“Is there a way to tell if a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) is honest, or fraudulent?”

Question: Hi, Alan. I work in Singapore for a recruitment company that hires  people, and then places them on long-term assignments working for other companies. I was placed on a two-year assignment to an investment bank in Singapore.

It’s been less than 2.5 months since I have been at work at the investment bank. My manager has suddenly, without any warning, placed me on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”).

The reasons given for placing me on the Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) were shocking: first, I asked questions, and I was not expert in the business applications that I was using, though I had been given no training in using them.

The Performance Improvement Plan did not give a single objective expectation or set down criteria for success.

To top it all off, I was given only two weeks to totally improve, failing which, I face possible termination.

I have seven years of experience in the quality assurance field, and I have never had this kind of issue earlier. I feel like I’m being treated in a most improper way. Kindly advise. Thank you.


Answer: Manu, I’m sorry to say this, but your experience is more common than you might think. More and more employers are using Performance Improvement Plans to intimidate, humiliate and infuriate employees who they have decided, for one reason or another, that they would like to terminate, but without honoring obligations to them, or paying them any severance. As you surely can relate it makes many employees simply quit.

Surely, there are employers who use Performance Improvement Plans in good faith, to assist employees who are having difficulty meeting bona fide requirements of their positions. And surely, there are Human Resources personnel who truly desire to help employees gain the skills and experience necessary to remain productive members of a workplace. But, just as surely, more and more we are hearing of horrific abuses of the words “Performance Improvement Plan.” More and more Performance Improvement Plans deserve, instead, the name “Performance Deception Plan.”

Your experience, Manu, illustrates the Five (5) Essential Components of an honest, good-faith, above-board Performance Improvement Plan, because they are each missing from your situation: 

(1)  A Clear Definition of What Needs to Improve;
(2)  Sufficient Time to Improve;
(3)  Clear and Objective Metrics of Improvement;
(4)  Sufficient Resources and Opportunity to Improve; and
(5)  Honest, Objective Measurement of Improvement.    

This is the “Five Part Test” between an honest Performance Improvement Plan, and a dishonest one. What has happened to you seems 100% dishonest. We do not mince our words: we call what you are experiencing; “FRAUD.”

I will tell you this: Investment Banks do not like it when people tell them – even if it is the truth – that someone at their company is engaged in a kind of fraud. You might consider carefully writing just that – in an email, to the President of the Investment Bank. If you do, do not give the name of any individual who is engaging in this behavior, but describe what is happening. Let the President of the Investment Bank figure out the name of your manager.

If you would like to obtain a Model Letter to help you respond to a Performance Improvement Plan [click here]

People will do all sorts of things if they think they won’t be held accountable. Though it is something of a “confrontational” thing to do, consider doing it. It is the kind of thing we do all the time in our legal practice, and we find it works wonders . . . even sometimes gets people to act responsibly thereafter.

I hope this helps. I really do.

I would very much like to hear how you made out.  

  My Best to You,
Al Sklover

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.