Performance Improvement Plans…Usually A Ticket Out The Door

Performance improvement plans (“PIPs”) can be a legitimate way for employers to help a struggling employee to improve.

July 24, 2019

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If management implements the PIP in good faith and with a positive attitude, it is not unusual that the employee remains with the organization.

However, PIPs, more often than not, usually signify the beginning of the end of the employment relationship.

For one, most managers dread implementing PIPs because they believe that the employee will not improve.  This results in a situation where the manager is simply looking for evidence of poor performance — and they inevitably find it (i.e. a self-fulfilling prophecy).

Second, PIPs are often used for the very purpose of getting rid of an employee.  Either the employer is simply creating a paper trail or it is attempting to frustrate the employee so that he or she quits.
In short, the odds are that if you have been put on a PIP, you are being “shown the door”.

Consequences of Unwarranted or Improper PIPs

If the PIP is not warranted and / or conducted properly, the employer may risk a claim for constructive dismissal.  However, it can be a risky proposition for an employee to quit and claim constructive dismissal at the first sight of a PIP that they do not agree with.    Where the implementation of a PIP makes the employee’s continued employment intolerable  — for example, where it is coupled with other unfair or inappropriate conduct — a constructive dismissal action is more likely to succeed.

Therefore, in many cases, it is recommended that the employee do their utmost to understand and, where necessary, challenge the PIP.

For example:
  • Where appropriate, challenge the factual bases for conclusions that you are not meeting your expectations and objectives.
  • If you do not understand what the employer’s expectations and objectives are, expressly ask for them.
  • If the timeframe for meeting expectations is unreasonable, state so, and request a different timeframe.
  • If the expectations are unreasonable, make this clear (this is often the case in sales-related positions).
  • If the PIP is silent on what tools, assistance and training the employer is prepared to provide you (in order to for you to succeed), demand those details.
  • Remember: If you intend to challenge your PIP, make sure your correspondence is in writing.  Also ensure that HR (or your manager) is cc’d and a copy of your correspondence is place in your employment file.

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