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  • Mark Shaw

Why almost no one survives a PIP

I’d argue the evidence over the past 20 or 30 years confirms that Performance Improvement Plans almost always end up in termination.

 

However, a recent article Jane Zhang at Businessinsider.com provided a great anecdotal summary to support the published data. (ref https://www.businessinsider.com/pip-start-looking-job-good-bad-managers-2024-3).

In summary:

·         A new employee is recruited and soon after, her behaviour changed.  She became unkind and rude. She no longer had the traits that we really valued when hiring her. Her primary job was in customer service and customers complained about her behaviour. She never completed her tasks, came to work late, and regularly called in sick.

·         The line manager tried weekly meetings asking things like, "Is there something going on? Is there something we could do better? How can I help?". Yet the employee would reply with "Why is it only me being focused on?" and place blame on other people.

·         Management (HR?) decided a PIP was the best way to go about her termination.

·         However, the employee changed her behaviour and “survived” the PIP process.

·         As soon as the PIP ended, she reverted to her old ways. She came into the office and was back to her cold, short-tempered nature. She was distant from the rest of the team and would talk back and have a snarky attitude.  Put simply, she changed her behaviour again.

·         Within 30 days of surviving the PIP, she was terminated.

 

In this story, the primary reason for the PIP was to protect the organisation from an unfair dismissal claim.  Understandable, but such a negative management initiative that took over three months to resolve.  Imagine the direct and indirect costs, including loss of productivity and wasted management time, to resolve the issue; let alone the all the surrounding employees looking to management to resolve the problems being caused.

 

Remember if the problem is a lack of skills or knowledge, PIPs can be a beneficial investment for both the employee and the company.  However, if the problem is inappropriate behaviour, PIPs are the wrong process.  No wonder almost no one survives them.

 

There is a proven alternative to use when the problem is inappropriate behaviour, Proactive Reengagement Programs (PRPs).

 

For over 30 years I have asked managers struggling with such issues “If I can help you solve the problem caused by the inappropriate behaviour, do you want to keep the employee?”  The answer is always “Yes”.  Why would you want to start the recruitment, induction, and training processes all over again?

 

PRP’s are based on helping the employee realise their inappropriate behaviour is causing a business problem and then working together to resolve that problem.  It generally takes one meeting, occasionally two, to achieve an agreed outcome for the future.

 

Statistically most people return stop the inappropriate behaviour and return to being a productive employee.  Occasionally, when their behaviour does not change and they are terminated, the process has a 100% success rate at defending any unfair dismissal claims.

 

 

It’s been said that good managers care about their people and approach everything in an empathetic, caring, and understanding manner while bad managers just decide to put an employee on a PIP so that they don't have to deal with their inappropriate behaviour.  Either way, all managers put a lot of time and energy into encouraging and growing their employees and no one likes seeing that investment wasted.  Yet when inappropriate behaviour occurs, discarding that effort and starting again is unnecessary and costly.

 

Rather than throw out the baby with the bath water, when inappropriate behaviour occurs, identify the business problem and work together to resolve it.

 

Go here for more information.

 

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