Let’s be honest. When an employee gets pulled into the manager’s office and is told they are being put on a Performance Improvement Plan, it’s never good. This is usually a sign that that employee is on their way out. But, there are proper channels which an employer must go through to lawfully and tactfully let an employee go, and a Performance Improvement Plan is an essential part of this process. And who knows, maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Even if you don’t see the improvements you’re hoping for, a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) helps to reduce the risk that comes along with any termination. If you have made the decision to terminate the employee, it is best to wait until you have documentation that justifies the legitimate business reasons behind it.

A PIP will:

  • Define expectations for future performance.
  • Determine success going forward.
  • Set routine check-ins with employee to review progress.
  • Establish a time frame.
  • Explain consequences for failing to meet and sustain improved performance.

What if a Performance Plan isn’t Right for you?

What do you do if you’re a manager and you don’t feel comfortable going through a PIP with someone on your team? Let’s say your teammate Jane keeps making mistakes, day after day. How do you move forward as a manager without having Jane fear for her job?

You hired Jane because she is smart and capable, so if something is going wrong at Jane’s desk, try looking at it as a team sport as opposed to a single player game. Ping Pong can be played with one person repeatedly hitting the ball against the wall. But, this requires little skill, offers no challenge and is rarely fun. On the other hand, when two or more people join the game, camaraderie and teamwork come into play and things get much more interesting.

The same principles can apply to Jane. If all responsibility is on Jane to “fix” her performance issues, she will most likely fail. However, with you on her team to guide her and work alongside her, you two can easily take home the gold.

If under performance continues, or there’s a failure to sustain improved performance, you may need to move on to termination. Whether you choose to use a PIP or an alternate route, make sure to document your process to demonstrate that you gave your employee a fair chance to improve. This record will make it more difficult for the employee to challenge the reason for a termination.