What To Do If You're Put on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

Serious businesswoman discussing business document with businessman
Photo: fizkes / Getty Images

If you've been placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP), you might be feeling a lot of emotions. It's hard to get critical feedback and hear that your work or behavior isn't adequate or meeting expectations.

Plus, with some managers and at some companies, a PIP can signal that you may be parting ways with the company soon. It can be a challenging situation.

Here’s everything you need to know about what to do if you’re placed on a PIP—from when they’re used to how to respond. 

Key Takeaways

  • Employers use performance improvement plans to document how an employee can turn around their performance.
  • It can be hard not to feel defensive when you are placed on a PIP. Take time to come to terms with your feelings before making any big decisions or engaging in meetings with people from your company.
  • If you engage with management regarding the PIP, aim to be professional and collaborative and take any feedback constructively.
  • Ask lots of questions about the PIP, like what the expectations are and what happens if you do not meet them.

What Is a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)? 

Performance improvement plans (PIPs) are designed to give employees who are not performing well an opportunity to meet their performance goals. A PIP is a formal written document that tracks how well an individual is doing relative to the requirements of their position, identifies what needs to be improved, and sets goals for improving performance.

A PIP should provide clear and actionable details on how the employee can improve their performance, which may include recommendations regarding the individual’s skills, behavior, and attitude, as well as their work output and quality. There should also be a timeframe for meeting the plan’s goals.


A PIP can be helpful in turning around a less-than-optimal situation, but it can also be used by employers to document a possible termination. 

When Do Employers Use Performance Improvement Plans?

When do employers use PIPs?

“Supervisors use formal plans after their check-ins and other coaching and informal communications with an employee have failed to help change work practices or bring performance to acceptable levels for a job,” said Kendra Janevski, SPHR, SHRM-SCP in an interview with The Balance.

What To Do If You’re Placed on a PIP 

As a first step when you’re put on a PIP, take a moment. You may feel sad or angry, frustrated or defensive, or any number of emotions. That’s not when you want to be making a big decision, and it may not be the best frame of mind to be in when talking to your manager. 

“Take time to step away from the conversation and take care of your needs first by getting in a clear head space," said Liz DeGroot, head of people and finance at Eden, an HR and workplace experience platform, in an interview with The Balance.

But once you’ve given yourself some time, you’ll need to figure out your next steps. Here’s how. 

Review Your Options

Career expert Joe Mullings, chairman and CEO of The Mullings Group, told The Balance that if you're put on a PIP, think about whether you really want to stay working at the organization. Maybe you have been feeling disenchanted with the job and are ready to move on. Or maybe you feel that your relationship with the manager (or company) can’t be repaired. 

"There is no need to put yourself or your employer through the emotional and psychological strain that comes along with a PIP,” Mullings said. 

If you’re ready to part ways with the job, you’ll want to update your resume and get ready to move on. But if you’d prefer to stay, read on for what to do. 

Schedule a Meeting

Your manager may have already scheduled a follow-up meeting, but if they haven’t, you can ask to schedule a time to discuss the plan and what you need to do to achieve your goals. You’ll also need to know how much time you have to turn the situation around.

During the conversation, you will be able to find out exactly what is (and what is not) included in the PIP. You can ask questions, and, at many employers, you may be able to be a partner in the process of creating a plan for moving ahead. 


If you need help communicating with your manager, you can ask someone from human resources to join the conversation.

Understand the Plan

You should receive a written document at the end of the meeting. If you don’t, you can request documentation of the plan and what you need to do to meet its requirements.

“Take time to read this and ask for examples if you don’t understand something—remember that it’s your plan, and you should leave the meeting knowing what specific action items you need to execute,” DeGroot said. 

Before you leave the meeting, you should know the following:

  • Why you are on the PIP
  • What the goals of the plan are
  • What you need to accomplish to succeed
  • The timeframe for meeting the goals
  • The consequences of not being able to achieve the plan’s objectives

Take It Seriously

“If you’re on a PIP, consider this your life preserver—this is a final chance to improve skills or change your behavior as specified in the plan,” career coach Laura Barker, CPCC, ACC, told The Balance.

It’s common for PIPs to be more about behavior than skills, Barker said. This can include things such as how you dress, your attendance, and how you work with others, she explains. A PIP often covers “how” you do your job, while “what” you do is covered during regular performance reviews

Since PIPs are so often about behavior, you may find that they’re relevant in your life outside of work as well.

“PIPs are a wake-up call. You can choose how to receive them,” Barker said. And engaging with the advice may help you grow both professionally and personally. 

Establish Frequent Check-ins

“As you begin working through your PIP, check in with your manager as much as you can, even daily,” DeGroot said. This will help to show your enthusiasm and commitment to the process. Plus, these frequent conversations will ensure that you’re on the same page. 

"It's a chance to strengthen that working relationship and learn from a more experienced member of your organization,” career counselor Ashleigh Droz told The Balance. Droz pointed out that you could come out of the experience with a mentor. 

Pay attention to any feedback you receive during meetings, and adjust based on the notes you receive. You can ask questions to confirm if the manager is observing improvements or if there’s more you can do, career coach and author Amy Feind Reeves told The Balance.


Track how you’re doing. The data you collect can be a list of successes along with a record of how long you’ve spent on the plan. By tracking your time, you will ensure you get credit for the work you’re doing. You can also track anything you do above and beyond the PIP or areas where you do well. 

Consider It an Opportunity

“While being placed on a PIP may feel like a failure to some people, with an intentional mindset shift, it can become an opportunity,” Droz said. After all, you’re being given all the information and tools you need to perform your job successfully. "It's an investment in your potential." 

If you can get to this point of view, you might get a lot out of the PIP. 

How To Take Action on What’s in the PIP 

Your primary focus should be making the requested changes and improvements outlined in the PIP. But to do so, you might need to take advantage of several different kinds of resources:

  • Reach out to peers: Peers can share helpful information that you may want to use to get your own work and tasks done more quickly and accurately, according to Feind Reeves. 
  • Look for training opportunities: These can occur in person or through podcasts, YouTube videos, books, and more. 

While colleagues can be a good source of insights into how to perform your job better, there’s no need to share that you’re on a PIP, Feind Reeves said.

“If people comment about a change in your behavior or attitude, let them know that you are trying to be a better employee because you realized you need the job so you are taking it more seriously—or whatever answer feels authentic to you," Feind Reeves said. "But make sure it is an answer that will end the discussion."

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will being on a PIP hurt your chances of future success at the job?

 If you can overcome the issues that have been identified, you may be able to salvage your job and your future with the organization. That assumes that the employer is entering into the PIP in good faith and isn’t planning to fire you later on with the PIP as cover for potential legal actions. 

Should you apply for other jobs?

It’s a wise idea to consider other roles. If your performance is an issue, it could be because the job isn’t the best fit for you or because you aren't a good fit for the company. Exploring other positions will give you options if the PIP isn’t working out.

Was this page helpful?
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gartner. "Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)." 

  2. U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "What Is a Performance Improvement Plan?"

Related Articles