“How could I be placed on a Performance Improvement Plan if I am a salesperson and I have achieved 200% of my sales goal?”

Question: I have been placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”). I am a salesperson and my performance is at 200% of my sales goal.

My boss seems to have a personal agenda going against me; we hardly talk. When I did ask him how I could be placed on a PIP, all he did was tell me a few things about me, and my style, that he did not like.

I did once speak about our department to my boss’s boss, in effect bypassing him, but I did not say anything negative.

Your thoughts?

Los Angeles, California

Answer: Dear M.R.H.:  As regular readers of SkloverWorkingWisdom know, I truly believe that Performance Improvement Plans represent a worldwide “epidemic” of bad faith by employers.

Do I believe that it is wise to try to “coach up” your employees, and to help them improve themselves and their effectiveness? Sure I do. Do I believe that it is wise to be as specific as possible when pointing out things that are not good, and in pointing out things that would better? Sure I do. Do I believe it is good faith to say, “Make me feel better about your performance, or prove to me I should feel confident, in 30 days, or you may be terminated?” I sure do not. It is the “subjective” nature of so many PIP’s and the “do or die” way they are presented that, to my mind, proves that they are mostly exercises in bad faith.   

Performance Improvement Plans (“PIP’s”) come in many different forms. Some are numerical, some are all words. Some give an employee 30 days to improve, some give 90 days to improve, some don’t mention any number of days.

What is most important in any PIP are two things: (1) the description, if any, of the alleged “inadequate performance” and the “steps to improvement,” and (2) the time, resources and assistance, if any, offered to help the employee.

If your Performance Improvement Plan defies common sense, by telling you that, as a salesperson, your achieving 200% of your sales goal is inadequate, then it is a fraud. If you are not told what you need to achieve to be considered adequate, it is also likely a fraud for a second reason.

While there are sometimes more subjective needs at work, such as cooperative attitude, willingness to pitch in at earlier or later hours, or flexibility when needed, even these rather subjective issues can be established by concrete examples, which include dates, times, and witnesses.

From what you describe, your boss may, indeed, hold a grudge against you for “bypassing” him. He or she can’t possibly hold out 200% of goal to be inadequate. While bosses are entitled to like or dislike employees, that does not justify dishonesty in assessing performance, or in structuring necessary performance improvements.

I suggest you begin to “stand up” and “push back” against your PIP. Consider reviewing our Resource Center Section on Performance Improvement Plans [click here.] 

And consider, too, obtaining our best-selling Model Letter entitled “Performance Improvement Plans: How to Push Back” by [clicking here].

We also have a video on “How to Push Back at PIP’s” on our Video Library [click here.]

That’s what you need to do; the rest is up to you.

Truly hope you find this helpful.

          Best, Al Sklover   

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.