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Can You Survive a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)?

You’ve been put on a performance improvement plan (PIP). Is it a dead end? Can you realistically turn things around and thrive in your role?  

A PIP is a structured approach to helping an employee improve work results. The document or roadmap should include goals to achieve to be deemed successfully back on track at a job role and a timeline for achieving those goals.

You may have heard or have previously experienced that a PIP is more a glorified pink slip than a genuine effort to retain a valued employee. However, studies show that there’s hope. A recent poll from Blind found that 41% of respondents who had been put on a performance improvement plan passed them and remained in their roles.  

So, if you truly want to stay at your job and your employer truly wants the same, there is a strong possibility you can reach that common goal. Here are some steps you can take to facilitate it:

Assess what YOU want. Succeeding in a PIP can be painstaking work. It’s a wake-up call, but it’s important to understand just what you’re waking up to. Is it the realization that the company or role isn’t right for you? Perhaps that’s a sign to move on or an opportunity to transition into a different role. Or do you feel it’s a true opportunity to turn things around and succeed where you’re at? If that’s the case, check out this success story from Business Insider for inspiration and read on here.

Get clarity. Don’t be afraid to ask for more clarity about the areas where you need improvement. Seek specific examples, and ensure the goals outlined are measurable and achievable, and the timeline is realistic. If any of these variables don’t feel right, discuss them with your manager. Most experts say that a PIP should set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Prioritize it. Once you understand and agree with a performance improvement plan, it’s time to throw your energy and attention into succeeding. Don’t be shy about asking for help. Talk to your manager about resources available to you, such as training programs or mentorship opportunities. Keep a record of all communication regarding your PIP, including meetings, emails, and any resources provided. And track your progress. Be proactive in showing your manager your commitment to improvement. Schedule regular meetings with your manager to discuss your progress and any challenges you face. Don’t wait until your three months are up (or whatever the timeline is).

Ultimately, your PIP may not keep you at your job, and that’s usually for one of two reasons: First, it may have been designed for you to fail. Maybe the “goalpost” kept moving, or your manager was unsupportive. Second, perhaps the job isn’t the right fit for you after all. This can often happen after a change in management or organizational priorities. Maybe, if you’re honest with yourself, it was never a good fit from the beginning. It can happen to anyone. It’s a tough lesson, but you can certainly recover from it and use it to propel you towards a more suitable role.

Our hope for you, however, is that any performance improvement plan that comes your way is presented as a tool to help you stay and thrive in your position if that’s what you want. By focusing on improvement, documenting your progress, and maintaining open communication, you should be able to increase your chance of PIP success.