“Ever heard of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) being used to force retirement?”

Question: I have been a successful science teacher for 27 years. I teach all of the science classes in a small rural school, grades 7 to 12. Four years ago, the Superintendent of our school nominated me for a science teaching excellence award.

This past spring, before I left for summer break, the principal informed me that I have to complete professional improvement activities (submitting written reports on articles he assigns, etc.) throughout the next school year. Because of my teaching load, this is going to be a burden on me, and I believe he is doing this to encourage me to retire. Is there any information on PIP’s being used as punishment by administrators, or forcing people to retire?

Portales, New Mexico

Answer: I am not sure if there are any statistics or studies on the subject of using PIP’s to punish or force to retire. In my very experienced opinion, there doesn’t need to be.

For more than two decades I’ve helped people with problems and opportunities at work. Performance Improvement Plans (“PIP’s”) have been a persistent problem for my clients throughout the time. Lately, it’s been like an epidemic. “Performance” and “PIP” are the two most common words people plug into search engines to come to our blog. Every single month.

From my professional vantage point, more and more Human Resource consultants are advising employers that PIP’s can be used whenever they want to get rid of an employee, regardless of the underlying reason. I honestly and openly believe, with all my heart, that PIP’s are very, very frequently simply a tactic to achieve an end: getting someone to leave, resign, act out in anger, retire or otherwise depart, with as little as possible severance, unemployment or notice-period expense. They are “paper trails” to point to if an employee – or his or her attorney – question whether the motivation to push someone out is proper or not.

Might you be one of the few teachers left with a better pension? Might you be rather expensive, compared to new teachers? Might the principal feel that older people are “stuck in their ways,” or “slow to learn,” or “bad with computers,” “not energetic enough,” or “too often sick,” or any other discriminatory cliches?

I believe every PIP should be resisted in an effective manner. My ideas are set down throughout our Blogsite. We’ve even established a new section in our Newsletter and Q&A Library, and recently posted a Video on the subject. To review this information [click here].

We also offer both a Model Letter for “Pushing Back” to a Performance Improvement Plan, which you can obtain by [clicking here], as well as an “Ultimate Package of Materials to Push Back at a PIP,” which includes a 152-Point Guide and Checklist to PIP’s, which you can obtain by [clicking here].

I hope you will take advantage of these resources.

So, now, to answer your questions directly: I have seen many, many managers use PIP’s to “punish” employees, and to “encourage” them to resign, retire, or otherwise depart their employment. I sincerely hope you won’t let that happen to you.

Best, Al Sklover


© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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