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What is a PIP? The Ultimate Guide To Navigating A PIP

A PIP is a Performance Improvement Plan. A PIP covers specific areas of performance deficiencies and sets clear expectations for what needs to happen in the future to remain employed. Think about a PIP as an ultimatum, essentially telling the employee that "Something needs to change." The employee has been deemed (whether fairly or unfairly, as we’ll see) to be missing their targets.

The PIP will outline a plan to improve the employee’s performance, along with milestones to hit over 1-3 months. The manager will document instances where your performance was lacking, pulling in quotes from colleagues, individual code reviews, or emails you may have sent (or have not) sent. A PIP can feel like a personal attack: the manager will spend hours compiling an argument "against you", explaining why you're not meeting expectations.

We’ll talk about specific strategies to use if you’re on a PIP, but for now, just remember this: You can still have an amazing career after a PIP.

Being on a PIP is like being on an extended interview. You have all the anxiety and judgment from a high-pressure environment, but it's actually worse: instead of starting from neutral, you're starting with a negative perception. And a multi-month interview sounds terrible.

Employees on a PIP are not allowed to switch teams. The company has concerns about whether the employee can productively contribute to the company, so they want to avoid the chaos of allowing team switches. This is unfortunate because you may just have a really poor fit with your manager.

Because of the overhead involved with a PIP, generally only medium and large companies will issue them.

The Human Resources (HR) team is involved in every PIP, which is a bad sign. The main function of HR, if not the sole function, is to protect the company’s interests, not the employees’. Once HR gets involved, and the manager has started documenting gaps in the employee's performance, clearly that indicates that there’s been a loss of trust.

This course will cover 4 phases of the PIP lifecycle:

  • Before the PIP (but perhaps in the danger zone)
  • Receiving the PIP within the company and deciding what to do
  • Case studies of Individual Contributors (ICs) who received PIPs, along with managers who have delivered PIPs
  • After the PIP -- how to ensure you have a great career even if you received a PIP