5 Things To Do When You’re Put On a Performance Improvement Plan

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If you’ve been put on a performance improvement plan (PIP) at work, you’re probably feeling pretty nervous about what happens next. Can you work to improve your standing? Or is this just the first step toward moving you out the door?

Some managers put employees on performance improvement plans when they aren’t satisfied with the way they’re doing their work. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, you might be wondering about what it all really means. If you meet all of the requirements of the PIP, will you really get to stay in your current position? Or is it too late for that and time for you to start looking for another job? It can all feel a little confusing and disheartening. Thankfully, there are a few key things you can focus on doing to improve your circumstances when you’ve been put on a performance improvement plan.

1. Take a beat

First of all, take a minute to calm down and adjust to this new reality. You should always try to do this when you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed. You don’t want to act too quickly and do or say something you’ll regret later. So, take a beat. Go home and relax. Take a weekend to decompress a little. Cook some healthy and delicious food for yourself. Take a walk. Get plenty of rest. There will be plenty of time to think about how to proceed. Right now, you just want to help yourself to feel a little stronger so that you’re in the best shape possible for what comes next.

2. Take it seriously and to heart

Performance improvement plans sometimes get a bad rap as a signifier of looming termination. But they don’t always mean that you’re about to be fired. Instead, they’re meant to let you know that the issues and goals detailed in the PIP are serious. So you want to respond appropriately. Getting upset, refuting the problems or trying to blame others will only make the situation worse. Instead, work on facing the details of your PIP with a calm and serious attitude.

The nice thing about PIPs is that they are extremely detailed and specific. Your plan will let you know exactly what you need to do to meet the requirements. Objectives are measurable, and you’ll probably be given very precise deadlines as well. Be sure that you fully understand all of these expectations. Read the PIP carefully and be sure that you take the time to understand exactly what you’re being asked to do.

3. Embrace every detail

PIPs provide clear and measurable goals. So focus on meeting them. Attend to every small detail to the letter. Don’t miss a step. Double check your work. And be sure to meet, if not beat, any and all deadlines as you go.

Most importantly, attend to this work with a positive and committed attitude. You don’t want to just check all the boxes, you want to knock each of the goals out of the park. Aim to amaze.

Also, show that you intellectually understand and embrace the need for these changes. Demonstrate that you’ve turned over a new leaf through both your actions and your attitude. This will help your manager to see that you’ve really turned around as a result of all this.

4. Look

Unfortunately, the reality of this situation is that PIPs are often the first step in moving you out the door. Hopefully that won’t be the case here, especially if you really like your job. But either way, it might not hurt to start to look for a new position just in case. If you really want to stay at your current job though, don’t pull back from your commitment there even a little bit. Walk that line carefully. You can continue to give your all at your current job while looking into other options a bit too. It won’t hurt anything to polish up your resume, or do a little hunting, while working your PIP.

5. Move on gracefully, no matter what happens

This situation could shake out in a few different ways. But, whether your stay at your job or leave the organization, you want to move on from this gracefully. You won’t do yourself any favors by holding on to bitterness or burning bridges.

If you are allowed to stay, that’s great. Count your blessings (gratitude is good for your career) and watch your step. The higher-ups are probably watching you a little extra closely even though you’ve been afforded the opportunity to stay in your current role. Consider touching base with your manager more often to establish concrete goals, and be sure to meet them. Keep the lessons you learned from your PIP in mind, and try not to repeat any of those mistakes.

You should also try to handle the situation gracefully if you’re asked to leave. Maybe it’s for the best. Performance improvement plans are part of an old managerial framework that’s somewhat outdated at this point. Maybe you’d prefer to work for someone who mentors and guides you in a different way. Those bosses are out there. Learn what you can from this experience. Then, let it go and move on.

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