Performance Improvement Plan – or PIP for short. If you’re in the HR industry, then you for sure know what these are, and you hopefully hate them as much as I do.
For those that might know what they are, or why they’re so bad, let me explain what’s going on.
When someone’s performance in the company starts to slip, and a manager will start to notice, as a warning, they will put the employee on a “performance improvement plan”.
Something along the lines of, the company has this plan for you to follow, over the next month or two, and we’re going to be monitoring your progress very closely, and if you don’t improve your performance within that time frame, you can expect to be let go.
This is flawed for so many reasons, I’m not sure where to even begin.
First of all, let’s just get this out of the way, in most cases, when there is a performance improvement plan set up, it’s strictly a “cover-your-ass” exercise, to try and gather as much evidence as possible, so that when you fire the employee in 30 or 60 days, you have something to back you up.
So chances are, the company has already made a decision about letting you go.
Another problem, and I’ve witnessed this first hand, is that they might be measuring your performance all wrong.
A lot of the time, there is a huge perception problem, and managers might perceive that you’re not contributing, or you’re always slacking off, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Another problem I see, is that in a lot of cases, the “plan” they put you on is so vague, and so unrealistic, that of course you’re going to fail.
Again, it’s more of an exercise in collecting evidence to fire you, so it’s meant to be unrealistic.
A good example of this, is if they claim you have “poor communication”. How are you supposed to accurately measure that, and measure the improvements?
Performance Improvement Plan Example
About a year ago, an anonymous Reuters journalist detailed the horrible process that his company, Thomson Reuters was putting him through.
It creates a culture of fear, and is just plain wrong.
The Newspaper Guild filed legal action, and tried their best to list all of the offenses that they were witnessing.
I’ll paste here one of the letters they sent, so you can see how what I was saying above is totally true.
CC: Rob Doherty, General Manager, Karen Hamilton HR Business Partner
From: The Newspaper Guild of New York
Re: Poor Implementation of Management PerformanceThis is to notify you that your performance as an Editorial manager is not meeting expectations. Your own qualifications as a manager, as evidenced by your less than stellar supervision of the journalists who report to you, are dubious. It is plain you don’t understand the work our members do, nor what Thomson Reuters clients require.
The Guild urges you to improve your own performance as journalists and managers, instead of blindly following some edict laid down by senior managers who think the best way to improve performance is through a reign of terror.PERFORMANCE AREAS REQUIRING IMMEDIATE IMPROVEMENT:
– You fail to give promised guidance and feedback in a timely manner. When you do provide guidance, it is often vague. When a reporter returns with the story you requested, you deny having asked for it and say there “must have been a misunderstanding.” Similarly, you repeatedly move the performance goalposts you set for reporters, making it practically impossible to deliver the quality and/or the quantity of stories requested.
– You fail to edit reporters’ work in a timely fashion, putting Thomson Reuters behind the competition on some stories and allowing other stories to be overtaken by events.
– You criticize journalists for not cultivating new sources, but fail to let them attend, or limit their attendance at, events where they could make new contacts.
– You assign journalists to cover the day-to-day market coverage that Thomson Reuters clients require, and then fail to give these journalists time to focus on the special projects you say they must do to “improve their performance.”
– When editing and often significantly rewriting journalists’ copy you insert errors and then attempt to obfuscate them. You do this in your own reporting as well.
– You repeatedly violate company style guidelines on corrections, often in an attempt to obscure errors (see above). Your initial editing frequently reflects a lack of subject knowledge, an inability to structure stories and unfamiliarity with English usage and grammar.
– When you cannot find any other reason to criticize a Guild member’s performance, you resort to the absurdly petty, e.g., “You don’t use enough pronouns!”
– You use meaningless management-speak in advising Guild members how to improve, e.g., telling them repeatedly that they should be “plugged in,” as if they were toasters.
Better Way Of Improving Performance
Of course, there are better ways of doing this.
I believe in improving employee performance, and I also believe that you can easily create a plan with goals to achieve and monitor the progress, but don’t be an idiot.
If you want to fire someone, do it. Ideally, you should try and re-engage them, and give them a chance to explain themselves and improve themselves, but don’t put them through this process – it’s torture.
Here are just a few simple ideas to make this process a bit better:
- Have more frequent feedback sessions
- Listen to employees when they make suggestions for improvement
- Be realistic when you set goals
- Give credit and take blame