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As of yet I have not signed it, and I will admit to some of the issues being fair criticisms that I have been trying to improve upon; some have even merited my supervisor's admission that they have improved.

There is my supervisor and my senior colleague, my senior colleague verbally degrades me, humiliates me, and condescends to me frequently. I have on multiple occasions brought this up to my supervisor, and things will change for a week/month and then I'm right back to being their verbal punching bag... I have had coworkers tell me that they wouldn't subject themselves to it.

This has made me uninterested in giving my 100% at work as I have been the only one in my department who handles the book of business I do and with the workload we had in Q4 I made some (since corrected) mistakes that are now coming back to bite me.

On top of events in my personal life (a move, a breakup, and my car being towed) I can't seem to catch a break. Regardless I had mentioned these factors when speaking with my supervisor and was really anxious about bringing my work/life balance into things. My supervisor had seemed upset that the verbal abuse was once again occurring and that others had taken notice. They informed me that they would be adjusting some of the changes on the PIP, and having a conversation about my Senior Colleague's behavior with their respective higher-up.

I suppose my question is, can I survive this if I get stuck with the PIP (which is more than likely still going to occur) and have a productive career? My supervisor seemed hopeful and genuinely did take time to care about my concerns/was open to editing the PIP. That being said I can't disseminate between what they say and what will actually occur. Is this a professional "death sentence"?

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  • 2
    Please also see past discussion of performance improvement plans for some advice on how to survive one. But recognize that reacting by delivering less than you have been virtually guarantees failing. There are productive responses but sulking is not one of them.
    – keshlam
    Jan 13 at 7:11
  • Note that if senior management, rather than your own manager, has put you on a PIP, this probably has less to do with you than someone wanting to cut headcount without paying severance and thinking it'll be easy to annoy you enough to leave voluntarily. That also means it's likely to be a case you can work your way out of, if your manager agrees this was uncalled-for. On the other hand, that's a big demerit to your manager if s/he didn't at least try to push back on this demand; the manager who didn't protect me basically lost my respect and trust.
    – keshlam
    Jan 13 at 17:43
  • 4
    Does this answer your question? How to deal with potential PIP?
    – keshlam
    Jan 13 at 18:47

3 Answers 3

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I suppose my question is, can I survive this if I get stuck with the PIP (which is more than likely still going to occur) and have a productive career?

Yes. By itself a PIP shouldn't impact your career if you make good choices going forward.

Is this a professional "death sentence"?

No. It means this job is likely over, but your career can continue.

Continue to work as hard as you can attempting to fulfill all the details of the PIP to the best of your ability. It probably won't matter, but a good faith effort might allow you to leave on decent terms.

Meanwhile, start to prepare for your job search. Update your resume. Refresh your professional network. Start to ask around for jobs that might be available.

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Some advice based on your situation.

  1. Tell your supervisor everything about the verbal abuse you are getting. This is something no workplace should allow, and it's understandable that you are not performing well. Make sure you write down your complaints and send him the written form, as well as orally. Ensure he understands that in your opinion the harassment is the main cause of your poor performance.
  2. Additionally tell HR about this. Tell them everything you told your boss. It's usually HR's job to prevent workplace abuse, and they are much more incentivised to do it than your boss. They also know what legal and professional rederesses can be made. Make a formal complaint, if such a concept exists in your workplace. Make sure you use the words "harassment", "workplace bullying" and "hostile work environment". Make sure what you say (including the words above) goes in writing and is sent to HR.
  3. Get your colleagues to back you up on this, both to your boss and HR, if some of them are willing. Give their names as witnesses of any incidents.
  4. Starting now, document any incidents of harassment. Send written descriptions of any additional ones to your boss and HR.

At this point I think you have a reasonable chance of being taken off the PIP, or having it modified so you are able to pass it. If you aren't then make sure:

  1. Any PIP makes mention of the harassment, and that any requirements for improvement placed on you are also conditional on the harassment stopping.
  2. As with all PIPs, make sure that the things you are being asked to achieve are measurable and specific (e.g. fixing a certain number of bugs a week, not "having a better attitude"). Make sure they are similar to what your colleagues are doing.

Finally, if your company has an Employee Assistance Program (or even if it doesn't) go and see a therapist/counsellor. In my hugely unprofessional opinion there is a good chance you have some kind of depression-like issue, as a result of everything you've been through. There's nothing to be ashamed of if that's the case, and talking to someone about it can't hurt, even if it's not the case.

PIPs are not the end of your career, and may not even be the end of your job. I've been on a PIP twice, and went on to a long spell at the same company after one. In the second case my next employer didn't even care. If your senior colleague ends up being the one on the sharp end of the stick (which is not impossible) then you may have done all your colleagues a favour.

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  • +1 for documenting everything in writing. Include a backup for yourself privately. @unladenswallow may have grounds for a hostile workplace lawsuit but needs real evidence. Jan 16 at 21:57
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The general use of a PIP is to fire you at the end of it

Yes there do exist companies who want you to improve and become a productive employee by improving as the PIP indicates, but most companies use a PIP as documentation of due process in their firing process. You should take a 30 day PIP as notification to find a new job during the next 30 days. Whether you sign the PIP or not is immaterial.

If you are out for a future of litigation, you can certainly make your own statements about the validity of claims in the PIP, but the company is not bound to do anything based on your statements. Your statements if provable could be used at an unemployment hearing if your employer lets you go "for cause."

Your future employers care about your skills and abilities, not why you were let go from your former job. I would urge you to look for the truth in your employer's statements, but to move forward in your career as if they didn't have a clue as to what they were doing.

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  • Having seen a PIP help an employee turn around and become productive and happy, I respectfully disagree that the intention of the PIP is dismissal. I agree that odds are the PIP often precedes a dismissal since PIP is typically a last-ditch attempt after other efforts have failed. Those other efforts often fail because a person and a position are not matched well. It's not about "good enough" or "competence" so much as the person's interests and the position's requirements aligning or not. When there is alignment, there is performance more often than not. PIP is the flag for misalignment.
    – pdtcaskey
    Jan 16 at 13:16
  • Sometimes a PIP is used like this and sometimes it isn't. In any case being subject to harassment is a legitimate rebuttal, even if the current intention of the company is to fire you. It's worth fighting. Jan 17 at 0:46

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