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Marble Jar Gang Career Counseling: Performance Improvement Plan

The basic premise or formula is to recognize that when your skills + traits + behaviors are placed in the right environment the outcome will give you a greater chance of success and happiness in your work.

If you are hearing the scary words “I am putting you on a Performance Improvement Plan" aka PIP, then take a deep breath, settle down and listen carefully to what is being said. A PIP does not mean you are being fired. It is a 'plan' to help you keep your job by bringing your focus to the issues the PIP will clearly define.

While this a serious conversation you should consider it like being put on probation which means someone has the confidence in you to take control of the issues outlined and turn it around. If they didn’t feel that way you would be let go.

1. Your PIP conversation could be delivered during an annual performance appraisal process or when your manager believes that you are not paying attention to the coaching you have received to change your behavior. Either way, this is your opportunity to re-evaluate your work habits and make a change. A PIP will lay out what you are doing wrong and how to get it done correctly. You will be given a timeline for performance changes, often called a 30-60-90-day plan. If you really want to keep your job and even excel at it then you will be given the ‘recipe’ and the time to make it happen.

2. Tell your manager you acknowledge the shortcomings, want to improve, that you will take this seriously and are committed to turning it around. Ask for feedback regularly and schedule formal touch base meetings for the 30-60-90-day timeframe. If all is progressing as planned, you will have improved your performance to the plan’s goals and possibly exceeded expectations.

3. If your performance goals, as stated on the PIP, are not measurable then ask for that to be clarified. Be certain you can clearly state what you need to do and then make your plan to do it. Take the emotion out of it and do not let fear guide your actions. It is a difficult thing to do and you may have seen people fired after underperforming on a PIP.

For a deeper dive on what companies may be doing on the PIP process check out:

What if you do not agree with what is proposed in the PIP? Without trying to give any advice, aside from our opinion, we think you sign that you received the PIP (yes you will be asked to sign as ‘receiving it’ versus agreeing with it) you can then put your rebuttal in writing to HR. Even if you disagree we suggest you still comply while you are working out the details through your HR professional. If you truly believe they still plan to fire you anyway, then you can seek legal counsel, if you feel there is discrimination in their actions or just polish up your resume and plan to move on. (see RESUME post from the Marble Jar Gang).

At the Marble Jar Gang we do not favor the use of a PIP as it may instill fear versus trust. We also are not proponents of annual reviews but, favor regular coaching and performance reinforcement. However, we felt that we wanted you to have information when your company uses a PIP with honest and valid intentions.

Your homework is to know how your current company uses a PIP and when this action has positive or negative effects on the team. Understand the company culture and respond accordingly. A marble in your jar for that knowledge.

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