“How do I contest a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) in a ‘non-attacking’ manner?”

Question: Dear Alan, I am being put on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) by my manager, which I intend to fully contest.

I also have evidence against my manager that proves I have not been fairly treated or regularly evaluated, demonstrated via lack of regular 1:1 meetings, coaching, development meetings and phone meetings.

I want to expose this in a meeting but don’t want to come across like I am attacking them. How do I approach this? Many thanks.

Scotland UK

Answer: Craig, first, my congratulations to you for having the confidence and courage to stand up for yourself against a Performance Improvement Plan.

Second, you have mentioned that you want to expose the truth in a meeting. While meetings are fine, it is critical that you also raise and prove each of your points in writing, by means of an email, so that you have a provable, written record that you did so, to whom you did so, exactly what you said, and when. This is more important than anything. You might send it after your meeting, and introduce it as such: “I just wanted to make sure that we are clear with the points I raised in our meeting, so that future steps can take into account what has been communicated.”

Now to answer your question, which is a very good question, indeed.  The goal is to “Confront problems, not people.” It is to improve a relation, not to damage it. There are many ways to do that, in both substance and style.

a. You might ask to say something before the meeting gets underway, and in that statement thank everyone for their attendance;
b. In your initial statement, you might say that you are not there to confront any person, just a problem that has arisen between people;
c. In your initial statement, you might say that you believe that everyone is attending in good faith;
d. In your initial statement, you might tell the attendees that resolving this problem amicably is in everyone’s interests;
e. In your initial statement, you might speak softly, and avoid harsh words or menacing or defensive tones;
f. In your initial statement, you might mention that, often in meetings one forgets to say something, or one forgets what someone else said, so you will be emailing to everyone a summary of the meeting and what you want to communicate at the meeting. (You might want to wait until the end of the meeting to say this);
g. Each time you share a document, an email, an event, a statement or a circumstance in support of your position, say that “this seems to suggest” what you believe is true, not that it “proves” or “establishes” anything, that is, show that you are open-minded;
h. Listen very carefully to what everyone says, and in polite manner don’t be afraid to ask questions or for clarification; and
i. Show respect in every way possible.

If you would like to obtain a “model” memo to help you respond to a Performance Improvement Plan [click here].

These and other elements of a non-adversarial manner in a meeting should go a long way to get you what you want without damage to the relation. I’m sure you can think of others, as well.

If for any reason other people are not so polite and positive, and become aggressive and negative, consider departing after you have mentioned that you are not feeling well, as a non-insulting and non-insubordinate rationale for leaving the room.

The important thing is this: issues arise in every single relationship, whether it’s your relationship with your siblings, your cousins, your spouse or partner, your colleagues, your neighbor or your managers. In each, resolving the issue to the best advantage of all requires that you understand and appreciate the thoughts, feelings and perspectives of the other people, and be sensitive to those thoughts, feelings and perspectives.

I believe it’s nothing other than the Golden Rule, which is a part of nearly every religion in the world. It’s no coincidence.

Hope this helps. Thanks for writing in. Hope you’ll consider becoming a Subscriber – it’s free!

Best, Al Sklover

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.