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I was spared in the recent layoffs at my company which is based in California, USA. First, they let go/forced out many leaders and replaced some of them. Then, many middle managers including mine and their low level reportees were let go without any warning. So, us middle level reportees are left. We will be doing the work of the lower level reportees also. The company might hire a few mid level people in case our burden is unbearable.

My performance was average (long story, not my fault) and I have not done anything that could lead to firing. Routine performance reviews are coming up soon. Due to the recent company wide changes, I suspect that the company will use those performance reviews to put me on a performance improvement plan (PIP) to avoid paying me severance and replace me with someone who is better OR accepts less compensation. Usually, PIPs are designed to get rid of employees. If my company puts me on PIP, can I simply reject the PIP and quit instead? Are there any advantages to accepting PIP? I have never had performance issues at my past employers and I don't want PIP to show up in any employment background check.

PS - Is it prudent to inform my own teammates that I have been put on PIP if it happens? I'd like to warn them about it if possible.

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    Do not quit (until you have another job lined up). If you quit, you lose any chance of getting any unemployment benefit or any severance package. And yes, a PIP may be a way to reduce their severance obligations, but it doesn't mean you won't be offered anything. And no, a PIP would not show up in an employment background check anyway. Also, it's better if you're laid off at the same time that other people are. It would be easier to explain that way. If you say you quit, you can't use that excuse. Feb 23, 2023 at 3:39
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    Quitting after receiving a PIP is the same as quitting at any other time. Feb 23, 2023 at 4:21
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    I don't really get the reasoning here: why would the company layoff "good" people, keep "bad" ones only to put them on a PIP? Wouldn't it have been much easier to lay you off and keep a perceived "good" one instead?
    – nvoigt
    Feb 23, 2023 at 6:38
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    They had a perfect opportunity to let you go without all the hassle of a PIP and justifying why you failed it - and chose not to. Severance would probably have been cheaper for them than the costs of keeping you employed long enough to serve out the PIP. That's a sign that you have more value to the company thank you think. Feb 23, 2023 at 11:53
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    @nvoigt: This is a behavior that Meta has advertised as becoming their norm. They laid off a ton of folks, and then demanded "exceptional" performance as the standard which they said would lead to individuals being put on performance plans that would be used as a tool to engage in a second layoff. I don't have a link to the article where that was advertised. I am not saying I think OP is with Meta. I am only putting that forth as a recent example. I think Twitter is engaging in similar practices. Feb 23, 2023 at 20:08

6 Answers 6

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In my experience - this begins with reading the employee handbook. The rules of companies can be wildly variable.

Here's a couple variations/generalities:

  • Failing at a PIP usually ends in "termination for cause" (ie, getting fired). That's the part that might show up in a background check. Quitting before failing may get marked in the company's books as simply quitting, which could work out better for you if your future employer does reference checking. That said - often when a PIP has been delivered (or even when it's coming soon), if an employee quits, a manager may have the option to say to the company's paperwork system that this is an "unregretted attrition" - meaning that they are not sad you left. That kind of marking can block you returning to the company - but often that's the extent of that.
  • Some companies will offer a package as an alternative to the PIP. The idea is it saves you and your manager the unproductive time of executing the PIP. Given that you'd probably get marked as unregretted attrition either way - money is better than no-money.
  • Usually if an employee quits during a PIP - the employee is not marked differently in background checks than if they quit at any other time. That said, mileage varies. What a company will and won't say during a background check is a matter of company policy.
  • There's also a difference between what a company will answer during a background check, and what a professional reference will say. Usually, especially for a big company, the background check is automated, and the answers are a lot more like a set of radio buttons than anything nuanced. It's also very much managed by the lawyers. But a professional reference from a former boss or colleague is usually more nuanced and personal - when a hiring company asks for this, they want to talk to an actual person who actually worked with you. They may ask questions like "would you hire this person again?".
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    Thanks. This was quite helpful. The "Unregretted Attrition" or URA part reminds me of chats about Amazon. Apparently they have a URA quota there of about 6%. Apr 15, 2023 at 3:06
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Usually, PIPs are designed to get rid of employees.

That depends on the location. In some areas it's a (more or less) required legal step, in others it's more optional and can be intended to be constructive.

If my company puts me on PIP, can I simply reject the PIP and quit instead?

No, you cannot "reject" a PIP. It's a unilateral action of the company. You can ALWAYS quit (PIP or not). Your rights and responsibilities may be different when you quit during a PIP, so I suggest reading your employee handbook.

Are there any advantages to accepting PIP?

That's a moot question. You can neither accept nor reject a PIP. You can decide to collaborate or not, but that's it.

I have never had performance issues at my past employers and I don't want PIP to show up in any employment background check.

Again that depends a lot on your locality. In the US most employers will only confirm job title and employment dates and they would not disclose a PIP to a 3rd party. In some legislations such a disclosure could be a legal risk to the company so they won't do it.

PS - Is it prudent to inform my own teammates that I have been put on PIP if it happens? I'd like to warn them about it if possible.

No, it's not prudent. You may be violating a confidentiality clause of your contract and it's going to honk off your employer. It's not going to do anyone any good. What exactly do you expect your teammates to do with your warning ?

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    "You may be violating a confidentiality clause of your contract and it's going to honk off your employer." may being the key word, here. One the other hand, if a large number of employees are put on pip, that may indicate an attempt at hiding a layoff, and may open the company up for a class action.
    – njzk2
    Feb 23, 2023 at 22:17
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    A PIP might be exactly the sort of thing an employer would disclose. It's a factual statement. You cannot (successfully) sue an employer for saying you were on a PIP if you were in fact on a PIP. Feb 24, 2023 at 14:34
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    @DJClayworth: true but beside the point. Of course you can sue an employer, even if there is no chance of winning. It still costs the company money and time and it can be bad PR (if played properly). The good old dates+titles has been affirmed but the courts so many times that the risk of a (frivolous) lawsuit is very low. That's not the case for a PiP. While they can legally disclose a PIP there is no incentive for them to do so especially given the risk of even a frivolous law suit. Most lawsuits are not about winning but about settling or some quid pro quo.
    – Hilmar
    Feb 25, 2023 at 1:40
  • @Hilmar - I don't see any performance issues and none were pointed out to me verbally or in writing. But, I am doing average/meets expectations performance. So, IF I feel that the PIP process is being abused to get rid of me, then I'd like others to know that is the character of the new management or company. Then, they can also decide whether they want to continue or not. If they quit soon, then the company deserves it. If not, then maybe the company is doing something right. Mar 8, 2023 at 19:52
  • @ErranMorad: something doesn't add up here: In California I would expect that the PIP describes the performance issues, the expectations and the metrics for improvement. Did you not get that? How was the PIP communicated to you and what paperwork/documents did you receive?
    – Hilmar
    Mar 10, 2023 at 0:10
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I suspect that the company will use those performance reviews to put me on a performance improvement plan (PIP) to avoid paying me severance and replace me with someone who is better OR accepts less compensation.

This is merely a suspicion from your part. No guarantee that this will happen. Perhaps the recent layoffs have you a bit on the edge or thinking the worst.

If my company puts me on PIP, can I simply reject the PIP and quit instead? Are there any advantages to accepting PIP?

To paraphrase a comment, quitting after getting a PIP is the same as quitting at any other time.

However, if you plan on leaving do make sure you have another job lined up before giving your notice.

Finally, "accepting" a PIP makes it sound like you have a choice to take the PIP. You don't. You are put on PIP if you performance needs improvement and you have few to no saying on the situation.

Quitting after getting a PIP is not synonym of "rejecting" a PIP.

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    The most important point: "do make sure you have another job lined up before giving your notice." Feb 23, 2023 at 16:25
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    You're not on a PIP yet, so focus on doing and improving your work and communicating what you're accomplishing. If you do get put on a PIP, you need to figure out if the company is doing it to cover their legal bases instead of just firing you, or if it's a legitimate pip that you can "win". Then decide if you want to continue to work there, if yes work hard, if no look for a job while you are employed. It's much easier to find a job while employed. Feb 23, 2023 at 20:03
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    @ErranMorad - The company doesn’t need to put you on a performance improvement plan to get rid of you, they can just get rid of you, as evident by the fact they got rid of others before you. So identify the reason your performance hasn’t been the greatest and self-identify a way forward, to make your dismissal unappealing to the company.
    – Donald
    Feb 23, 2023 at 22:26
  • "Finally, "accepting" a PIP makes it sound like you have a choice to take the PIP. You don't." You can choose not to sign it, knowing that they will then immediately fire you.
    – nick012000
    Mar 4, 2023 at 14:43
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A PIP is just an opportunity to look for another job while you still have one.

I'd accept it and use the time wisely.

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There's 3 issues here I think:

1: It's not over until the Fat Lady sings. Until you've been given a PIP, it's all speculation - so it's best not to make drastic plans on possibilities that have not yet manifested.

2: You've acknowledged that your performance has been sub-par, regardless of the why (you say it's not your fault - but there's almost always aspects that you do have control over) - you have the opportunity to turn around your performance. If you are worried about a PIP - an acknowledgement to your Boss that you know you haven't been your best and what you are going to be doing to rectify it can go a long way to stopping that process.

3: On the 'accepting' of the PIP - others have pointed out that you can quit at any time PIP or not - but what I think you are specifically asking is the scenario where you are sat down with your boss and asked to the sign the PIP - at which point you say 'I don't want to sign this, I'd rather hand in my resignation' - which is generally perfectly fine (especially if their goal is to cull the head count) - and so technically you were never placed on a PIP. That said - depending on the local laws, this may mean that you forfeit certain things - so care may be needed.

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  • I would not talk to the boss about performance. the OP's boss got whacked. There is no need to plant seeds in the new boss's head. OP can instead address the issues that make him think he's mediocre.
    – Tony Ennis
    Feb 23, 2023 at 21:10
  • The question author said they are in middle-management, so when they say that they are the kind of company where a PIP always leads to firing, then I would trust their judgment.
    – Philipp
    Mar 2, 2023 at 12:18
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Yes you can quit without accepting their PIP. Quitting is better than working on PIP. Most of the time, PIP's are planned before asking employee to leave the company.

But still some good employers use this PIP process to really improve their employee. Based on discussion with your manager, you can easily sense the PIP is to remove you or to improve you!

PIP denotes it is time to be on top of our work, upskilling and grabbing new opportunities!

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