Is that performance improvement plan a pretext to fire you?

The term “performance improvement plan” (PIP) sounds fairly disarming, and your employer insists that they simply want to see your contributions to the company improve — but you’re not so sure that their motivations are genuine.

You have a right to be worried. Here’s what you need to know.

A PIP means you’ve been identified as a problem employee

If you’ve been given a performance improvement plan, the odds are high that your manager or boss is looking to fire you — and the sooner, the better.

A PIP is a written warning that basically says that your work is subpar. In addition, the PIP will contain a specific outline of the goals you need to achieve and the timeframe you’re being given to do so in order to return to your employer’s good graces. It sounds like a clear roadmap that can help you, right?

Here’s the problem: In most cases, the goals or the timeline (or both) in the PIP will be impossible to reach. Plus, your manager now has an excuse to hover over you and look for any mistakes that can be used to justify saying you’ve failed your PIP.

Plus, you may suspect — or know — that the PIP is unfair. Maybe your performance reviews have always been great in the past, and your work hasn’t changed — but your new manager simply hates you. Or, maybe you’ve been unwell, recently; Your employer is aware of your health crisis, and has seemed disinclined to make the reasonable accommodations you need.

Protesting your PIP needs to be handled carefully

If you refuse to sign your PIP, the odds are high that you will be terminated for insubordination, but that doesn’t mean that you have to accept what’s happening without a fight.

Instead, you can add a note to the paperwork saying that you are signing only as an acknowledgement that you’ve received the form but that you disagree with the content and intend to file a written response as soon as is practical.

If you’ve been handed a PIP, make no mistake: Your career is on the line. Working with an experienced San Diego employment lawyer is the best way to protect your future.

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