Article (October-2018)


Lets discard the evil PIP - Oct. 2018

Mukesh Kanojia

Designation : -   Asst. Vice President - HR & Admin

Organization : -  Ezeefinanz, Mumbai


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I believe this case could have been handled in a different way. Almost all the companies have this kind of personalities in their system and each HR person has to deal with them in their own way as per Company laid down process or exit policy. Being in HR role since last 12+ years, even I have met this type of people. According to me, normally Employers do not enjoy firing an employee. Sometimes, though, parting ways is the right thing to do, and introducing a formal process that merely anticipates an unavoidable situation. So, here are my two different ways by which this case could have been handled before putting an employee on Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).
1. Guided Exit :
According to me, once an employer is ready to initiate a PIP and fire the employee, the employer might as well look for ways to part amicably. Under the best of circumstances, former employees may become new customers, vendors, referral sources and goodwill ambassadors. Thus, PIP does not typically do the employer and employee any good. It might even hurt the employee's chances of landing a job with another employer. Therefore, PIP makes it harder for the underperforming employee to move on.
Hence, employers should consider offering employees the option of resigning on their own (Guided Exit) with a notice period as per the employee grade, instead of going through a PIP. In case, concern employee is not ready for the guided exit, then PIP can be initiated considering 30 to 90 days' notice or offer a severance package that gives the employee an opportunity to find another job. If an employee finds a comparable job, it will mitigate his or her potential damages. And, if the employee does sue, that special performance review will come in handy.
2. Giving behavioural feedback and coaching strategy
Actually, PIPs have nothing to do with performance improvement. So, let's discard the evil PIP and focus on achieving real performance improvement in employees. That's done through ongoing feedback and coaching.
a. Feedback :
Feedback is top-down communication that is intended to immediately adjust behaviour. It is a key part of any management. Productive feedback focuses on behaviour. The problem arises when thoughts and feelings result in negative behaviours.
Here's a model to follow…
You need to ask for the permission because the communication is what the receiver hears. Therefore, before giving any feedback, ask for permission. "Can I give you some feedback?" Most of the time, employee will say yes. But if they say no, that's OK too! Just say OK and move on. If the feedback you were going to give is negative, best case scenario the employee knows what you were going to say and doesn't repeat the behaviour. Worst case, they repeat the behaviour and you have another chance to give the feedback. And if they say something like "I know, I know … I shouldn't have done that" to acknowledge that their behaviour was wrong before you even have a chance to tell them, don't beat a dead horse by giving them the feedback anyway - that's nothing more than a power play and isn't really productive in adjusting the behaviour.
Once you have permission, a great way to frame any type of feedback is as follows : For example, "When you come late to a meeting, it throws off the agenda" or "When you raise your voice in a meeting, it makes people not want to work with you". This focuses on their behaviour and the impact of it.
If this done, they know what they did and the impact. Now you need to tell them how to behave next time. If they are habitually late to meetings, simply saying "Please make it a point to be on time to the next meeting" is sufficient. That sets the expectation for future behaviour.
Managers also need to Document the feedback. Just because we are avoiding the official HR PIP tactic does not mean that documentation should be avoided - just make a note in your personal file of what type of feedback you gave and the date. This does not need to be in depth - it should just be a reminder in case you need it in the future. That way, if performance doesn't improve and you do need to proceed with official action down the road, you have a record of all the feedback you've given.
b. Coaching :
Coaching is a collaborative, ongoing process that is intended to develop employees over time. It is a lot more collaborative than feedback. In this process, it isn't about you dictating to your employee what you would like to see. It's about working together to draw and navigate a roadmap to own personal development.
Here are few steps to process…
The first step is to work with your employee to establish the skill they will be working on. Here you may have a skill you need them to improve, or they may have an idea about areas they would like to professionally develop. Have a discussion in your weekly one-on-one meeting and come to an agreement. Given that this process is infused into their day-to-day work, it's best to stick to one goal at a time - the more you put on their plate, the less you set them up for success.
Once you've decided on a goal, you need to set them up for success. Have an informal brainstorm to come up with some resources that they can use to meet the goal. Again, this should not be a lecture - this is a discussion. Their participation is just as important as yours.
In the previous steps, you helped your employee to develop a plan of attack. Now it's time for them to execute on their own. Make sure they understand the deadline, when you will work together to assess their results. Typically, it makes sense to assess progress at your weekly one-on-one meetings.
Finally, it's time to assess their results. Let your employee lead the conversation by asking them how they think they did, what went well, and what didn't. Your own feedback is supplemental to their own assessment, which allows them to own the process.
In coaching situations, your employee may not always achieve success on the first try, and that has to be OK - we learn just as much (and sometimes more) from failure as we do from success.
Simply start the coaching process over again with the new information and build on it to brainstorm goals and resources that may lead to a different result.
Is it right on the part of managers to seek justification from management in case of terminations for non-performance and poor behavior?
Yes, each individual has got the right to know the reason for their termination, especially if it is for non-performance and poor behavior. This may give them to assess their performance and behavior. If they agree on the above allegation, then may resign on themselves or may ask for support from the employers for one more chance to improve their stands.
Secondly, it is reporting manager and an HR person's job to find out the reason and ask themselves below questions :
Is the person in need of some product training?
Is the person going through personal a problem which leads to her/his poor performance and behavior?
Is the person going through mental Trauma/issues and need to be discussed individually/in a Group?
Is the person trapped into office politics, which is very common in an organization?
To avoid legal issues, an HR person should always have a 360-degree feedback in case of termination. However, above questions may lead to a path required for proper actions.