Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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Receiving a professional improvement plan (PIP) is nearly always upsetting, but when it comes seemingly out of the blue, it can be especially jarring.

That was the situation a Fairygodboss community member found themself in and took to the community feed to ask for advice. “Many of the things written there are one-sided — not explaining the true story,” they wrote. “Things outlined in it as examples of poor performance simply aren’t true. I got good reviews in my last performance review. The only change is that a new girl was hired, and I am now realizing she’s replacing me.”

“I didn’t even speak up for myself because I was in such shock,” they added. “I am completely gutted as I’ve worked hard to meet expectations and have been working with my hands tied from day one due to [my boss’] extreme micromanaging.”

Fellow FGB community members, some of whom had at one time found themselves in similar situations, offered helpful suggestions on next steps.

Look for a new job — while simultaneously making strides to improve.

“My advice

would be to look for another job, now. You can't win a fight like this, and it's not worth the stress,” wrote Fairygodboss member Rebecca Milliken. “And even if you ‘win,’ you will never be secure; you will still be in a toxic workplace. Everyone seems to be hiring, no matter what your field. Do yourself a favor and move on. I know what's being done to you is totally wrong; but what's the point of being right in this case?”

Other FGBers agreed. “I’d spend my time with a career coach instead of a lawyer to get your resume and LinkedIn ready and apply ASAP,” an anonymous commenter wrote. “The working relationship is clearly over. Keep your head up and take it in stride. Mentally prepare yourself that it’s over and the clock is just winding down.”

“Do what he wants WHILE you look for other work,” another anonymous commenter added.

Document everything.

It’s also important to have clear documentation of the strides you’re making, along with evidence that contradicts statements in the PIP, if you disagree. 

“If you decide to fight it, make sure you have your army behind you — documentation: meeting notes, previous employee evaluations, accomplishments, awards, notes/emails from other employees and/or customers regarding your work, names of people willing to back you up (calvary), etc.,” wrote Christine Peabody. “Prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you fulfilled expectations or even exceeded them. Leave them speechless. If you decide this situation is not healthy for you, then give yourself the permission to let it go — completely.”

“Collect your documentation quickly as well (emails, and records of such things you mentioned) before you lose access to them,” Kim Raper agreed. “You need to protect yourself but do it in an appropriate manner. If you have an email that clearly states what you are talking about, forward it to HR and ask for a meeting.”

That includes testimonials from people familiar with your work. 

“Get written character references without spilling the beans — anyone who can attest to what work you did and how you did it,” Elle Siva wrote.

Submit a rebuttal.

Remember that signing a PIP doesn’t mean you agree with the statements within it — usually, it indicates that you have received and read the document. But it’s also within your purview to attempt to correct the record. 

“You should sign the PIP but put a statement that you disagree with it and will be writing a rebuttal,” one community member advised. “Then, write it and send it to HR, your boss and your boss’ boss.”

While getting a PIP is certainly upsetting, there are steps you can take — and you will recover.

“While going through the next 30-days will be difficult, you'll be able to handle it,” wrote Jackie Ghedine. “Use this time to focus on getting a new job and doing what you need to at your current job to leave with your head held high.”

About the Career Expert:

 Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

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