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Are You Headed for Promotion or a PIP this Performance Review Season?

August 29, 2023

Performance review season is the time to assess whether you’re on the path to promotion or facing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). These outcomes usually stand on opposite ends of a spectrum, and here’s how you can frame your perspective on your upcoming review.

Once you’ve been in your role for a while, your situation will fall into one of these categories:

  1. Smooth Operator: You’re confident in your role, meeting expectations, and content with where you are.

  2. Explorer/Innovator: You’re skilled at your job and consistently seek ways to enhance processes, sometimes causing friction due to your proactive approach.

  3. Climber: You view work as a platform for growth, change, and advancement.

  4. Trail Follower: You’ve ended up in your current position due to one of these reasons:

    a. Initial doubts about your hiring that were managed

    b. Shifting business objectives away from your responsibilities

    c. Burnout from long-term routine

You Don't Want to Be Left Behind

This article focuses on the fourth category, for those who are going to be left behind and to offer insights to managers who put staff on a PIP and have the people meet the expectations of the plan.

Managers aim to avoid having individuals in the “Trail Follower” category and will attempt to help these employees develop skills and interests. When this isn’t effective, they might assist the employees in finding alternative roles within or outside the organization. If these efforts fail, the Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is employed. PIPs are designed to grab an employee’s attention and indicate that their current contribution level isn’t sustainable.

Take Control

I found myself on a Performance Improvement Program after 13 years in the same role, despite having been one of the company’s top project managers. I had stopped positioning myself for the best and toughest projects. I also hadn’t noticed my performance declining or that the organization’s objectives had changed. What mattered was my answer to the most critical question for someone on a PIP: Do I want control over when and how I leave my job? In simpler terms, do I want to be in control?

Whether you’re looking to salvage your current job or transition quickly to a new role, I urge you to seize control. Except for one exception, it’s in your best interest to meet and exceed the performance targets outlined in the plan. This approach boosts your productivity, reaffirms your capabilities, and buys you time – something you need.

The exception to this advice applies if you’re clear about your next step. If you are, then what have you been waiting for? Use this time to pursue that next step!

Move Forward

Beware if your reason for seeking a new role right now is either of these:

  1. Seeking the same/familiar role at a competitor for the same or higher pay.
  2. Desiring any alternative to your current situation.

If either of these reasons underpin your decision to disregard the PIP and focus fully on job hunting, I implore you to reconsider. These reasons dwell in the past, focusing on your history and known skills. While they’re topics you can confidently discuss in interviews or social settings, they overlook the fact that you’ve just been given a PIP in your current role. There’s an element missing or something you dislike, that has led an achiever like you to lose motivation. This issue won’t magically resolve at another company, especially if you’re uncertain about what’s lacking.

If you’re in this situation, it means you’ve been unable to navigate this journey independently.

The best first step is to commit to passing your PIP.

After that, seek support to explore how you reached this point and determine where you want to head, not just what you want to escape from. Channel the urgency of the moment into finding the guidance you need to connect with work that’s meaningful, emotionally engaging, and valued by your organization. You’re not meant to be part of the “Trail Follower” group.