The Dreaded Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

Ryan Walsh, CEO and Founder
Ryan Walsh, CEO and FounderJan 6, 2021
PIP job stress I give up!

You’ve heard about them.  Maybe your colleague was on one recently, but they’re kind of always hush / hush.  Maybe at one point you found yourself on one.  The dreaded PIP.  You were pipped.  Roommates with Pippy Longstocking.  Presented the Scottie Pippen jersey for your efforts.

PIP, as it’s currently known is a performance improvement plan. Designed to ‘improve your performance’.

But do you really believe they are trying to improve your performance or are you just ‘dead man walking’. Like, do they really want you to succeed?  Do they really want you to get off that plan?  And more importantly, can you do it? Maybe it should be called a BTBFP (’bout to be fired plan’).

Managers typically know that when they present a PIP, the reps are going to react in one of two ways; either check out and go into full job search mode, or really double down on making things work.  They can and will immediately put you in one of those buckets mentally. But know that good leaders will work with you if you want to make it work in the org.  On the other hand if they know you’re going into job search mode, your support will be limited.

For sales professionals, if you find yourself on a PIP, do the following, particularly if you want to find your way off of it:

First, and most importantly, read the fine print of the document – what does the plan actually say?  How do you get off the PIP?  What are the timelines – make sure it’s very specific, related to WHY you are on it, what specific actions you need to take to get off of it, and what happens if you don’t get off of it.

For example, if the plan says you “MAY” be subject to further action if you don’t achieve x, y, z, ask about that – who’s making that decision and why?

Second, don’t over-react in the moment – if you are asked to sign something, you should ask to review the document for a day.  Then once you are very clear, and have had any questions answered or confusing items clarified, you should sign it.  Not signing it will not help your cause, FYI, it will just be documented that you were presented the plan, you reviewed the plan, and opted not to sign it.

Some of the items on the PIP will be performance related which means you’ll have to achieve certain milestones related to deals, new business, selling, etc.  But there also may be activity related or process related items or metrics, and those should be no brainers to achieve and resolve. For example if it says keep your CRM records updated. Well, keep your CRM records updated.

Third, do some introspection – do you truly believe you were giving your all?  If you weren’t and if it was because you weren’t committed to the org, think about why that was?  Sure maybe it was a failing on the company’s part, but is checking out the best response?

A PIP does not mean the walking papers are already written up.  I’ve seen a number of sales professionals not only come off of a PIP, but then thrive and succeed in their careers.  If it does happen though, first figure out if the org is truly right for you, and then choose your course of action.

Ryan Walsh is the founder and CEO of RepVue. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, please follow him there. RepVue is the ultimate source of truth for compensation, culture, and what it’s really like to sell for the world’s most well known sales orgs. Add a rating to gain access today.

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