The very mention of the words “performance improvement plan” in many workplaces can cause the theme from Jaws to play in employees’ heads. That’s because performance improvement plans (PIPs for short) have been cast in a primarily negative light due their frequent use strictly as a way to document poor performance before terminating an employee, rather than as a coaching tool to help improve employee performance and maintain the employment relationship. However, when used correctly, a PIP can be an effective way to help an employee who is underperforming in the workplace, and PIPs shouldn’t just be used as the first step in a termination process.
It’s Friday morning before the long weekend, and you’re looking forward to a quick workday. When you arrive to work, you find an unexpected notice. The employee you let go last month has made a claim of wrongful dismissal. You wonder how this can be; you provided the employee with a verbal warning, then a written warning, followed by a three-day suspension before they were terminated. Surely, you’ve done enough to cover yourself legally, right?
Progressive discipline is a great management tool when used effectively. Unfortunately, two steps are often missed during the coaching stage: support and facilitation. Going through the motions is not enough—employers need to actively engage in the process. The intent of progressive discipline is to provide employees with opportunities to modify or correct inadequate performance and behaviour. Without actively supporting employees and facilitating opportunities for performance improvements, that purpose is undermined.