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Sterling Employment Law

Performance improvement plans: Tips for employers and employees

Used properly, a performance improvement plan (PIP) can be a powerful tool. Used improperly, PIPs can be costly and destructive.

There's a perception in the sales world and elsewhere that PIPs are the first step toward firing an employee. Like many perceptions, it's partly based on reality because some employers do use PIPs for that purpose.

In this post, however, we will look at how employers and employees can use PIPs effectively.

Tips for employers when using PIP

So, you want to use a PIP? Consider the following PIP tips before you do it.

  • Be totally committed to helping the employee move past the PIP. Before using a PIP, do everything possible to set the employee up for success. Does the employee understand how to do his or her job? Have you set measurable goals? Are the expectations for the employee reasonable?
  • Ask yourself if the PIP is necessary? You're the manager and it's your job to get the best out of your employees. Is a PIP the best tool you can use? Are you using the PIP as a crutch? PIPs can instill a sense of dread in employees and make it even more difficult for them to perform well.
  • Make the criticism specific. The key word in PIP is "improvement." A PIP should focus on specific areas that make it possible for an employee to close the gap between expectations and current performance. The plan also should have a timeline, with expectations for milestones (30 days, 60 days, 90 days).
  • Document everything. How would your documentation look if it ended up in court? It's a relevant question to ask, because if the PIP leads to more problems, a courtroom could be the final stop for a dispute.
  • Make it legal. When creating a PIP, consider any accommodations or leave that the employee has been legally entitled to.

Tips for employees who are facing a PIP

As an employee, here are things you can do to make a PIP the best thing that ever happened to you.

  • Document, document, document. Take detailed notes about communication that you have regarding your performance. If you have a face-to-face meeting, note when the meeting took place, who was there, and what was said. Make copies of relevant communication, like emails.
  • Ask for help. Use expertise that's around you. Ask your manager, mentor, and colleagues to critique your work and provide guidance on how you can improve.
  • Have a good attitude. Look at the PIP as an opportunity to improve and to develop new skills. Attitude does matter.
  • Decide whether the job is worth it. If the PIP came as a surprise and the new expectations are completely unreasonable, then the company has big problems and you should ask yourself if it's worth committing the time and effort needed to keep your job.

Do you have questions?

If you have questions about PIPs or other employment matters, contact an attorney who knows this area of the law.

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Sterling Employment Law

Sterling Attorneys at Law, P.C.
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