Background: I work in U.S. corporate IT organization that has been undergoing downsizing since 2009 and multiple reorgs since then.

For the past year I've been working in a group under the same manager and I got off on a bad foot with her in the beginning by making negative comments about MBAs causing all the recent crashes and lacking essential technical skills before I found out she is actually both a business major and MBA (non-tech manager type).

She has given me multiple PIPs while at the same time adding more responsibilities to my plate every time someone leaves. Each PIP lasts about two month and she will put specific goals on my PIP of some project from her plate or a layoff victim's plate that I need to accomplish before the end of the PIP.

I technically meet the goals outlined in these PIPs but each time there is some room for improvement that makes her put me on another one. The complaints seem stupid and vague to me like not communicating well, not being independent enough or dont get the big picture and that I need to do more and faster, but I already am doing tasks beyond my level (I'm a entry level doing tasks of former senior technical leads and my manager) and I take the PIPs literally doing each and every task in them.

When I talk to individual coworkers in person they keep tell me I'm doing great so I am starting to get confused why I am still on Pips after so long and whether they are constantly complaining about me but I am afraid to ask because am embarrassed I'm on a constant PIP. I thought that you were supposed to do one PIP, pass it and then move on.

Is there any legitimacy to giving someone multiple back to back PIPs as opposed to just firing them? Should I follow my gut and just quit this job and this manager?

  • 4
    Have you spoken to your manager about your concerns about being constantly on a PIP, or ask her specifically what you need to do so that there are no more? If she can't answer that satisfactorily, then yes, I'd consider moving on.
    – Jane S
    Feb 23, 2016 at 1:56
  • 2
    Let me shed a different light. You mention you "technically" met your PIP which tells me you must not have tried to outperform it. Then you call Not being a good communicator, not independent, etc stupid complaints whereas they appear to be legit. Also, doing some tasks which employees of higher levels are doing does not make you equal to them. Each job has tasks with varying levels of difficulty. If you're in an entry level position and not a manager, there's a reason. Finally, that comment MBAs reinforces that impression that you think perhaps too highly of yourself. Listen to the complaints
    – ApplePie
    Feb 23, 2016 at 2:53
  • 8
    Multiple PIP taking on new tasks sounds like PIP abuse to me.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 23, 2016 at 3:03
  • 1
    I'd be long gone if I was you, this is toxic and not improving. I'd have looked for a new job when I got the first PIP
    – Kilisi
    Feb 23, 2016 at 3:21
  • 2
    Your boss is playing the "gotcha game" leave. Feb 23, 2016 at 14:50

4 Answers 4


To be honest, if I were in your shoes I would have started looking for another employer. As you stated the company is obviously experiencing severe turmoil so I would be inclined to see the writing on the wall. No sense in sticking with a sinking ship with a bad captain at the helm.

If you want to stay then you have some options. I would suggest you don't try to lie your way forward about your opinions of her education/experience, but try to refactor it and move forward. She would know you're feeding her some level of BS.

  1. Start by talking to your manager and confide in her by saying that you've been here a long time and have seen multiple managers and had nothing but bad experiences/opinions. State that you would like to start over with her and work towards improving the team, department, and company overall. This way you will be seen as caring for the team, department, and company and big enough to swallow your pride. Be polite and honestly sincere.
  2. Address the PIP issue directly. State that you don't mind (if you don't) taking on extra responsibilities for the individuals leaving the organization, but putting [you] on PIPs is distracting and inefficient for your workflow. Ask to see if you can start over or stop doing PIPs for trial period. State that if there are any wide issues then ask her to state them at this time so you can fix them.
  3. Take stock in your options at this company, manager, department, etc. If the above fail and you want to stay, then perhaps asking your manager's manager to be moved to another department and give the documentation about your situation and see if there is a solution.

Overall, try to communicate with her and work on plan moving forward. I would suggest keeping HR involvement on the down low (they look out for the company, not the employees); if you want a witness maybe ask another trusted and related manager to sit it on the conversations. If that fails then reevaluate your goals and strategy with this company and if it is worth it to stay. For the record, you are lucky to have survived not just 1 PIP but multiple which seems strange, perhaps they are not handled the same way in this company as they are normally. Feel out other employees if they have gotten PIPS, how that worked, etc.

Seriously, I would start looking for another job as it seems like the company is going downhill. You're coming up to the end of one of the best hiring periods in a year.

  • Thanks so much for your advice! The multiple PIP thing seems really strange to me too, and I almost feel it may be abusing this normal HR practice, because I personally believe I am a very strong performer and I feel like they are trying to keep me "in check" or maybe to justify giving me no raise while increasing my statement of work?!?! Feb 23, 2016 at 3:10
  • That is a possibility that I was seeing in my mind, but now we are approaching legal territory as they can site numerous finite technicalities in on-boarding documents and handbooks that we all violate, but they have to prove it is in excess. It gets cluttered when they can pull so many factors in and make reasons for low performance that allow a PIP, while this justifies their budget for salaries/wages. Like I said, get out of dodge while you still have a pay check and the chance to look. Strange policies/declining company culture are never good signs.
    – G.T.D.
    Feb 23, 2016 at 3:15

While it sounds very much like you have a hostile manager, there are some steps you should take before considering moving on:

  • Schedule a meeting with her to ask her about having been constantly on PIPs.
  • Ask her what you need to do to no longer be placed on PIPs.
  • And the big one: Ask if you can have your PIP evaluated by a third party to ensure that it's fair on both of you.

The first two points here set you up for the third. The third point introduces an external factor, and that the PIP process must be governed properly. If she refuses to allow a third party evaluator, then I would recommend going to HR and talking to them about your concerns and being evaluated fairly. If nothing else, it then forces your manager to consider that her performance as a manager must also be scrutinised.

  • 2
    Thanks so much Jane! I'm going to do the things you mentioned above see if her tune changes and also start applying to new jobs just in case. As to your third point, HR has been involved the whole time, they sit in on the meetings and I noticed while stalking my manager's Calendar they have private meetings. Not sure if they are about me they may also be about the next person getting laid off. The HR seem to be her friend she go along with what my manager said. We just received news couple week ago there is going to be more layoffs and they took away our bottled water.... Feb 23, 2016 at 2:25

I am not trying to be critical and I don't know you or your manager, but have you honestly tried taking a calm look at her comments and suggestions? It is very difficult sometimes to maintain perspective on our own actions, comments, and productivity compared to others.

I only ask because comments like "it all depends on you" and "don't blame this on anyone else" do not sound like comments coming from someone that is out to get you. They sound like a manager that sees potential in someone that still needs some polish and perhaps more real world experience.

Again, I'm only asking if you have stopped to reflect on the situation from a more open perspective. I'm not saying that you are in the wrong in your assessment, but are you certain you are achieving at the level you perceive yourself to be? It is easy to fool yourself, I know I have done it a time or two in my career.

  • 1
    I would personally those comments by the manager are destructive critcism, not constructive criticism. If you want someone to fix something, you need to give some feedback as to what it is, not just say "this is your fault."
    – Jane S
    Feb 23, 2016 at 2:38
  • You assume quite a bit Jane given that we only have a paragraph and one side of the story. What we do know is that instead of firing the OP, this manager has spent hours of time building improvement plans for him to work. That usually indicates that the employee is worth spending said time on. Without further context it is hard to say though, which is why I worded my original answer as a question.
    – jirvan
    Feb 23, 2016 at 2:49
  • In my opinion I've ruled out myself as the problem, as I've met the goals set out in my PIPs but she comes back with new issues that in my opinion are amorphous and vague. If she could come back with some hard tangible facts for where I'm screwing up it would ease my mind honestly because then I could know for sure wht to do to stop the PIP! It's so frustrating being always on a PIP! Feb 23, 2016 at 2:52

Well, several things here.

First, I think you've learned your first lesson about never bad-mouthing anyone or anything on the job. Not being judgmental, I had to learn that the hard way myself.

Second, just focus on being a superstar. Don't worry about the PIPs so much as outshining your past performance. Set up meetings with your boss BEFORE the review period is over and ask how you're progressing. For any complaints, ask for 3 examples of what she means. BEST to do this in email, so you have a paper trail.

Third, any time she throws more work on your plate, send an email back to her, thanking her for trusting you with additional responsibilities. Again, you are establishing a paper trail.

Fourth, coworkers will always lie to you. These are coworkers and not your friends. In some cases, they will be under specific orders to NOT give you any meaningful feedback. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TRUST THEM.

Lastly, accept the fact that they just may be gunning for you. Document everything you've been doing and update your resume. Start floating it immediately. Most employers and agencies will not check with your present employer, so the current drama will be off the radar. If you are fired or forced out, however, you can bet that your current employer will give you a vote of no-confidence when they get an employment verification. While they are not allowed to bad-mouth you, they will say "Young go getter" worked here between these dates, and nothing more. That's code for "don't hire this person".

Get ready to leave. The LAST thing you want to have to explain is "Fired for cause". That will screw you both at the unemployment line and at the next job interview.

  • First, I do not know who told you that a VOE = "Don't hire this person" but that is not true. I was in an HR department for a while. The dates of employment, position, and basic demographic info is all that a business can give out concerning an employee (save for position specific laws [ie safety sensitive positions]). If a company says anything else then they can be sued (claims can be contested). Coworkers may be trusted. It depends on the circumstances and people. You are making paranoid claims about coworkers. I worked in a toxic office and a few people could be trusted (networking tools).
    – G.T.D.
    Feb 24, 2016 at 3:46
  • P.S. this comes from a US perspective, laws may differ in other countries. As for the first points I agree, but I don't encourage over replying to e-mails or you will give it away that you are setting a paper trail. As for your second point, OP seems to be doing what she wants but is just not getting any results with her. Overall, it seems like your suggest cutthroat advice which will come back to bite the OP in the but. Never burn any bridges. It's good to just keep things kosher and move on.
    – G.T.D.
    Feb 24, 2016 at 3:50
  • @B1313 You are free to be as wrong as you wish to be. You always create a paper trail, and being obvious about it is a deterrent. And nobody "told me" about HR practices I've witnessed first hand, so I'll thank you to stop your assumptions and ditch the attitude. Feb 24, 2016 at 13:57
  • Also, there is the old saw about damning with faint praise. One can do a VOE in several ways. (in a deadpan voice)"Mr Smith worked from this date to this date" is very different from "Oh, John Smith! (in a pleased voice) Yes, I remember him, he started on this date, and he left on this date" and they can (and do) ask the question "Would you hire him again". Feb 25, 2016 at 18:31
  • It'd be nice to actually state facts and laws versus what is now "emphasis" on words and phrases which now are valid reasons for not hiring someone (this is why hiring managers have MBA's, they know what they are doing). Thanks for playing. You are stating wrong information. I have more important things to do. Ciao.
    – G.T.D.
    Feb 26, 2016 at 0:10

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