“Should I bring someone with me to a meeting about a Performance Improvement Plan (‘PIP’)?”

Question: Should I have someone with/for me in meetings with a supervisor and HR about a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”)?

If so, who should that person be – a coworker, an attorney, another supervisor (I have 7) or someone outside of work?

Thank you. I had been ready to give up, but now feel empowered by your information and advice.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Answer: Dear Anita: Before answering your question, I would like to say, “Thank You” for what I consider to be the best compliment I could hope to receive: that I gave you hope and confidence in dealing with your employer. That is precisely what this blog is all about.

First, I would suggest that you make a written request to HR and your supervisor that you be permitted to have someone with you in every Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) meeting. That being said, (a) you have no legal right to have someone with you, and (b) most employers do not permit that to take place. Still, why not make the request? Do so in an email, and do so respectfully. Explain that you feel intimidated or “ganged up on,” you feel mistrustful, you are concerned that there may be things said or done in the meeting that might be hurtful to you and your job, and that no good reason exists for denying such a reasonable request. It is not likely this will be granted to you, but why not ask?

Second, if they say, “Yes,” I would choose a person who (a) you trust, and (b) they trust, as well. It would also be a good idea if it was someone who has “credibility” in the company, that is, whose truthfulness is unquestioned. It might be another supervisor, it might be a senior executive, it might be a colleague.

Third, even if they say, “Yes,” it is unlikely that they would permit you to have an attorney with you in the PIP meeting. And even if they approve of your having an attorney with you, I think it might make them more uneasy than if you have a well-known, highly trusted, senior company executive in the room.

Fourth, no matter what they say, it is very important that you (a) set YOUR agenda for the meeting, (b) give them YOUR written response to their claims of performance problems, (c) take careful notes of YOUR recollection of what was said, (d) YOUR insistence that this be reviewed by an independent person or attorney, and, most importantly, (e) after the meeting, send them an email containing (i) YOUR agenda, (ii) YOUR written presentation, (iii) YOUR notes of who said what, and (iv) YOUR insistence that this entire process be “investigated.”

This is so there is a solid written record of what transpired, from YOUR point of view, not theirs. You should include any items that you believe are false, unfair, illogical, discriminatory, and just plain wrong. This last step is very, very important, whether or not you have a “witness” with you.

You might even send your materials, all of them, to the company’s Head of HR, and/or the CEO, because you believe you are being unfairly and dishonestly targeted, and your leaving the company would be a loss to its shareholders or owners.

Do not be afraid to write the TRUTH in the face of POWER, and do not fail to MAKE A WRITTEN RECORD OF ALL THAT TAKES PLACE. Employers so often have a totally different agenda: to hide the truth, make a false record, and – since the employee has no “record” to rebut it – intimidate employees into giving up. Do not let that happen to you!

Hope this helps. I’d love to hear how you do. And, if this is helpful, please tell a friend or two about our blog.

Best, Al Sklover

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

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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