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I have been in a Tech company in USA for a few months and I work in a team of 4 people which includes me. The company is going through many reorganizations and I have seen a few long term and short term employees leave during my time. Many of these employees are at senior levels. New employees also come in sometimes in other teams. There is no onboarding plan and goals keep changing often. I have seen other new employees complain about all this on glassdoor too.

I generally haven't had much work, but I often requested my manager for more work in one on one meetings. Most of the work is hoarded by one person who is the most experienced in their role and in the company's systems and products. The manager does not seem to want to divide the load more fairly among the rest of the team, despite so many hints about the hoarding without calling out the hoarder directly. The manager does not have a plan to enable the rest of the team to become experts like the hoarder.

I was added to a project a few weeks late and no one kept any documentation of what happened in crucial meetings before I joined. As a result, I had a hard time catching up and getting things done. But, I managed to get them done properly on time. Recently, I had a slightly heated argument about the work assignments in a meeting with the team. My manager met with me and sent me an email which essentially says that (A) I should prepare in advance before joining a project and (B) Keep calm in team meetings. I am generally calm and I can work on (B) by simply avoiding conflict while I am here. But, I can't do (A) if they add me so late to projects and without any advance notice. The manager has suggested the possibility of me joining another team where the work is partly related to my work experience.

I now suspect that the manager might be trying to or thinking of putting me on a PIP or PDP, i.e. Performance Improvement Plan or Development plan. I would like to be prepared in case he puts me on a PIP. I have some questions about this.

My questions:

1 - Should I reply to their email and tell them that its hard for me to do point (A) because they added me late to a project with no advance notice? But, I fear that replying like this might only infuriate the manager and worsen things. (Btw, I will not admit to point (B) in writing as it puts me in jeopardy for a minor thing which I am sure happens often in the professional world.)

2 - Can a company put me on PIP without any notice?

3 - Can the company fire me on the basis of my manager's email, especially if I don't refute it?

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    It's difficult to comment on internal company policy. "Can the company?" - Yes, they can. It's all internal policies. Apr 20 '21 at 17:45
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Can a company put me on PIP without any notice?

Yes

Can the company fire me on the basis of my manager's email, especially if I don't refute it?

And Yes. They can fire you even if you do refute it. In fact, they can fire you because they don't like the color of the shirt you're wearing. Almost all U.S. States are "at will" states, meaning they don't need a reason to fire you.

Keep you head down. Continue to complete all your work on time. Be extra nice in meetings.

Seriously consider following your coworkers to a new job

EDIT to address comments

They don't have to tell you you're on a PIP. The only thing they have to do is stop paying you. They probably WILL tell you that you're on a PIP because HR wants them to.

Generally if you're on a PIP or believe you will be put on one you should start job searching. PIPs are usually not used to improve your performance, but document why you should be fired. In most cases there is no way to successfully complete them.

Even if you have a really good HR department (which it sounds like you don't), you've just been told you'll be fired in a month unless they see major changes.

And even if you somehow manage to survive the PIP, you've likely be taken out of the running for raises and promotions for the next year.

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  • Just to clarify my question, if a company puts me on PIP, then are they legally required to inform me that I have been put on a PIP? Otherwise, its like starting a court case against me without even accusing me of anything and without even informing me that there is a case. So, the only time one would come to know about it is when they are convicted.
    – Pip Master
    Apr 20 '21 at 19:22
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    @PipMaster - they don't have to tell you anything. They can just stop paying you (see comments). Apr 20 '21 at 19:59
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    Note that a lot of workers in tech companies actually have contracts that eliminate some aspects of at-will, and mandate some things such as PIPs for under performers. Speaking generally, only about 75% of American employees are at-will. Apr 21 '21 at 2:53
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A company (unless there are contracts, laws, or unions to the contrary) can let you go with or without a PIP, without any notice, regardless of you "refuting" the claims or not.

What you probably need to be focused on more is improving the situation and the your manager's perception of you. Denying there are any issues and saying it's all his fault is unlikely to achieve this goal.

Talk to your manager face to face, in person or via video call. High stakes conversations are best removed from email, especially because no "legal proof" is going to help you in this case.

First of all, you do need to accept some fault and show you want to get better. "Denying it" leaves your manager two options - decide the current level of behavior is fine, or start the path to unloading you (with a PIP in many places). Accepting the feedback gives them reason to believe the situation can improve.

Second, help your manager understand your perspective and see what he can do to help you. Use specific examples not hand-waving abstracts. "I really want to be more prepared for a project when I start it. But last project I was added 50% of the way through the project with 1 week of notice, the time before (facts here). What do you suggest, how can we make sure I have an opportunity to come up to speed before I have to be contributing?" Now you've enlisted him in helping you solve your problem, which is what managers are for. As a manager, I can think of about 5 things that I could do to help that out depending on what is easier to do in that environment. If there's nothing, then at least ideally he now understands that the expectations need to be adjusted when someone's retasked suddenly. Do try to put the outcomes from this in email to get a more "on the record" so that your memories of the action plan don't diverge.

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    If you are put on a PIP, it does neither side any good, if they don't indicate you are on a PIP.
    – Donald
    Apr 20 '21 at 19:59
  • @Donald - PIP without notice is bad for me. But how is it bad for the company ? It becomes easier to get rid of me without informing me of PIP.
    – Pip Master
    Apr 23 '21 at 3:03

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