Stop Walking on Egg Shells!

Have you been here before? You have an employee who just isn’t performing and everyone is walking on eggshells around them? We all want to develop employees who are engaged and perform well on the job, and to achieve this, you need to address poor performance! So, what do you do? Consider using a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

Give specific examples of the issue and avoid assumptions or judgement of the employee as a person

A PIP offers a formal, documented way for you as a manager or HR professional to address an employee’s current performance deficits.  They help to empower employees to understand and make the required changes, and both of you to measure progress against the agreed upon outcomes.   An effective PIP includes the following components:

  1. Describe the issue. Performance issues can include functions (an employee’s work) and attitudes (how they work). Give specific examples of the issue and avoid assumptions or judgements of the employee as a person.  A few examples are:
    • Task or project outcomes that are not satisfactory, including incomplete, late or poor-quality work.
    • Described, observable behaviours that interfere with their own or others’ productivity or effectiveness.
    • Records showing frequent lateness or absenteeism.
  2. Describe the impact. Show how this issue is affecting the workplace. Examples of this might be:
    • Decreased productivity or morale in other employees.
    • An environment that makes people uncomfortable or causes them to change their own behaviour to accommodate or avoid an employee’s poor attitude and/or behaviour (aka walking on egg shells!)
    • Others taking on extra work to “pick up the slack” (creating resentment and perceptions of unfairness).
    • Negative effects on the bottom line.
    • Decreased customer or stakeholder satisfaction.
  3. Define the expectations and changes. Describe what you need to see, and what attitude or behaviour needs to change or stop altogether. Set a time by which you expect to see improvement.
  4. Outline consequences. When working with someone on a PIP, they need to know that you are taking this seriously and that there will be consequences if things don’t change, possibly progressive discipline, loss of opportunity or eventually even dismissal.
  5. Provide an opportunity for the employee to respond. Lots of times, we are just wanting to get this conversation over with and we forget to ask for the employee’s perspective before we move to close the meeting. They might have something to tell us that changes our understanding of the problem or helps us move forward from here.
  6. Set and keep follow up dates. Sometimes we are frustrated with an employee and our tendency is to want things to change immediately. Sometimes it is ok to expect immediate change and other times we need to give employees a chance to work on changing their behaviour over a period of time. Best practice is to be reasonable when setting your timelines and deadlines so that the employee has a chance of success. 
  7. Make sure it’s signed. It is so important to write all of this down! The PIP is both a process and a document, so it is important that both you and the employee sign off on what has been agreed to. The PIP will become part of the employee record that will be a part of your check-ins and follow-up and could be used in future for progressive discipline or dismissal, if required.

When you enter into a PIP process, keep in mind that employees engage more positively in corrective measures if they feel heard, feel like their perspective is considered, and have an opportunity to give input into how they can improve, and how you and they will know when they are hitting the target.  Ideally, performance improvement process is a collaborative effort, empowering an employee with the information, support, encouragement and expectations they need to do a good job.

Your Engaged Assignment: Take a look at your current performance management tools and documents and see if there are adjustments you need to make to incorporate some of these important steps. You can even print these out and review them before your next PIP meeting with an employee. If your systems need some tweaking or even an overhaul, we are here to help!