What You Should & Shouldn't See on a Performance Improvement Plan

Federal places of employments, such as agencies and political offices, typically set strict standards and expectations for employees. Any consistent or egregious deviation from the expectations could lead to a supervisor or superior calling for a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). The purpose of a PIP is allowing an employee to fix behavioral problems without being immediately and harshly penalized.

However, most PIPs are misused and actually propped up as the first step in terminating, demoting, or removing the employee from the agency. Understanding what should and should not be included in a PIP is the first step in ensuring your PIP is not being construed as a way to unfairly penalize you for undesirable behavior.

A few things that you should see in a PIP include:

  • Clear reasons for your poor performance rating or evaluation.
  • Actual observations of your misdoings or mistakes.
  • Concise plan of improvement to complete in order to achieve a higher rating.
  • What standards the agency uses to complete evaluations.
  • Some sort of training opportunity, mandated or voluntary.
  • How long the PIP will last, or how soon it can be completed.
  • What will happen when a PIP is not completed to expectations.

Your PIP should not include:

  • Personal attacks against you for failing to meet expectations.
  • Any form of discriminatory behavior.
  • Vague descriptions of performance failures.
  • Incomplete or incoherent plan of improvement.

Review Your PIP with an Employment Law Specialist

Sometimes the language within a PIP can be legal-heavy, complex, or intentionally convoluted. While you cannot outright refuse to comply with a PIP without expecting further employment consequences and discipline, you can take some additional steps to make certain you understand the contents of the PIP. In particular, you need to know if it has set fair guidelines and is not just a stepping stone to have you unjustly terminated.

You can contact The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC to speak with our DC federal employment law team about your PIP. We can sit down with you, review the PIP front-to-back, and advise you how to take further action if there is a questionable issue with its contents. phone consultations are available to inquiring clients.