Performance Improvement Plans | What You Need To Know

May 20 2021

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh.

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda.

DeMatteis: What are we going to chat about today?

Goodbaum: I thought we could talk about performance improvement plans. So, people often come to us because they have received a performance improvement plan, they’ve been doing their job for years, they think everything is going great. And then, one day out of the blue, they hear from their boss or from HR that they are being placed on a performance improvement plan, or a PIP as we call it. And, that often leads people to panic. So, the first thing they think to do is ‘let me call an employment lawyer’ and so I get the call and I’m sure you (Amanda) get this call, “I was put on a PIP, I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid I’m going to lose my job.” They think it’s the beginning of the end and now they’re sitting in your office, what do you tell them?

DeMatteis: Well, the first thing I tell them is to take a deep breath, right? Breathe. This is scary stuff. No one wants to hear that their employer is not happy with their performance. So, take a deep breath. Try to take the emotion out of it. It’s really difficult to do when you’re the one involved but really try. You’re going to make better decisions that way. Next thing to do, and you’re going to say, “Really, Amanda?” but it’s true–Read it! You need to know what it is your employer is saying before we can be critical of it. Before we can say, “Is this motivated by something that is illegal or is this legitimate?” You [have to] read it. So do that first.

The next really important thing for employees in Connecticut to know is your performance improvement plan goes into your personnel file. But you have a right to submit a rebuttal to that performance improvement plan that will also go into your personnel file. So, after you’ve taken a deep breath, after you’ve decided to read this thing, you say, “Look, this isn’t right. This is factually inaccurate. The characterizations that they are making in this performance improvement plan are wrong. The metrics that they are citing are wrong.” Whatever it may be, again, think clearly and put that down on paper. You can then ask your employer to please place a copy of this rebuttal into your [personnel file]. And that’s protected activity under our Connecticut Personnel Files Act. So, you should do that.

The other thing that I always encourage people to do is think about the last six months or so. Has anything changed? Do you have a new supervisor? Have you complained about something at work? Did you get hurt at work? Did you go out on medical leave? Has something changed over the course of the last six months to a year that all of a sudden you’re saying, “Jeeze, things have been moving along fine, and then all of a sudden bang.” Right? What’s that bang, you [have to] identify what that is.

And, if you have questions after all of this, look, knowledge is power. Call us, call an employment lawyer, get an understanding of what your rights are and what those next steps should be. Calling too early is always better than calling too late.

Goodbaum: Good advice.

DeMatteis: We can certainly say to you, “Look, it’s premature, we can’t do anything about it.” But if you call us too late, it’s really hard for us to come and do something that can be helpful. So, I hope these pointers are helpful to you. If you have other questions, by all means, give us a call.

Goodbaum: That’s good, I have a few more things to add to that. One, if the PIP itself is full of subjective criteria instead of objective criteria, that’s a sign of a problem. If it says, “Get along better with your manager” as opposed to “sell X number of things,” then it feels to me like they are setting you up for failure. Another sort of setup for failure is these are goals you’ve never met. Nobody meets these goals. Then this is not, in my view, a genuine performance improvement plan, it’s really an “exit-you-out-of-this-company” plan. And sometimes every once in a while an employer will give a PIP to somebody and say, “You might want to think about looking for another job.” They might even say that directly or might more subtly. At that point, you can feel fairly assured that this is the beginning of the end and that’s the time to pick up the phone and call us.

DeMatteis: Yes, that’s great advice. I’m glad you added those additional pieces of information. I’m sure we have more.

Goodbaum: We’ll do another video!

DeMatteis: Absolutely! If you need anything else, please give us a call. Thanks so much for watching as always.

Goodbaum: Take care!

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Performance Improvement Plans What You Need To Know

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