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

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

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.
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:

1. Titles of Documents Simply Do Not Count: First, no matter what the name of a document is – PIP, PAP, PEP, POP, PUP or even POOP – if it says what your PEP says, namely, “Failure to show immediate and sustained improvement while on this PEP may result in additional disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment,” it is one and the same thing: a ticking time bomb in your HR file, and a substantial risk to your continued employment.

These are among the various and sundried titles I have seen used for these fraudulent means of pushing employees out of their jobs: (a) Performance Improvement Plan, (b) Performance Upgrade Plan, (c) Performance Advancement Plan; (d) Performance Growth Plan, (e) Performance Refinement Plan, and (f) Performance Enrichment Plan, and others, too. You would think that Human Resources staff at various employers might get a bit more creative and come up with something that at least sounds a little more original and distinctive!

Don’t ignore the risk. We offer a “Model Response to Receiving a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)” to help you “Stand Up and Push Back” to a Performance Improvement Plan. Shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

2. A Written Record needs to be made of the Assurances You Received: Your PEP is written, it is in your HR file, someone wrote it on purpose, and for a reason, and it thus needs to be addressed in similar fashion, that is, in writing. If your Manager and/or Human Resources Representative have told you – by spoken word, that is, not in writing – using any combination of words, “Don’t worry, even though it says you could lose your job, you won’t.” well, then those assurances need to be in writing and in your HR file, too . . . just like your PEP is.

I would strongly recommend that an email should be sent to your Manager and HR Representative cc’d to the others in your meeting, “thanking” them for their assurances that this PEP, despite its words, is not a (a) prelude to, (b) warning of, or (c) step before, your being terminated. Rather, as they explained to you, it is nothing other than a “helpful process to show that you accept your deficiencies and that you are addressing them appropriately.”

Just in case your first attempt to resolve a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) doesn’t work, we offer a “Model Second Response to a PIP, If First Doesn’t Work”). It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

3. Ask, too, that your HR File be appropriately “Updated.” You might also request that your Human Resources Representative or your Manager send you an email confirming that your “Thank You for the Assurances” memo has been inserted into your HR file so that your file is properly “updated” by addition of the clarifying assurances of your Manager and HR Representative given to you at your meeting with them.

Standing Up to a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) is one of the “scarier” experiences at work. To ease you 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!

4. Ideally, this should be in the form of a “Thank You” Note: You no doubt feel a sense of relief from the assurances you have received. It is now entirely appropriate – and effective – (i) to make a good record of the assurances you have received, and (ii) to request that your “Thank You” memo to your Manager be inserted into your HR file.

5. Consider “Hijacking” the “PIP/PEP/POP (or Whatever You Call It)” Process: I often urge clients in your circumstances to consider “taking over” the process by creating your own truly positive plan of action, with identified target dates, steps to take, and clear metrics of success – ones that you believe wholeheartedly that you can achieve, and submit it to your Manager for approval, as “The Plan.” This can then be your “steps to rehabilitation” to be memorialized in your HR file, or in emails, at a minimum.

Of course, you must be wary of your manager sabotaging your actual efforts, so make sure your plan includes a sentence like this one: “Of course, this presumes sufficient time, resources and opportunity are not taken away by later management decisions,” or words to that effect.

The goal of our PIP Pushback Efforts is to get you “Back on Track.” To encourage this we offer our Model Memo entitled: After Successful PIP Pushback: Eight Positive Suggestions to Get Back on Track to send to your Manager and HR, to “heal the wounds” and get back to a positive path. It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

6. Your Manager should be asked for Regular and Continual Feedback: Going forward, please try to point out, on a regular basis, and in writing, steps you are taking to address the concerns raised in your PIP/PEP/POP (or Whatever It Is Called) Plan, and ask for his or her acknowledgement that you are moving in the right direction, and proceeding within acceptable timelines. Eventually, you can then ask that a statement be inserted into your HR file that your PIP (or whatever you call it) is now successfully completed, withdrawn, and no longer of any effect.

7. Whatever you do, Don’t Let Down Your Guard: You said in your question, “It seems the situation is stable for now.” There are reason(s) you were given the PEP, and you are not yet certain exactly why that happened. Consider keeping your “eyes wide open” and your “ear to the ground” for new developments that might either answer that question, or give you an inkling – as early as possible – that “the situation is no longer stable.”

You can “survive” a PEP, PIP, or whatever you call it, but it does take effort and determination. And, too, it could not hurt you to start the process of looking around elsewhere for an employer who might better appreciate all you have to offer.

This is our BEST SELLER: Our “Ideal PIP Package” consisting of all four Model Letters, PLUS our 152-Point Guide and Checklist for a Performance Improvement Plan. To obtain your complete set, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

Gretta, I hope this is helpful. Whatever you decide to do, do it with Sklover Working Wisdom. We are always here for you and others seeking perspective, guidance or assistance.

My Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: If you would like to speak with me directly about this or other subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations, just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can be accommodated.

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