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I started working for my company as a contractor. I worked hard, proved myself and got hired as a full time employee immediately. I got hired against the odds, the company was laying people off at the time and if it didn't make some people feel bitter, it certainly raised expectations sky high.

They wanted me to get more acclimated to the team and gave me a different job no one else wanted, saying I had to prove myself first. The initial plan was that I would do it for 3 months, and go back to what I was hired to do, which got canceled unexpectedly. I got stuck it and I worked for another year and half at this position. Although I hated it, I worked more than anyone else and tried my best to get good at it but it wasn't enough.

My manager told me today that he had decided to place me on a PIP plan. I took the news very calmly. In fact he didn't want to say it, but he was acting weird, speaking in a threatening manner, such as "if you don't get this done, this conversation will change". So it felt like pulling a tooth, but I got it out of him, that he had already decided that I should be on a PIP.

I think he was caught off guard and he wasn't prepared for the conversation, because he also said that he doesn't expect me to achieve better performance.

So on one hand he is saying "yay, there were others who passed a PIP successfully, they are still here, you can do it!" and on the other hand he goes "we've been talking about your performance since July, you had chance to fix things and at this point, I don't think you can do it"

Can your employer put you in a conflict like this? Is it even legal to speak of a PIP this way?

I wrote him an email, in a professional and respectful manner, and told him that I felt conflicted about his statements, and that I did not agree that I should be on a PIP. I mentioned the resistance I felt from the team, and asked for guidance to overcome these difficulties, adding I believed I could be successful at my job, and was ready to do my best.

Clearly, this position is not for me. My goal here, is either to switch to a different department asap, or to be kept on a PIP for a short period and get laid off at the end of it with a severance package. I am trying to avoid getting fired with no compensation. And I need time to find another job.

  • No, I fear that it might put me in further trouble, I already feel ganged up against and I don't want to look like the problem employee (but what do I have to lose right?) Do you mean I should consider filing an HR case? It is legal, by the way. I called an employment attorney. The only thing that is illegal in employment is discrimination, it seems. So they can hand you a task and say "you will fail this and we know it" ! – A.M. Mar 3 '14 at 19:45
  • Thank you so much for the advice. I think they are discussing with the HR at this point, and I don't know who the contact is, or other details. So I am not yet handed a plan, and if I get one, I will do my best to negotiate it. But even experienced HR managers acknowledge PIP is just a formality, and they consider it "a good story to tell, if they encounter 1 successful pass of a PIP plan throughout their entire career" – A.M. Mar 3 '14 at 19:58
  • Sounds to me like your manager has been cutting you slack for the last seven months and has reached the point where he's no longer willing to do so. You're not being ganged up on; this is the company's formal way of putting you on notice to shape up or ship out. If you don't meet the program's terms, you'll be terminated for cause, not laid off, so don't expect any kind of severance. (BTW, next time you might consider not posting these sorts of questions using your real name.) – Blrfl Mar 3 '14 at 21:05
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    I'd advise reworking this question if you want it remain open. The heart of the question seems to be "is it OK/is it legal?" and that directly in opposition to our FAQ on what we can answer. There's also a very serious nuance in wording in conversations like these which makes it incredibly hard for a forum like to answer. If you have a remediation process in your company, that would be an ideal approach - the paperwork you signed with the company will outline the way this works, and it may even spell out your legal obligations before using a 3rd party lawyer. – bethlakshmi Mar 3 '14 at 21:33
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So just to put a wrap on the comments, and give a real answer...

Can your employer put you in a conflict like this? Is it even legal to speak of a PIP this way?

Yes, employers can indeed do this. And as you discovered yourself by speaking with an attorney, No - this is not illegal.

Often, getting to the PIP phase only happens after a long, involved process. And once you are there, the end is often in sight.

But you need to consider "what should I do now?"

Somewhere there is another relevant question that provides the answers. If I can find it, I'll link it in here. [edit - here: Does receiving a Performance Improvement Plan suggest my job is on the line? ]

To summarize:

  • Work with your manager and HR to understand specifically what they are asking you to do, and in what timeframe
  • Do it, to the best of your abilities, and with as positive an attitude as you can muster
  • Meanwhile, start looking for your next job, so that in the likely event your PIP fails, you'll be as ready as you can
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First the PIP is not just a formality. It is giving you the opportunity to improve your performance before further action is taken. That your manager does not expect you to actually get better does not mean that you will not get better. Your could surprise your manager and get better which is the point of a PIP in the first place. To give a existing employee a chance to correct deficiencies before serious disciplinary action is taken.

There is no law or other restriction that would prevent your manager from telling you anything that you were told. There is the potential that something he said could be used in a case against the company but that is true of literally anything he says in his capacity as a manager for the company you work for.

Basically your manager is providing you with some time to try to find a new job before he is forced to fire you. I would recommend you either take that advice or figure out a way to improve your job performance quickly. Or both is probably your best bet to cover your bases

  • For example if your manager told you that the PIP is a formality, and you will be fired no matter what you do, it would be perfectly legal to say this, and in the UK you would write down that statement and hand it to an employment lawyer when you're fired, and the lawyer would enjoy making the company pay. – gnasher729 May 24 '16 at 8:41

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