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Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

November 15, 2022 2109

Establishing a team of strong performers takes a lot of effort and communication and gives employees a chance to learn and grow. If an employee has recurring performance issues, you may want to work with them on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Using a PIP instead of terminating an employee can lead to better practice harmony and employee morale.

Include your employee in the process.

Include the employee in the development of their own PIP. Before talking to the employee, you’ve likely researched the issue. This may include soliciting input from other employees who work directly with this team member. However, the employee’s perspective is also valuable and should be included in the formulation of the improvement plan.

Let them know that you’ve identified an issue and ask for their ideas on why this might be happening. For example: “I’ve noticed that you have been missing deadlines recently. Can you share with me what’s been contributing to this? Is there something that we could do to better support you?”

Frame it as a discussion and not an accusation. As in the following examples, the employee may mention a few different challenges:

  • Being given too much work.
  • Having trouble focusing or staying organized.
  • Not fully understanding part of their work.
  • The deadlines are not being communicated clearly.

Take prompt action to address employee issues.

Be proactive in addressing issues before they grow. If an employee is allowed to underperform, they will be less eager to improve. And the longer the issues linger, the more likely problems will grow. Survey's show that employees would prefer to receive regular feedback. In particular, Generation Y and Generation Z have indicated a preference for daily or weekly feedback.

Consider the following tips for difficult performance conversations:

1. Stay focused on preserving the relationship.

It’s important to convey difficult feedback while still treating the person with respect and empathy. If you damage the employment relationship, you shut down future opportunities for collaboration and growth. Tell the person up front that the relationship is important to you.

2. Schedule a meeting—don’t pop in.

Ambushing an employee creates anxiety and could break down trust. Instead, invite the employee to chat at a specified time. For example: “Amanda, I’d like to chat with you about your attendance. Could we meet this afternoon at 3 p.m.?” This gives the employee time to gather their thoughts and prepare.

3. If possible, meet in private, on neutral ground.

It’s usually best not to call the person into your office. This shifts the balance of power to your side and puts the other person on the defensive. A private, neutral space — perhaps a break room with a door that can be closed for privacy — sends he signal that this is a solutions-centered discussion, not an embarrassing dressing down.

4. Be clear and specific with your feedback.

Share up front what the problem is, how it’s affecting others and what must change. Provide specific examples: “You've been late 13 days in the past six months, “or “You're falling behind with patients each day creating an excessive overtime issue.” Productive conversations are grounded in facts, not observations.

5. Be collaborative, not authoritarian.

Results are better when the person feels a sense of ownership for the solution. Ask positive questions such as, “Can you explain what is impeding your ability get to work on time each day?” or "Can you provide ideas on how to stay on schedule without impacting patient care?” Listen to the person’s perspective and compromise when you can.

6. Ask questions. Give the person time to gather their thoughts.

Avoid doing all the talking to assert your point of view or to fill the silence. This is especially important when you are dealing with an introverted person who may need time to think before they speak.

7. Listen actively.

Stay focused on understanding what the person is saying, both verbally and nonverbally. Summarize what they say to confirm it with them. Trying to understand someone’s point of view will show empathy. This will help the other person accept what you have to say, even if it isn’t what they want to hear.

8. Keep things civil.

Never yell, insult, threaten or bully. If things start to escalate, step away, end the meeting and reschedule when tempers are calmer. A single episode of bad behavior can damage a relationship that took time to build.

9. Consider that you might be wrong.

Go into the conversation with an open mind. You may not be aware of all the variables causing the issue. You may learn something that totally shifts your perspective – or you may be completely wrong. Knowing this will help you be a better listener.

10. End with an action item.

Ideally, the employee will leave the meeting with specific steps to improve on the topic discussed. Schedule a follow-up conversation to see if things have changed for the better.

From there, you can problem-solve together and develop a concrete PIP. Your plan should include measurable goals, progress check-ins, additional tools or training, and an assigned mentor if it would be helpful. Ensure that the employee knows what they need to do so that they can take charge of the process for themselves with your support.

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