Career Advice

What Is a Performance Improvement Plan, & What to Do If You’re On One

Young woman working late

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a tool used by managers and HR to help employees identify and create an action plan when there are deficiencies present in your performance. While receiving a PIP can feel scary, they should not always be perceived negatively. If you receive a PIP, and it seems your organization is truly interested in helping you improve. To help you turn the situation around, here are a few tips!

1. Get Specific Feedback on What Successful Performance Looks Like

Work closely with your manager to understand exactly where your performance might be lacking. Once you have those specific measurable behaviors and results targeted, you can work with your boss to create an action plan.

What can you do each week to improve? What classes or trainings can you enroll in to upskill yourself? What will success look like? Set out a timeline and agree on target objectives that will hold both you and your boss accountable.

2. Think About Areas You Can Still Grow

Oftentimes, we can become complacent in our roles, thinking we don’t have anything more to learn, or that our development has reached a plateau. If you find yourself in this mindset, it could be a good time to get your ego in check and remember that there are always ways we can improve. Consider everything you still have left to learn, and use that to drive your internal motivation. Ask yourself, “am I really doing everything I can do to be my best self at work and put my best foot forward?”

Reflect on your daily practices and behaviors, and consider what you felt went well, and what could be improved. Evaluate your mistakes of the past and seek feedback from friends and colleagues.

3. Consider Both the Internal and External Factors

If there are internal factors that are affecting your work, these should be addressed. For example, you may not get along with your boss. You might not have the necessary training needed to succeed. You may not understand the products you’re selling. These are all internal factors that can be worked through with collaborative efforts and training. Take the time to assess your environment at work to see if there is something blocking your success.

There may be external forces impacting your work. Family dynamics, relationship stress, mental health and financial struggles are all realities of our day-to-day lives. If you’re experiencing any of the above, your performance at work is bound to suffer. If you’re needing extra support, let your boss know. Take advantage of any employee assistance programs offered, and get the help you need.

4. Show Up to Each Day as if It’s Your First  

When we first start a new job, we have a desire to prove our success and earn our stripes. As you get more comfortable in a role, on a team and in a company, it’s easy to lose your sense of gusto and roll on autopilot. When you show up to work each day, try and remember that sense of drive you had at the start. Ask yourself, what can I do to help make my boss’s job easier? How can I support my colleagues? How can I spot and solve for gaps in my organization?

View this PIP as a fresh start, and a second chance to show your company what you’re worth.

5. Keep Your Eyes Peeled on the Job Market

It never hurts to have a backup plan in case things with your current job don’t work out. If you’ve never received any negative feedback, and you know your performance is truly where it should be, it could be that pressures for layoffs are coming from above or that your manager might have it out for your termination. While this is an unfortunate worst-case situation, it would be wise to protect yourself by kicking off a discreet job search.

Hearing negative feedback about yourself is never easy. However, being able to take criticism and use it to drive improvement is a necessary step in creating a deeper sense of self-awareness at work. Before you freak out and jump to the conclusion that you’re getting fired, take a deep breath and focus on what you can improve each day!

Stacy Pollack is a Learning Specialist with an MA in Educational Technology. She is passionate about building leadership programs that engage and contribute to the success of her organization. She loves to share her perspective on workplace development, human resources, career building, and networking for success. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at www.stacypollack.com

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