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I know this question has probably been asked before, but I'd like some advice from everyone: I'm about to have a PIP (Professional Improvement Plan) drawn up, so is my employment over?

My boss brought up two issues:

  1. I wasn't showing "confidence" in client meetings when showing the software updates. Okay, this could be fair. But what's not fair is that the last client meeting we had was 3 weeks ago! If there was an issue, why didn't my boss bring it up after the meeting? Why did he wait 3 weeks to say something? When I asked him about this he said I should be more excited and almost act like a salesman towards the client. Okay, this is fair feedback also.

  2. On my resume, I said one of my skills is "Fortran", but my resume clearly shows I haven't used it for an employer in about 5 years. My boss complained that he gave me a Fortran issue ticket that I didn't complete in time. Yet I'm rusty on it AND this is the first time that I'm hearing that he's not happy that I'm not working as quickly as he thinks I should. When I asked him about this, he said he expects people to be masters of everything listed on their resume, even on programming languages they haven't used in years.

The PIP is coming out of the blue with no prior verbal warnings. And I've looked through my hiring agreement and every HR documentation I can find, but nothing mentions the PIP process.

The goals in my PIP includes things like "improve your confidence when presenting at the client meeting" and "improve your Fortran skills". Obviously neither of these has a measurable goal or a specific deadline. Maybe "improve your Fortran skills to finish this ticket in 80% of the allotted time" is a measurable goal, but then why not state this on the PIP?

Some other factors:

  • The company seems to be hiring college graduates every few weeks. I take this to mean they have no problem with the time and costs of interviewing and hiring people.
  • A possible red flag I only discovered after I started here: the longest person working here has only been here for about 3 years. This means people don't stay long, either because they're fired or they quit.
  • I'm approaching 3 months at the company, which is usually a probationary period.

So my question is: is this something I can improve on and recover from? Or is it just a matter of time before I'm fired, but now they can say I didn't meet the conditions of the PIP?


As a follow-up:

I had a meeting with my bosses about the PIP process and I wound up putting in my resignation the next day.

In the meeting, I told them that I've already started some classes to improve my skills, but a family emergency came up, and I wouldn't be able to study over the weekend. One boss said he was disappointed that I wasn't making better progress. The other one pulled up my resume and started going over it, job by job, saying I used Fortran 3 years ago at a previous job and that I used it 6 years ago on a second job. He asked if I was "bigging up my resume" and did I actually know Fortran, or am I just rusty?

As my spouse said, if the boss is pulling out my resume in the middle of the meeting to basically accuse me of lying about my skills, then the business relationship is over. When I said there was a miscommunication about the required skills, the second boss tried to argue that he asked about this in the interview and I said I knew it, so (again) he expected me to be an expert at it. I took this to mean this means it's not their fault for properly vetting the candidate (me) and making sure I could do what's expected, it's my fault for inflating the skills on my resume.

So, thanks to everyone for the advice.

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    3 months in, they don't have that much invested in you, so it may be a formality while they look for someone else. Lack of direct communication is a warning sign anyhow. Longest person at 3 years tenure is a pointed observation also. Maybe they didn't do a good job explaining what they wanted in their new hire. Very possibly they didn't even know. IMO do what Joe S. says below. Leave all options open while you can.
    – Pete W
    Aug 12 '21 at 23:19
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    "The company seems to be hiring college graduates every few weeks". Well, no new college graduates would know Fortran nowadays. While it is not impossible to learn Fortran, not many people would be very excited about working with Fortran. Aug 13 '21 at 0:52
  • Something isn’t adding up. A company that requires Fortran knowledge, is hiring college graduates, every few weeks. If you need training to refresh your knowledge you should request it. Your supervisors complaints are pretty serious. You should make sure you understand exactly what the PIP criteria otherwise you might find yourself out of a job
    – Donald
    Aug 13 '21 at 7:59
  • Just to clarify some points: I used Fortran as an example, but the point is that it was brought up in my interview, but I expected the job to be more of a front-end web developer role instead of writing back-end code. I expect the PIP to come next week since my boss said he had "concerns" about my performance, told me what I should expect to improve, and that we would have a meeting to discuss the formal PIP.
    – John55410
    Aug 13 '21 at 23:33
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    This sounds like a pretty toxic place; you'll definitely find better.
    – xxbbcc
    Aug 26 '21 at 16:00
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Opinions differ on whether PIPs are just "you're fired!, but I don't have the paperwork yet" or not

Whether PIPs are survivable differs significantly by company and no consensus opinion on whether you you should try and survive a PIP exists.

Nobody here can know whether this particular PIP is survivable besides your own manager. Nor is it a general corporate standard that PIPs can be survived.

This ambiguity forces you to look at it from a risk perspective. What are the risks of investing all your effort into a job search while just waiting to be fired vs investing in the PIP and ending up being fired anyway with limited job search investment? These risks vary by location, culture, and industry.

As a software developer in Canada, I have an abundance of job opportunities and short tenure isn’t really viewed poorly. Software is in demand in Canada and my specific location of Calgary. To me, job hunting is a low risk choice.

You should also consider whether surviving a PIP is even desirable. Impressions stick. Even if you succeed, you move from person on PIP to person who was on PIP.

In your shoes I would spend all my time job searching.

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  • Not confident enough, and too slow to complete a Fortran ticket don't sound too ominous to me. Aug 14 '21 at 17:56
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    In general, I agree. However, I would add that PIP's have such a horrible reputation that if a company in good faith wanted to retain an employee but prod the employee into "improving their performance", they would not PIP that employee. At the very least, they would rebrand the PIP. They certainly would not hand you a PIP printed on a pink slip of paper.
    – emory
    Aug 15 '21 at 19:00
  • I can't image a good company using a PIP for anything except to appease HR. They're reputation is "I want to fire you but HR said I must do this first." Any decent company that wanted to keep you would call it something else. Aug 27 '21 at 15:05
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is this something I can improve on and recover from? Or is it just a matter of time before I'm fired, but now they can say I didn't meet the conditions of the PIP?

Very often a PIP is just a formality before you are released. But some folks do survive a PIP and go on to be valuable and cherished employees.

Your best bet is to make sure you completely understand specifically what is being asked of you and fulfill it to the best of your abilities, with a good attitude.

It might not work. And to be honest it usually won't. But it won't hurt to try and doing this is really your last chance to stick around.

In addition, working hard to fulfill PIP requirements might get you a decent recommendation from the employer. Just blowing them off almost certainly won't. I know that I personally gave a good recommendation for a worker who tried hard but failed. Being a bad fit for the job I had didn't make her a bad person, nor did it make her a bad fit for her next job.

While on a PIP it certainly makes sense to start up your job-hunting process. Check in with your professional network, and start to see what kinds of jobs are out there for you.

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  • I would disagree. Wasting time on Fortran (language not in a great demand) or client interactions (if OP is not going on managerial path) if OP does not stand a chance of retaining position is simply stupid. In that instance it is better to look for another immediately job and improve on something that could actually be useful during interviews and later in career.
    – rs.29
    Aug 13 '21 at 8:49
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    @rs.29 The two are not mutually exclusive. One can focus on completing the PIP during business hours and then focus on getting a job on their own time. Most companies will understand and appreciate if you can't be responsive during business hours because you're too busy doing your job. I have seen managers give many after-hours interviews and it was never perceived as an issue.
    – aleppke
    Aug 13 '21 at 18:13
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    @JoeStrazzere Neither do you. And no, OP should first use his brain and consider his chances for PIP survival. If he has slim or no chance, there is no point of wasting sleep over that. He should focus his activities on finding a new job.
    – rs.29
    Aug 13 '21 at 21:41
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    @JoeStrazzere in general people should not work nights and weekends. People on PIPs are not an exception to this general rule. I think OP should do the best job possible on the PIP given the constraints of (1) OP should be looking for a new job; and (2) OP should not succumb to overwork which has been proven to be detrimental to health and counterproductive
    – emory
    Aug 14 '21 at 16:54
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    @rs.29 If the PIP requires doing these things, then they are his daytime job. The company should expect to have to re-allocate the employee's workload to give them time to work on the PIP. If they don't, then the PIP is almost certainly not survivable anyway so it doesn't matter if you work on it or not.
    – aleppke
    Aug 16 '21 at 16:17
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You likely did not meet their expectations

Opinions on PIP vary. Some people survive a PIP and become successful in that same company. Somewhere it's just a formality and may not have anything to do with the employee, i.e. company is having financial difficulties and they need to downsize payroll. In some companies they simply do not like the guy and then invent some reasons for PIP and later dismissal.

Now, let's assume they did not hire you in bad faith. There are some companies that actually do that - they promise people a steady job but lay them off after few months. Usually there is some government incentive to do so, and they misuse probation period. However, let's assume they did not do that . Then you gotta ask yourself these questions:

  • Is Fortran big part of your job ? Or in simple terms, did they hire you to do Fortran ? Your Fortran skills may be a little rusty, but Fortran developers are rare in these times. Maybe they did expect from you to brush up those skills (probably in your own free time) and became full fledged Fortran developer.

  • Is client presentation big part of your job ? Same as with Fortran. You obviously have fairly large experience (5+ years, as you mentioned). If you are hired as senior developer or even team lead, it could be implicitly expected from you to know how to handle clients. If a company hires lot of recent college grads, maybe they did expect from you to fill managerial role.

If you could honestly answer yes on any of these questions, then it maybe could be worth your while to try and survive your PIP. If the answer is no on both questions, then assume you just landed in a bad company, and start searching for a new job immediately.

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