“Is it possible to push back at a Performance Improvement Plan, and then succeed in it?”

Question: Hello, Alan. I bought your template for pushing back at a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), and had a meeting with my manager, department director, and Human Resources. The PIP contains at least one provably false statement, and blames me for failing to fulfill a task that I later found out was my manager’s legal responsibility.

The HR Director would still like to continue with the PIP. I would like to stay at the company but I feel like fighting this further will definitely upset people and burn bridges.

Do you have any suggestions? 

Houston, Texas

Answer: Dear Brad: Didn’t you know that “Suggestions” is my middle name?          

1. First – and most importantly – your initial “PIP Pushback” probably showed everyone that you know how to push back in an effective manner. Congratulations on taking the first big step. By following the substance and style of our Model Letter on PIP Pushback, you have established yourself as NOT a willing victim, and NOT easily intimidated, humiliated or infuriated. Though you may not have gained any popularity with those who are responsible for the PIP, you have almost surely gained their respect. That is quite significant.

2. Second, as a result of your initial PIP efforts, your chances of surviving the PIP are now significantly higher. It’s just human nature: your manager, department director and HR will now be more careful in handling your PIP. While the chances of “surviving” a PIP are not high at all, your chances of “surviving” your PIP are now significantly higher. Continue to request IN WRITING (a) sensible and reasonable objectives to accomplish, (b) the opportunity, resources and time to accomplish those objectives, and (c) measurable criteria of success in your progress in accomplishing them.

3. You are right to listen to your intuition; in negotiation, it’s your best guide. Negotiation is all about motivating another person to do something they are not now inclined to do. It is a very intuitive process. If you think that pushing against the Performance Improvement Plan further would upset and burn bridges, then by all means don’t do so. So, don’t push further, but remain on alert for any more provably false statements, and the like, in the course of your continuing PIP. Proceed, but don’t lose focus on the process, or forget who you are dealing with.

4. And if HR decides that the PIP was not successfully completed, you will be much better situated to get a fair, if not generous, severance package. A valuable aspect of initially “pushing back” at a Performance Improvement Plan is that, as a consequence of your first “pushing back,” if you are deemed not to have successfully completed the PIP, and are then told your employment will be terminated, (a) you will already have leverage for requesting better severance, and (b) a more receptive audience for that request. In fact, my experience is that employees who do push back almost always get better severance offers.

Brad, once again, my hat goes off to you for standing up and pushing back at a Performance Improvement Plan. Seems you have “gotten their attention” in the way you need to in order to get past a PIP. I truly wish and hope that is exactly what happens. I’d love to hear how things go.

And thanks, too, for purchasing our Model Letter for Pushing Back to a PIP. We help our visitors, and they help us “keep the lights on” in these ways.  

Al Sklover


Repairing the World - 
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.