Career Advice

Am I Getting Fired After a Performance Improvement Plan?  

Receiving a performance improvement plan (PIP) is normally not a good thing. It doesn’t matter which way you look at it, a PIP is a sure sign that your manager is not happy with your performance. The scariest part is wondering if you’ll get fired after a performance improvement plan.

While some employers use PIPs to try motivate employees who may be slacking, others implement them as a first step in the termination process.

The best you can do when you receive a PIP is to work hard and do your best to achieve the goals laid out in the document. To help you navigate this challenging process, I’ve gathered some information regarding PIPs.

What Is a Performance Improvement Plan?

The aim of a PIP plan is to highlight areas of an employee’s performance that needs work. The document should mention the reasons why you have received a PIP and also list the performance expectations your manager expects you to meet.

In addition, a PIP should provide more detailed, smaller goals that you need to work towards during the period of your PIP, which is typically around one to four months. Each goal is typically accompanied by a timeframe within which you should reach the goal.

When implemented correctly, a PIP should provide you with a fair and doable plan that can help you improve your weaker performance areas. Therefore, your manager should provide you with the proper support. The PIP must state how this support will be provided, whether this is through scheduled feedback sessions or additional training.

Since employees are often confused about what exactly a PIP is, it is important to note that it is not disciplinary action. While both are the result of underperformance at work, the former’s aim is to help an employee improve while the latter involves warnings and possible suspension without work or pay.

Will I Be Fired After a Performance Improvement Plan?

As you can gather from my definition above, the proper aim of a PIP is to help an employee retain their position by providing them with a detailed plan on how to improve their performance. Sadly, this is not always the case. Far too often, a PIP is used by employers as a means to get rid of employees whose contributions are no longer required.

To justify an employee’s dismissal, an employer must have proper proof that they are incompetent. Failing a PIP can provide them with the necessary documented proof that you are incapable of performing your duties.

It’s important to remember, however, that your manager is supposed to provide you with the necessary guidance throughout the process. If they don’t stick to their part of the plan and try to fire you without proper severance, you can take legal steps to challenge the dismissal.

Remember to document their lack of support and feedback during the PIP process and show this to your employment lawyer. If you’ve been dismissed without just cause, you are owed full severance, which can amount to two years’ worth of pay.

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Identifying a False or Unfair PIP

So, how do you know if your manager has given you a PIP to help you improve your performance or whether they’re trying to get rid of you?

Well, the problem is that there’s no way of telling what your manager’s motivation is for giving you a PIP. Before you go on the defense, it’s advisable to keep a cool head and to honestly evaluate your own performance.

Is the manager perhaps justified in giving you a PIP because you have been slacking off at work? If this is the case, the best course of action is to up your game and focus on achieving the goals stipulated in your PIP.

However, you may find that your PIP contains unrealistic performance expectations and unachievable goals. If this is the case, you’re probably dealing with a fake PIP and an employer who aims to dismiss you without the proper severance pay and benefits.

Here are a few other tell-tale signs that a PIP is meant to set you up for failure:

  • Duties are listed that are outside of your job description.
  • You are provided with impossible deadlines.
  • The plan does not include the necessary support and feedback processes.

Can I Disagree With a PIP?

If you’ve been given a PIP that you don’t agree with, there are a few ways in which you can react. First, you can state that you’re open to a PIP but that you don’t agree with all aspects of the PIP. You should state this in writing and list the points that you think are unfair or incorrect.

In the event, however, that you feel the PIP is completely unwarranted and unfair, you should not sign the document. Remember, as soon as you sign the PIP, you are in agreement with whatever is stated in the PIP and your employer will hold you to the goals as laid out in the document.

While an outright refusal to accept a PIP can serve as a basis for termination, receiving a false PIP is a sure signal that the employer is planning to fire you anyway. Also, it’s worth noting that a PIP will go into your personnel file and it could potentially negatively affect your future employment.

For this reason, it’s best to politely stall the process by explaining that you need time to process the plan. During this time, you should seek out the advice of an employment attorney to ensure that your next steps are in your best interests.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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