A Performance Improvement Plan Means Your Manager Plans to Fire You, Right?


I’m been ordered to call you. Nothing personal against you, but I’m not having any.

For the last year, I’ve busted my backside for this company. I’ve never gotten a thank you. Instead, this morning I was hauled into my manager’s and given a “performance improvement plan” and told to make an appointment with you.

Apparently, a few “powers that be” in my company think I have a “smart mouth” and need a personality lobotomy. Some reward for all my hard work.

I get the message. Keep my mouth shut and look for a new job. I know what these PIPs mean. They’re a way to document that an employee is on the way out and HR wants to grease the skids.


When employers ask us to coach employees they’ve placed on a PIP, it often means the exact opposite of what you suspect.  It means your employer is willing to invest in you by paying for coaching. I admit the situation is different if you only receive a PIP.

Here’s what comes through loud and clear in your email. You’re cynical and ticked off. You’ve worked hard and feel unappreciated. You consider coaching the equivalent of electric shock treatment. It’s not. It won’t change your personality, just your behavior.

I can almost hear you saying, “There’s nothing wrong with how I behave. It’s all those vanilla people who can’t handle me.” Maybe, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use a tune-up — we all can. Coaching can give you skills and strategies for getting through to those higher-ups who need to hear what you have to say.

Meanwhile, if what you say is  true, your manager may need his own PIP — one that reminds him to thank hard-working employees.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016) and “Solutions” (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at lynnewriter10@gmail.com or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

2 thoughts on “A Performance Improvement Plan Means Your Manager Plans to Fire You, Right?

  1. I’d tend to agree with the person who sent in the question that generally a performance improvement plan (PIP) means the organization is out to fire you and has just taken the first step. One thing is different here, though. They told the questioner that he/she should set up an appointment with you. That sounds like they actually want to help make helpful behavior changes and they recognize your work. That is all to the good I hope the question er calls and sets up an appointment.

    1. Susan, good comment. I was responding to someone who both received a “sign up for coaching” and a PIP. You’re right that a PIP can be merely paperwork signaling the end. The coaching requirement, though, often means that if the person makes the changes, s/he can not only stay but excel. I’m thinking of several coachees who were almost out the door, but they made significant changes and are now highly valued members of their organization’s leadership and professional teams. Thanks, as always, for insightful comments.

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