The Managers Playbook: Performance Improvement Plans (PIP)

When an employee’s job performance declines, the manager may need to take corrective action. This process is often called the Performance Improvement Plan process, or PIP. In this article, we will discuss the guidelines for managers when implementing a PIP. We will also provide tips for writing an effective PIP. Finally, we will answer some of the most common questions about PIPs.

What is a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)?

When an employee’s job performance declines, the manager may need to take corrective action. This process is often called the Performance Improvement Process, or PIP.

Managers may not be sure what steps to take when an employee’s job performance declines. As a result, they may feel uncomfortable addressing the issue or not know how to start the PIP.


The PIP is a formal process that provides a framework for managers and employees to work together to improve job performance. The PIP document lays out specific goals and objectives that both parties will work towards. It also includes a timeline for completing these goals. By following a PIP, employers can avoid taking more drastic measures, such as firing an employee.

The Purpose of Putting an Employee on a PIP

Performance improvement plans can be confusing for managers and employees alike. So what is the purpose of a PIP?

Some people think a PIP is the first step to firing an employee, but this isn’t always the case. A PIP is meant to help employees improve their performance to stay with the company.


The purpose of a PIP is to give employees feedback on their performance and help them improve. A PIP should include specific goals employees must achieve to improve their performance. Managers should work with employees to create a plan to help them meet these goals.

What are the elements of a performance improvement plan?

Performance improvement plans (PIPs) are designed to help employees improve their job performance. The elements that are typically included in a PIP are:

Description of the problem or deficiency

The problem or deficiency can include specific behaviors or results the employee needs to improve. For example, employees may need to improve their attendance, teamwork, or customer service skills.


Performance goals

The employee’s PIP must include performance goals to improve. Those goals may include improving work quality, meeting deadlines, or increasing efficiency.

Performance measures

Performance measures are specific criteria used to determine whether the employee has met the performance goals of the PIP. They might include the number of errors, sales calls, or customer satisfaction scores.

Steps the employee will take to correct the problem or deficiency

The employee’s steps to correct the problem or deficiency will vary, depending on the situation. However, some general steps that the employee may include are:

  • Meeting with a supervisor to discuss the problem or deficiency and develop a plan to address it
  • Open to training or coaching to improve performance in specific areas
  • Adjusting work habits or work schedule as needed
  • Meeting regularly with a supervisor to track progress and make necessary adjustments

Steps the manager will take to support the employee in correcting the problem or deficiency

Managers can take several steps to support employees in correcting the problem or deficiency identified in their PIP. These steps might include the following:

  • Meeting regularly with the employee to provide feedback and track progress
  • Providing training or coaching to help the employee improve their performance
  • Adjusting work duties or schedule as needed
  • Encouraging the employee and offering words of support
  • Facilitating access to resources that may help the employee meet the goals of the PIP

Timeframe for completing the steps outlined in the PIP

The time frame for completing the steps outlined in a PIP can be essential in helping employees succeed. Giving employees enough time to complete the measures will help them stay on track and make progress.

  • Timeframe for completing the steps should be reasonable and achievable
  • Steps should be completed in a timely manner so that progress can be tracked and adjustments made as needed
  • Employees should be given enough time to complete all steps of the PIP fully

Managers should work with employees to create individualized PIPs that address the areas they need to improve.


Tips for Managers to Write an Effective PIP

Managers may feel uncomfortable delivering criticism and setting expectations, while employees may feel overwhelmed and uncertain about their future.

The key to an effective PIP is clear communication. By following these tips, you can help ensure that your PIP is productive and leads to improved performance from your employee.

  • Make a plan: Before you begin the PIP process, take some time to develop a plan outlining what you hope to achieve. This will help keep everyone on track and avoid any misunderstandings.
  • Be specific: When critiquing an employee’s performance, be as specific as possible. Don’t just say, “you’re not meeting expectations.” Instead, explain which goals or objectives the employee is not meeting and why this is a problem.
  • Keep it positive: Maintaining a positive tone throughout the PIP process is important. Focus on the areas where the employee is doing well, and explain how they can improve in the areas where they are struggling.
  • Set deadlines: For a PIP to be successful, it needs to have concrete deadlines

FAQs About Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs)

What is a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)?

A Performance Improvement Plan, or PIP, is a document that outlines the specific areas in which an employee needs to improve their performance. The document usually contains goals or objectives the employee needs to meet and a timeline for meeting them.

What is the purpose of a PIP?

The purpose of a PIP is to provide a roadmap for improving an employee’s poor performance. It can also be used to document and track progress toward specific goals.

Do I need to have a Performance Improvement Plan before firing an employee?

No – a Performance Improvement Plan is not required before firing an employee. However, it can be helpful to have one in place to document the reasons for termination.

How do I write a Performance Improvement Plan?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the content of a PIP will vary depending on the individual employee’s situation and job requirements.

What should I do if my employee doesn’t meet their goals in the PIP?

If an employee fails to meet the goals in the PIP, you may need to take disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Documentation of why the goals were not met and what steps were taken to try and help the employee achieve them should be kept in case of future disputes.

Additionally, termination may be appropriate if you feel the employee has been given adequate support to reach their goals and has made no progress. It is vital to ensure that all relevant policies and procedures are followed when considering any disciplinary action.

By following these guidelines on Performance Improvement Plans, managers can structure a plan that encourages employees to improve their performance while being mindful of the organization’s policies and procedures. Performance Improvement Plans offer an effective way to improve employee performance.

Last updated on January 8th, 2024 at 10:06 am

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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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