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

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

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