Question: Dear Alan: I have completed 10 years of service for my employer, during which I have met all goals and targets, and, in fact, have overachieved. The proof is that I was promoted repeatedly through the years and given performance bonuses and stock as rewards.

Now, under new management, I am being hauled in for a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), without being really told what the issues are.

In contesting the facts, should I do it during the PIP Meeting, or am I OK to take down the issues and respond to my manager that I will write a formal response contesting each point. Thank you for your advice.

Preeti
Sydney, Australia

Answer:Dear Preeti: It is very much preferable that you respond afterwards, in writing, for these five reasons, among others:

1. Responding during the PIP Meeting takes your attention away from listening and taking notes. I often say that, in PIP Meetings, the employee has three “jobs”: (a) Don’t show emotion; (b) Don’t make any commitments; and (c) Gather as much “data” as you can, which is done by (i) listening carefully, (ii) asking questions, and (iii) taking notes, because “the more data, the better the decision.” Your responding to what is said and to what is written at the PIP Meeting can make your gathering “data” at the same time quite difficult.

2. Responding during the PIP Meeting does not give you time to think, analyze, or assemble information. In general, but especially when it comes to PIP’s, I encourage people to communicate “mindfully,” which includes carefully, thoughtfully, deliberately and with your “audience” in mind. Mindful communications are the most effective. Communicating mindfully is very hard in a PIP Meeting, when you may feel upset or angry, have not had a chance to ponder what you’ve been told, and with the utmost of care. You can communicate more mindfully after time, after thought, and in an email which allows you to carefully choose – and change, if necessary – your choice of words.

3. Responding during the PIP Meeting can be mistaken or mischaracterized as “adversarial,” “contentious,” or – especially for women –  “shrill.” Over the years I have noticed, time and again, that when you speak people can forget what you said, remember different things than you actually said, lie about what you said, and describe the way you spoke – or even used your hands while speaking – in negative ways. And, too, when people hear something they don’t like hearing, they tend to get upset, even if what was said is entirely honest and softly spoken. Sadly, I have also observed that women are more vulnerable to such mischaracterizations because when a woman speaks forcefully and effectively, she is often described as shrill, because of societal preconditioning to expect women to speak softly. This is another reason to respond to a Performance Improvement Plan in an email, where such mischaracterization is almost impossible.

4. Responding during the PIP Meeting leaves no permanent record, while responding in an email does. When you speak words, air comes out of your lungs, through your vocal chords, and then into the air. Unless the meeting is tape recorded, there is simply no record of what was said, how it was said, to whom it was said, and in response to what was said. Ouch! People who communicate the truth always prefer to have a record of what, exactly, and how, exactly, it was communicated. That’s another reason I much prefer email responses to Performance Improvement Plans over spoken responses. Email is permanent; email is accurate; email is your friend.

5. Responding after the meeting, in an email, gives you control over to whom your response is transmitted. I am an advocate of “bringing leverage right to the decision maker.” Quite often, PIP Meetings include an HR representative, and maybe even a manager, but not someone who has the authority to direct that the PIP be withdrawn. That decision maker is the person to whom you should direct your PIP Response. You probably can’t do that at your PIP Meeting; you probably can do that in an email.

Preeti, as you probably know, we offer both a Model Letter for “Pushing Back” to a Performance Improvement Plan, which you can obtain by [clicking here], as well as an “Ultimate Package of Materials to Push Back at a PIP,” which includes a 152-Point  Guide and Checklist to PIP’s, which you can obtain by [clicking here].

You might also enjoy watching our Sklover Video On Demand entitled “Performance Improvement Plans – How to Respond.” You can do so, for free, by simply [clicking here].

Preeti, after 10 years of superior performance, you would think that new management would see your significant value and appreciate it. Their failure to do so is their failure, not your own. I hope and pray you get through your PIP, and whether or not you do, that you end up working for employers who both appreciate your good efforts, and act as if they do, as well.

My best to you,
Al Sklover

Help Yourself With
These Unique PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT PLAN (PIP) Materials

PIP 1: Model Response to Receiving a PIP
PIP 2: Model Second Response if Your First Response Does Not Work
PIP 3: 152- Point Step-by-Step Guide and Checklist for a PIP
PIP 4: 3 Memos Seeking Feedback of Clients, Customers, Colleagues for Use in PIP Pushback
PIP 5: Final Memo to Delay PIP Conclusion to Continue Job Search
PIP 6: After Successful PIP Pushback, Suggesting Positive Next Steps

[ Click Here ] and Go to Section "H"

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