Performance Improvement Plans

Jul 27, 2015

If you’ve been given a performance improvement plan (also known as a PIP) at work, you know you’ve reached a critical point in your employment.

What Are Performance Improvement Plans?

performance improvement plan

Performance improvement plans typically document and identify what your manager believes is poor performance.  If you’ve received one, it likely states areas where your manager thinks you are not performing as expected.  It may say that you haven’t mastered certain skills, or you need to change certain behaviors at work.  You may receive a PIP if you’ve been having a conflict at work with a co-worker or a supervisor.  Performance improvement plans usually give a certain timetable, often within 30-90 days, for improvement.   The PIP may give you goals that you need to meet on a certain timetable.  It may provide that you need to complete certain projects or deliverables.  You may be required to have weekly meetings with your manager or with human resources to review your progress.

Why Do Managers Use Performance Improvement Plans?

Managers use performance improvement plans to document areas where the employee isn’t meeting performance standards.  It is a tool companies may use to address and resolve employee performance issues. In some instances, the company truly wants the employee to make changes and sincerely wants the employee to succeed.

The PIP may be a step in a progressive discipline process.  If you’ve previously been counseled on a similar issue or received a written warning, this is likely the case.  A failure to meet the goals and standards in the PIP may be the last step before termination.

In many cases, performance improvement plans are intended to document an employee’s continued poor performance as a risk management tool.   A history of an employee’s documented performance issues can provide a defense to a company in the event of an employee’s discrimination or wrongful termination claim.  The company’s managers may not expect that the employee will actually meet the goals and succeed.  Of course many employees who receive a PIP believe that the goals and the deadlines are unrealistic.  The PIP in that case is the last documented corrective action before termination.

How to Respond to Performance Improvement Plans

Whether you’ve been at the company for six months or 30 years, recognize that this is a critical moment in your employment relationship.  It is important to think strategically.  Many employees who receive a PIP act impulsively and/or defensively by quitting their job or threatening the company with legal action.   The steps an employee may need to take relate in large part to the employee’s history with the company, any record of prior disciplinary action, whether the employee has an legal claims and the employee’s goals.  We counsel employees who receive performance improvement plans on their next steps, including how to deal with the request to sign the plan and the deadlines that have been set.   It is important to talk to an attorney about your legal rights and how best to manage your particular situation.  Your response can affect whether you receive unemployment benefits, severance pay or even your continued salary.   Call us, we’re friendly!  We can be reached at 617-936-1580 or maura@maura

Maura Greene has been included on the list of Super Lawyers for 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.  She has been named by The Boston Globe as one of Boston’s top-rated employment attorneys.


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