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5 Steps If You Receive A Performance Improvement Plan From Your Employer

Mar 23 2022

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh!

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda. What are we talking about today?

DeMatteis: I thought we could talk about performance improvement plans – always something that’s scary to employees – and I thought that we could tell Connecticut employees some things to do to maybe make this process just a little easier or more palatable for them. What do you have for us?

Goodbaum: Yeah, this is hard, and I’m not going to sugarcoat that. Nobody wants to receive a performance improvement plan. And it’s generally not a good sign. But it doesn’t have to be a sign of imminent doom either. So here are my five steps if you receive a performance improvement plan from your employer.

Number one: Keep breathing. This is going to be okay. You’re not the first person to receive a performance improvement plan; you’re not going to be the last; and you are going to get through this one way or another.

Step number two, and this sometimes is not obvious: Read the performance improvement plan. If you don’t have a physical document, ask for one. You want this stuff in writing. And then evaluate it: Is this something you can do? Are these expectations fair? Are the recitations of your past performance accurate? If not, that could be a sign of something more nefarious, something more problematic.

Number three: Dedicate yourself to completing what’s in the plan if you possibly can. Come up with a strategy, and work with your manager to achieve that strategy. You want to be able to complete the plan if possible, and at a minimum, you want to be able to show that you did everything reasonable and in your control to try to complete it. Even if you think it’s unreasonable, even if you think it’s unfair, even if you think you’re being set up to fail, there’s no harm in trying.

Number four: Stay professional at all times. If the performance improvement plan is actually a way for your employer to try to manage you out of your job, to try to set you up to fail, to try to come up with an excuse to terminate your employment, don’t give them an excuse. Don’t respond by swearing at anybody, by yelling at anybody, or by treating anybody other than in a fully professional fashion. Even if you feel like you’re being goaded into it, your job is to remain as professional as you possibly can while also dedicating yourself to being the best employee you possibly can.

And step number five, and these don’t necessarily happen in order, but the fifth thing you should do is: Evaluate the broader context. Ask yourself if you are being treated not just unfairly, but potentially illegally. So ask, “What’s been happening recently? Do I have a new boss, and has that boss been treating me differently because of my age or my race or my sex? Have I just disclosed a disability to my employer? Have I just taken FMLA leave or told them about leave I’m planning to take in the future because of a seriously ill loved one? Have I just complained about something I think is unethical or illegal at work?” What’s changed that might show that this is not just your employer acting in good faith, trying to help you improve your performance, but rather your employer potentially acting illegally? And if you think there’s something illegal there, if you think you’re being subjected to discrimination or retaliation, or if you think you’re a whistleblower, that’s the time to pick up the phone and talk to a Connecticut employment lawyer.

So those are my five steps for employees who receive performance improvement plans.

DeMatteis: They’re great steps. Thank you so much for sharing them. We hope you enjoy this. See you next time.

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