“Is it worthless to approach Management about a false Performance Improvement Plan?”

Question: I have read many of your articles about Performance Improvement Plans. The common point coming from everyone’s experience is that, Performance Improvement Plans (or “PIP’s” as you call them) are nothing but a “paper trail” that looks objective in order to justify firing an employee everyone knows is a good employee.

My question is “What can a targeted employee do, when he (or she) is put under a PIP?”

How to deal with such a situation and such a manager who is affecting our career and mis-using a PIP?

Approaching Top Management looks worthless, as they seem to be listening to our Managers, only, landing us in extreme pain.

Mumbai, India

Answer: Dear Shashank:

Your letter brings to mind perhaps one of the most important issues a person faced with a Performance Improvement Plan must confront: “Am I prepared to stand up for myself, even if I may not be successful?” It is a deeply personal, almost intimate, question to ask yourself.

1. Always comes this first question: Am I going to stand up for myself? When you face any situation that threatens to harm you or your interests – it could be a mugger on the street, or a disease in your body –  you must make a decision, or it will surely be made for you. It is this: “Do I Try?” You do not deserve to be mugged, you do not deserve to have a disease, and you do not deserve to have a false Performance Improvement Plan foisted upon you. But in each instance, either you stand up to it, or you submit to it. The decision is always there, and always yours.

2. There is always a “price to pay,” for either standing up, or submitting. If you do not stand up to a mugger, you will probably lose your wallet, and perhaps even your life. If you do stand up to a mugger, you could be beaten, or even killed, but he or she might also run away. The same thing is true with a disease: either you decide to undergo some kind of medical treatment, or the disease will probably continue. The medical treatment might involve pain, but so might the disease if it continues. And the medical treatment might just defeat the disease, so you can continue living.

3. There seems to me to be less risk in pushing back to a Performance Improvement Plan, and far more risk in not pushing back. In most cases, if you do not “push back” at a Performance Improvement Plan, you will soon end up being terminated for alleged poor performance. If you do “push back” against a Performance Improvement Plan, you might also be terminated, but (a) you might not, and (b) even if you do get terminated, you have a potential claim against your employer for engaging in a fraud, which gives you a far better chance of getting a Severance Package if you depart the company. But only if you push back in writing, and include the necessary elements in an effective “push back letter.”  

4. There are positive, effective steps you can take in response to a Performance Improvement Plan. Our blogsite contains Newsletters, Q & A’s, and videos that provide information and insight regarding the positive, effective steps you can take in response to a Performance Improvement Plan. Many of our clients and our blog visitors have used these to their benefit.

We also offer a Model Letter for Pushing Back against a Performance Improvement Plan; it is our most popular Model Letter. If you’re interested just [click here].

5. Success is never guaranteed in this context, but is it ever? I always caution that nothing we suggest is guaranteed, as little in life is guaranteed. What I do “guarantee” is that many, many people have found our ideas and information about pushing back against a Performance Improvement Plan to have helped them, and these ideas and information may quite possibly help you, too. If, of course, you are prepared to stand up for yourself, your interests, your career and – most importantly – your family.

There’s no question that Performance Improvement Plans tend to make people feel humiliated and overpowered. That said, there is no reason or excuse not to try to stand up for yourself. If you don’t, no one else will.

I hope this has been helpful; I really do. 

Al Sklover


© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.