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In late January of this year I received a very poor annual performance review. I received the level of "Needs Improvement", which states "A performance plan must accompany an overall rating of NEEDS IMPROVEMENT".

I have inquired bi-weekly about the status of the performance plan, but have not yet received any plan. Each time I am told that they are working on it, or that they are working out the measurable results, but after 4 months I still do not have the "required" performance plan.

I was told by one of the managers who wrote the performance review that "It is just so that in cases where a need to do this is identified, managers actually follow through with a plan to improve performance: identifying the need alone is not sufficient.". I am probably not correct in this thinking, but I believe if I performed as poorly as they said that they would want to give me a performance plan.

This is also hindering my ability to show improvements in quarterly meetings with my new team lead, as I cannot refer to the performance plan and show the areas I have improved. Instead I have to refer to how I was doing before, and the notes from the performance review, and interpret/hope that I am doing things better.

What is the best course of action here? I really enjoy the work that I do, but its extremely discouraging to be told I am doing a bad job and then not receive the "required" plan that is suppose to help/guide me. I feel like I am doing the exact same thing as I was last year(except for attempting to get better at the areas pointed out in the review), but with a new team lead.

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You may have a real opportunity to save your job.

Performance Improvement Plans are a lot of work for your employer. In some cases there is real hope that a PIP will help but there are many cases it's main purpose is to document due diligence on the side of the employer before the fire someone and there is no expectation of success. So overall success rates are poor.

Since you are not have a PIP yet, you can use the extra time to improve performance on your own terms. The more you can improve, the less likely is a PIP to eventually occur.

You don't need a formal plan for this. Your review should have plenty of pointers of what you should work on. Take the initiative, pick an item or two, think about ways to improve them and start doing these things. Discuss with your manager: You really want to improve, here are the things that you are planning to do about it. Ask for feedback and tips and tricks. If your manager sees, that things are getting better, they may let go of the PIP which saves them a ton of work and effort

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Speak with the manager that said you were under performing, and ask to schedule meeting to discus your performance since the previous review to determine if the P.I.P. is still needed. If he feels you have sufficiently improved the whole P.I.P. talk will end. if he feels it is still warranted you can try to press him to provide a date as to when it will be received so you may get to work improving the parts where you lack.

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From this excerpt in your question

"It is just so that in cases where a need to do this is identified, managers actually follow through with a plan to improve performance: identifying the need alone is not sufficient.". I am probably not correct in this thinking, but I believe if I performed as poorly as they said that they would want to give me a performance plan.

and the fact that you initially asked this question back in February (its been months since then) I believe your job is in jeopardy because management does not view you as worth the investment to develop a plan. They are also hesitant to fire you outright, because in most places around the world this is a legal nightmare and can come to bite them in the future in the form of a wrongful termination lawsuit.

From what you wrote it seems the course they (management) are taking is to do the minimal amount of work to let you go without potential backlash. Note I am not a lawyer, and you should consult one if you do get terminated, so you know your rights.

I do believe you have two reasonably good options, which are not mutually exclusive, and can be pursued simultaneously.

  1. Start a job hunt! This is extremely important for your own sanity, you need to know if worse comes to worse you have a contingency, it will lower your stress levels enormously. Best case you keep your new job and get an attractive offer, worst case you lose your current job, but have a head start in your job hunt.

  2. Open a real line of communication to a decision maker (can be your boss or your boss' boss, or anyone with decision making power with whom you have the best rapport with) about keeping your job. This is easier said than done. Here are key points to keep in mind:

    • Express that you really love this work, and you are sincere in wanting to improve your standing. You want to irrevocably show that the will is there on your side to improve. You may need to sell this hard.
    • Follow up your sincerity in communication with action, this means following up on the things you said you want to improve upon.
    • A note about your specific situation: given the lack of feedback about your Performance Improvement Plan from your current manager, it seems like communication flow to you through this manager is unlikely to improve. Can you branch out to a decision maker that is more receptive? If not, try to be persistent in your communication with the current manager with the above points, perhaps with enough convincing you can get through.

The frustrating part of your situation is not that you can not improve. I'm sure that given whatever criteria they give you, you will be able to make the improvements. The frustration stems from the fact that to stay in good standing you must convince the appropriate decision maker that you will improve in a lasting way. This is a tall order, as not only must you make the appropriate fixes/changes, but you must also improve your reputation in the eyes of the decision maker. The latter is usually the harder thing to achieve as humans are a fickle bunch.

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