“Being Placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (“P.I.P.”). What should I do?”

Question: I have worked for a multinational company in England for six years. I have always received positive performance reviews. I’ve been promoted three times, most recently three months ago.

Two weeks ago my manager called me into an informal meeting, without notice, and told me he had received several complaints about me, specifically that I supposedly: (1) don’t share information; (2) I don’t thank the team enough; (3) I don’t delegate authority; (4) I am reactive, and bark orders; (5) I don’t lead by example; (6) I deflect blame to my team.

I’ve never been told these things before, and I wasn’t told who said them. After I was honest in expressing that I think these things are so vague, and incorrect, that I don’t think these have any substance. I was then told a second meeting would take place which would be “formal,” and at that meeting I may be placed on a 30-day Performance Improvement Plan (“P.I.P.”).

I asked for a copy of emails reporting these allegations. I asked why my boss waited so long to tell me these things. I asked why I did not get a chance to defend myself in an informal meeting before a “formal” one was scheduled. I’ve received no response, but a formal meeting has been scheduled for next Thursday.

Two questions: (1) How should I approach the meeting next week? (2) Do I have a case to take my company to Employment Tribunal for attempting constructive/unfair dismissal?

Edmond, from London, England
(All names are changed)

Answer: You are right: (a) These allegations are anonymous; (b) they are terribly vague; (c) they follow you getting promoted just three months ago; (d) the procedure sure seems rushed, without good reason. All in all, it seems very much that you are being “set up” for a fall by being placed on a P.I.P. for some reason.

We suggest you review our Newsletter entitled “Always Push Back at Poor Performance Reviews.” To do so [click here]. We also suggest you review our Q&A entitled “P.I.P. – Can My New Boss Do That?” To do so [click here].

In these situations, we recommend that you respond calmly, clearly, totally respectfully, and most importantly, IN WRITING (preferably in an email) to the allegations as you know them. These are the steps: (1) Question the Facts: are they Not Accurate or Clear?; (2) Thus, the Conclusion(s) must be questioned, as they cannot be accurate or correct; (3) Question the Procedure used, which seems to be wrong; and (4) Question the Motives, that is, why this is being done. Last, (5) suggest a different path, such as an independent investigation of what is going on, or that the CEO or Board of Directors be apprised of this turn of events.

Your letter should go to both your manager and the HR representative, and you should ask that it be placed on the agenda of Thursday’s formal meeting.

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

Though I am not fully familiar with English law and the rules and ways of the English Employment Tribunals, it does seem to me that you have a potential case for attempting unfair or fraudulent dismissal. Please consult English Counsel who are specialists in this area.

Be proactive; be vigilant. Something is under way, and it seems potentially under-handed.

Best, Al Sklover