I Was Put on a PIP (Personal Improvement Plan) and I’m Going to Beat It.

I thought the job situation was improving. Sure, I struggled a bit to meet a few deadlines, but I was getting on top of all of my projects. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’ve been let go from jobs numerous times, so my current pickle is not exactly surprising. Nonetheless, it’s pouring salt on a long-time festering wound that I’ve been trying to heel, and I’m equal parts upset about it and wanting to fix my problems and be a survivor at my company, at least for the next year.

Looking back on the last year–the year that was officially reviewed–it is easy to forget how in January of 2019 I had just come back from maternity leave and was still pumping 3x a day at work. I pushed out some of my maternity leave to take later in my son’s first year, so I actually was out 6 weeks in 2019 beyond my typical PTO. Nonetheless, none of this was mentioned in the review, in writing or otherwise. Instead, I got handed a “coaching plan” which is a nicely phrased version of a PIP which is a nicely phrased version of you’re going to be fired soon and we’re just covering our behinds.

Many of my friends have advised me that this is writing on the wall and there is no use to trying to address the issues in this plan… it’s far too late at this point to recover. I should be focused on finding a new job. Maybe they’re right. I could regret doubling down on my current role and trying to fix the issues noted in my PIP. So many are subjective, it’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever successfully “pass” it. But there are some changes organizationally happening on my team that might help (or hurt) and my gut tells me to give it my all, wait it out, and see what happens. I’ve accepted I’ll never get a promotion in my company, but I don’t need a promotion. I need to survive and collect the RSUs that are rightfully mine if I’m able to stay. It’s that simple. Just. Don’t. Get. Fired.

My boss SEEMS to want to help me, but I’ve learned long ago to trust no one. I mean, I trust that she’s going to do what is best for the company and her career. If I’m not what’s best for the company or her career, I’m out. The big question is–am I already out in her mind, or can I come back from the dead like one great big corporate zombie that everyone loves?

The whole thing makes me feel ill. It’s hard to sleep and concentrate, so that makes it extra challenging to recover from my issues in the office. I’ve reviewed my PIP multiple times and have come to the conclusion that the issue isn’t my missing deadlines or failing to collaborate effectively with others–it’s that I can’t actually do my job. It’s not the type of job one gets training in–you’re either good at it, or you’re not. And I’m, well, I’m good enough to get by in it if its not my primary responsibility, but it’s pretty clear I’m struggling with the fundamental requirements of the role.

BUT. But. I’m also thriving with parts of the role–I don’t want to toot my own horn (because it’s rusty and busted anyway) but I can’t think of anyone else who would be successful in this role. It’s not because any of my individual tasks/projects are so difficult that no one could do them… it’s that my job is so allllll over the place that it would be hard to find one person who can do all of these projects even remotely effectively. I wear many hats, which seems to work in my favor, until it doesn’t. The hats go flying and no one cares enough to catch them.

I’m in such an emotional roller coaster right now I’m trying my darnedest to hold it together. I need to. For my family. For our future. For my self worth. And because I really want to know–am I failing at this role because I’m not good at it OR is there something else going on. Can I be successful at it? I have some pretty specific marching orders. Even if “success” in these areas is as subjective as whether that dress is blue or gold, I can at least focus on trying to do what the plan says. I can meet deadlines by better project managing and getting people involved in these projects my earlier on. I’ve learned that I need to see myself as a project manager versus creative. I am not the expert here. I am the consolidator of expertise. This kind of goes against the next bullet in the PIP which is have a strong viewpoint about my work and believe in it–but I can do that without it being my viewpoint. Turning in quality work will be challenging because I always make stupid mistakes (I miss the details, thank you ADHD, and sometimes miss stupid things like when I used the word tantamount and meant paramount and the VP caught it and did I mention I’m an idiot?) Other than that, I just need to pay attention in meetings. Ok, I can do that.

Everything above seems simple. If I just show up at work early, leave late, make sure that I’m project managing vs creating then, well, maybe people will stop hating me so much? I don’t know if it’s possible as whenever I turn something in everyone has SO MUCH FEEDBACK on it and wants to change what I’ve written. I don’t disagree with their feedback, I just wonder why I can’t think of these things myself so I can deliver something they would actually like. That’s my real goal and I don’t think I can achieve that… which is why I know I’m long for this career in general. But if I can hold my breath and hang on for dear life for the next 2 years, it will be an incredibly bumpy ride, but also incredibly worth it. I hope I can.

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5 thoughts on “I Was Put on a PIP (Personal Improvement Plan) and I’m Going to Beat It.”

  1. Hi,

    I am not sure of your actual situation. It seems that you are likely to let go in the interest of the company and manager. You may want to consider on the following:

    – Is your current networth able to last you for a significant amount of time like at least one year?

    – Are you able to reduce your existing expenses further? Reduced expense will means more time for the networth to sustain your living.

    – This is the situation in which I deem it to be in your own interest. It’s more prudent to make decision to the best of your interest as per my perspective.

    The above are my two cents of worth.

    WTK

    1. I have plenty saved and can live for a while without working at the moment given we do not own property. But I don’t care about that, I care about looking at building my wealth today to get to financial independence. The dollars I earn today due to compound interest are worth more than the dollars I’ll earn next year. So I’m holding out and trying my best.

  2. I used to be the big boss at work. Hundreds of employees under me on the org chart. I put some people on PIP’s but I never laid one off. They responded and did a good job and had great careers. One of the two was in a bad job for his skills. I talked him into transferring to another department, which he now runs. We are still good friends. I think I cared a lot more about my team members than many managers do now but don’t assume you can’t beat this. Have a plan B just in case, but I think your attitude has a good chance at making you and your boss look good.

    1. I’m feeling ok about the plan now. Will write another post about it, but basically the good news is that I have skills my boss values. They were not being fully leveraged before as I was put in projects that don’t come naturally to me. I’d like to be able to succeed in those projects and don’t think I will get another chance in THIS company to lead projects like those again, but at the least I can focus on what I do best and help the team that way. The bigger issue is that this type of work is harder to quantify in terms of results so easy to lay off if that time ever comes. But my goal is to survive 24 months right now, not forever. It’s good to know that not all employees on PIPs get laid off. I’m starting to think my boss doesn’t really want to fire me but she will if she has to. I know she sees I’m trying my best so hopefully that’s enough. She also knows how hard it is to hire loyal people who work hard and care, so I have that going for me.

  3. Hi there! I just found your blog after doing some research on stock options and startups, and I’m glad I did! Reading this post made me have flashbacks to my job almost 2 years ago. It was rough. I stayed as long as I could, but ultimately it was hard to keep going when I just felt that people didn’t like me. I also think I probably over-reacted to situations. It can be SO stressful in the fish bowl of a big company job where the pressure to perform goes up and up, and it often feels like your contributions get taken for granted. In any case, I ended up leaving, and leaving a lot of equity on the table, to try the startup thing. It hasn’t been easy, but there are a lot of things I love about it.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I admire your authentic writing! I honestly wish I had the guts to write as openly about my experiences. I love writing and find it so cathartic and helpful, and am simultaneously freaked out about what people will think. Kudos to you for doing it!

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