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  • Writer's pictureS. Anne Marie Archer

Beware: 3 Sneaky Ways Employers Misuse Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs)

Updated: Jun 11

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is important to consult with legal professionals for guidance on specific legal matters.

Results on engagements and online courses may vary, successful outcome is not guaranteed.

Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) are meant to be a tool for employees to enhance their performance with the support of their employer. However, all too often, employers misuse PIPs to unfairly target employees or avoid legal repercussions.


I am regularly contacted by employees who want my support and advise because they believe they have been wrongfully placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP). 


Too understand better what PIPs are, and what you should do if you believe that you have been placed on one wrongfully please see my prior blog post  "My boss has put me on a performance improvement plan (PIP) what should I do?"

In this post, we'll explore 3 common ways that employers misuse PIPs and what you can do if you find yourself in this situation.


1. Lack of Notice or Due Process

One of the most egregious ways employers misuse PIPs is by springing them on employees without any prior notice or opportunity for improvement. Instead of providing constructive feedback and guidance, some managers resort to placing employees on a PIP as a first step, catching them off guard. This lack of due process not only reflects poor management practices but also denies employees the chance to address any concerns before they escalate. HR departments should intervene to ensure that managers exhaust all remediation steps before resorting to a PIP, but unfortunately, this doesn't always happen.


2. Retaliation Against Employees

In some cases, employers use PIPs as a form of retaliation against employees who have raised complaints about their work environment, such as discrimination or harassment. By placing these employees on a PIP, employers attempt to create a paper trail that justifies termination based on performance rather than addressing the underlying issues. If you believe you're being targeted with a PIP in retaliation for speaking up, it's crucial to document your concerns and consider escalating the issue to higher levels within the company or seeking legal advice.


3. Ambiguously Written PIPs

Another way employers misuse PIPs is by drafting them in a way that sets employees up for failure. Some managers intentionally create PIPs with unclear goals, vague metrics, or unattainable standards, making it nearly impossible for employees to meet the requirements. This tactic allows employers to justify termination based on alleged performance deficiencies, even if the employee was set up to fail from the start. HR departments should ensure that PIPs are written objectively, with clear expectations and measurable goals, but unfortunately, this oversight is often lacking.


If you find yourself on the receiving end of a PIP that seems unfair or unjust, it's essential to take action. Start by documenting any instances of unfair treatment or retaliation and consider reaching out to HR or seeking legal advice. Remember, you have rights as an employee, and you shouldn't have to tolerate misuse of PIPs by employers. By advocating for yourself and seeking support, you can navigate this challenging situation and protect your career interests. One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself as an employee is to DOCUMENT you work environment BEFORE you are on the PIP. Grab Access to my Anti HR Documentation Journal and carefully document your workplace and work environment so that you protect yourself from wrongful and unfounded. performance related feedback. 


If you find yourself facing discrimination or other bias at work due to poor management and you need guidance on the next steps, consider enrolling in my online course.


Usually Priced at only $599 – a fraction of my one-to-one engagement fee –this 2024 Spring Sale get access to the course for only $399! SALE ENDS APRIL 30, 2024!

This course equips you with strategies and tactics needed to identify, document, communicate, and ultimately request your exit from a discriminatory hostile work environment.

Explore the course and take the necessary steps towards reclaiming your professional narrative.


For more tips about navigating and escaping difficult HR situations,

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HR is not your enemy but they are definitely not your friend, I am.



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