worked for a Fortune 500 company for five years as a Sales Executive. Actually, I started working for a small start-up company five years ago, and we have been bought out twice; that is how I find myself with this large company. I am the number one Sales Leader in my division. I really do not at all think that placing me on a Performance Improvement Plan (or PIP as they call it) makes any sense.

I feel like I am “between a rock and a hard place.” If I sign the PIP, it seems I am agreeing that my performance needs improvement, and I am agreeing that they can fire me if my performance does not improve; sort of like signing your own “death sentence.” If I don’t sign the PIP, I am told I will be fired for insubordination.

Because of the way I have been treated lately I really don’t see myself staying with this company very much longer. If anything, though, I think I deserve a better-than-average severance package, considering both how much I’ve done for this company, and what they are putting me through.

Any thoughts on what I might do?

         Name Withheld
         Belmont, California

Answer: If you are a regular visitor to our Blog, you’ve surely read that your Performance Improvement Plan, and how you’re feeling, are not unusual. There’s a virtual epidemic of “PIP’s” going on out there, all over the world.

Generally, employees are not given severance packages if the required “Performance Improvement” does not take place within the permitted period of time, which is generally 30, 60, or 90 days. This is based on the employer’s perspective that, if severance is to be paid to any employees, they should only be employees who are downsized or laid off having nothing to do with their conduct or performance.

Some employers give employees in your situation a choice: either (a) attempt to succeed in the Performance Improvement Plan, or (b) resign, and accept a minimal severance package, which is generally two or four weeks’ pay.

We generally– but not always – counsel our clients in your situation to assess whether they think the Performance Improvement Plan is, in the first instance, made in good faith, and possibly attainable. If it is, then trying to succeed in it is an option. When there does not appear to be good faith, then we generally suggest “pushing back” at the fundamental dishonesty of the facts, the false conclusion that your performance is lacking, the unfairness of the process, and the often improper motives behind why the Performance Improvement Plan was initiated to begin with.

In our experience it is the employees who “push back” in this way who are usually – though not always –  the recipients of fair severance packages.

I strongly suggest that you review several of our articles in our blog’s Performance Improvement Plan section [click here], watch our video on How to Push Back at a PIP [click here], and decide what your best course of action will be.

We also offer a Model Letter to Help You Push Back at a PIP that you can adapt to send to senior management should you decide to “Stand Up and Push Back.” If you’d like a copy, simply [click here.] 

Your dilemma is a tough one, but one that many, many people have successfully resolved.

          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"


 

Alan Sklover’s Timeless Classic, Newly Updated and Revised

Fired, Downsized, or Laid Off:

What Your Employer Does NOT Want You to Know
About How to FIGHT BACK

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© 2010 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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