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Received a PIP, what should I do?

Started by mark_wu, January 13, 2019, 09:06:11 PM

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Hello everyone, I'm in need of advice.

I'm a few years out of college and am currently in a good job at at tech company. I've been here a few months and things have recently ramped up fast and I've not been able to keep up. Hence I received some verbal warnings previously and received a PIP last week.

What can I do as an employee to put myself in the best position? I like the company and don't think the PIP's goals are unrealistic. I will put in extra hours after work and in weekends and probably not have a life for 2 months so that I can over deliver and survive this. I'm also going to just keep open if recruiters reach out to me.

Are there any other things I can do to strengthen my position? I don't have much career experience in general so I'm not sure if I can negotiate things like severance and getting  a reference if things don't work out. What else should I be thinking about?



Speaking as a manager of software engineers - PIPs (performance improvement plans) are never a good thing.  They are the step before firing someone for cause.

The most important thing it to maintain constant communications with your manager - written communications - if you have a verbal discussion, take notes and email them to you and your manager so you have a record.  Make sure you know exactly what the expectations are - as far as time, quality, deliverables, deadlines, ...  I would suggest a daily conversation.

I can't speak for your employer, but in general, if things don't work out and you get let go there will be no severance, no recommendation, and you will be released for cause which you may have to report to future employers.  If it gets to that point, it may be preferable to resign first, but investigate the pros and cons of each option. 

Consider your options and see if that is a company you really want to work for or not.  If you don't see yourself there long term, it may be best to start looking for other options.  It may not be a good fit for you.

Last thing - these are my opinions from my experience - your situation may be different, so make your own decisions.


If you think the PIP was because you were slaking off and didn't work hard enough, working harder to break out of the PIP is probably the way to go, but I think you need to ask yourself do you get along with your manager and think they genuinely want you to improve and get out of the PIP? If not, then time to go interview elsewhere. The market is hot for software engineers, it just takes a couple weeks to get a new job with a 20% pay bump. Any reputable company won't tell your new employer that you were on a PIP, and you can say you got a bad manager and/or the role wasn't what you expected if your next employer asks why you are leaving after a few months. If you're just a few months in that job, it's still okay to use references from your previous company.

I've know 4 people throughout my career that have been on a PIP at a tech company. One transferred into a team where everyone was a high performer and couldn't keep up, he got out of it by improving his behavior, working harder and hitting the milestone set by the PIP and the transferred out, last I checked, he's doing well in his new team and got promoted a year later. 2 didn't have good relationship with their (inexperienced) manager, got new jobs with a pay bump and left two weeks later without completing the PIP. They are doing really well in their new roles(the PIP was a wake up call to work harder and to make sure they pick an experienced manager that will help them grow), the last of the 4 had legitimate performance issues, he interviews well but has motivation & focus issues and have changed jobs a few times since, he might have some adult ADHD that's treatable, but I'm not close enough with this person to suggest that.


I don't have tech experience but if you want to improve and try to keep your existing job then by all means go for it and put in the time. That way you won't have any regrets on trying your best. I would also recommend actively checking in with your managers at least once a week. Proactively let them know what you've been doing and ask for feedback. This will let them know you are engaged, want to improve, appreciate their opinions and care about your job.


Having spent many years in the HR space -- and as a manager myself, I would add a bit to what @couchfi said.    I would ask yourself if the issue you're having is with your manager, the company, the culture or some combination of the three.

If you love the company and the culture, then it might be worth trying to stay and putting in the effort to get through it.   If you think that the problem is with overall fit, then I would look for another job immediately.

If you do decide that its a problem between you and your manager -- and you wish to stay, I would do two things:

1.  Do everything you can to meet the requirements of the PIP.   Always be respectful to your manager (even if you feel as though they're being unfair) -- and don't try to damage his/her reputation.   Accept the feedback as fair -- and/or quietly agree to disagree internally, but work through it quietly.   Your goal in the end is to stay -- and to be more successful in the future, potentially under a different boss.  Bosses do come and go, and sometimes you just have to wait that part out.

2.  Find others either on your team, or even better, on other teams who are doing well -- and try to find a mentor / someone who can help you work through the experience.   Awesome if you know somebody more senior who is kind enough to give you some tips.   Don't just rely on one, but build a small coalition of 'fans' who are willing to invest in your success.   It might feel awkward at first, but this will save you in this circumstance and maybe in the future too -- even if you decide to leave or get booted, at least you might have some folks willing to give you a personal reference.

Very few people survive as a 'lone wolf' at work.   A PIP can definitely make you feel like one -- and maybe many people will treat you differently if they know you're on one.   You don't have to advertise it, depending on the company -- but asking for help when you've got nothing to lose is not a bad idea.

I know not everybody will agree with this advice, but for sure it has worked for me.   Hope it helps you!



Thank you all so much for the support and advice! I've had a chance to review the PIP this week with my manager and my manager has helped me outline some weekly goals to hit and encouraged me to use the team members for preparation. I do think my mangers want me to succeed since they're dedicating much resources to helping me every week.

I do like the company culture and would love to stay. I realize now, the biggest weakness for me is communication. I've always been a 'lone wolf' personality as a student and my transition to the work world has been difficult since it requires a lot of collaboration. For example I struggle to ask questions sine I fear it shows incompetence and sometimes I feel I'm already expected to know the answer. Therefore I spend much more time trying to read documentation and simply complete something on my own. But my managers have reassured me to keep asking many questions to learn faster within the next two months.

That being said, I'll still look a little every week at the job market just in case things don't work out..

Thanks everyone!

Fat Tony

Hey mark_wu - for a tech company engineer PIP, IMO the answer varies widely by the company and your manager. Do a probabilistic guess of the PIP survival rate, and figure out the motive. Sometimes PIP survival rates can be as low as 5-10% (when they're used as last-ditch protection for the company before firing, and the manager has basically already decided, or when a company wants to do a layoff but doesn't want to use the dreaded word) and other times they're rather high for performance issues when the company is willing to help (30-70%), and sometimes they're nearly 90%+ (extremely rare situations).

The near-guarantee high survival rates come from being used as "blackmail" for a particularly rebellious or unruly employee, or for a very simple behavioral change e.g. an employee keeps trying to switch teams, keeps saying things that embarrasses management, or keeps trying to work on another project, and is PIPed to keep them in line and get them to obey. Once you figure out a realistic PIP survival rate, that should inform your future choices. If you're in category 1, definitely interview ASAP - but it sounds like you're probably in category 2.

It sounds like you're roughly motivated enough and you have a quite good sense of what is happening, and management is giving signals that this is not a "death sentence" PIP. Even so, I would strongly suggest just interviewing elsewhere once, if only to open your horizons up a bit. You also have a pretty strong sense of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Sometimes, just speaking up more, not being afraid, and doing those embarrassing-but-quick questions that save you 3 hours each time you open your mouth is the way to the future.

You'd be surprised how much people know in their own area and how little (often basic) things people know when they're just a little out of their domain. You're in a new job, it is absolutely normal to ask a lot of questions especially when it comes to company-specific things (if it's basics like "what is a variable" or "what is a for loop", and your'e a programmer, that's probably not good), but many times companies just have poor documentation and you aren't going to just read the textbook and succeed.

You would also do well to reach out to a trusted friend there and figure out the true nature, though considering you've expressed a tendency to lone-wolf and you're new, it may be a little hard to do so. Or if you feel like you can crack through the barrier and get to "real talk" with your manager or with someone with knowledge but less aversion to spilling the beans, figure out which of the categories you are in.

Best of luck to you!