“Performance Improvement Plan – Questions”

Question: I have been advised by my manager that I may be put on a “PIP” in the near future. He has sent me an email with Opportunities/Areas of Improvement. Previously I always received good reviews, and I was promoted just 6 months ago. My questions: (1) Will a PIP impact my chances for a job outside the company? (2) If I am fired for performance reasons, can I get unemployment and COBRA? (3) The areas of improvement mentioned in the email sound very vague. How do I protect myself?

Chicago, Illinois

Answer: Issues of Performance and PIP’s are the issues that are most frequently presented to us. There is something of an “epidemic” out there of performance issues.

(1) Your being placed on a PIP should not impact your chances of getting an outside job. Almost all employers refrain from telling outsiders anything but your dates of employment, your titles and your compensation, if you request that. It would be extremely unusual for a prospective employer to find out anything from your present employer. However, we are hearing more and more people being asked this question in interviews: “Have you ever been placed on a PIP, or are you now on a PIP?” That would put you in a very uncomfortable and risky circumstance, any way you put it.

(2) If you are fired for performance reasons, you probably will have no problem with either unemployment or COBRA. Most states provide people unemployment benefits unless the reason for being unemployed is (a) voluntary departure (as in resignation), (b) bad behavior (as in stealing money), or (c) grossly poor performance (such as completely ignoring your work.) Still, you may have to fight for your unemployment if your employer contests your application. As to COBRA, that law denies people benefits only if they have committed gross misconduct.

(3) Vague assertions in a PIP are so common, it makes me want to scream. I believe the best way to protect yourself from vague allegations in a PIP is to write back, in an email, to your boss, the Director of HR, and the CEO, and say, in effect, “I can’t improve if I can’t figure out what the problems are, because they are so vague.” Note that you have always been a positive performer, and that you truly doubt the accuracy of the allegations. Ask for an independent review of the allegations. Ask, too, that the time period for improvement be halted until all of this is corrected. Consider asking that a member of the Board of Directors be asked to look into this, as well. If you believe the allegations may be a cover for getting people to resign, or due to discrimination or retaliation, don’t be afraid to write that, too. “Pushing Back” against a PIP must be in writing, and transmitted best by email and Fedex.

Please consider viewing my short video on PIP’s, entitled “Performance Improvement Plan? How to Respond,” which you can view on this blogsite by [clicking here].

Please also review each of the newsletters and Q & A’s in our “Performance Improvement Plan” section of our Resource Center. You can do so by
[clicking here].

If you would like to obtain a “model” memo to help you respond to a
Performance Improvement Plan or Performance Review [click here].

I have also prepared a unique ” 152 Point Guide to Pushing Back Against PIP’s.” To obtain a copy [click here].

My best to you,
Al Sklover

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.