I Was Placed on a PIP at a Top Tech Company and Bounced Back

  • A former program manager was placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP) at a large technology company.
  • It was an unexpected wake-up call, but they’ve already experienced friction with a new manager.
  • They saw PIP as a kick in the butt and took up the challenge but left again by choice a few months later.

This essay as told is based on a conversation with a 36-year-old former program director turned entrepreneur in San Francisco. The source’s name and professional background are known to Business Insider but are not being named to protect their privacy.

I worked in a big familiar name technology company in San Francisco for three years in two different functions: first in an HR function then as a program manager within a team of five people.

Two years into my second role, I was put on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

It was a very unexpected wake-up call, but it became a turning point in my career.

Work in a high level the tech company was amazing

Working for this company was not something I had always imagined, but my roles felt purposeful and aligned with my goals, which were to be a catalyst for diversity and inclusion and to open doors to technology to communities of color.

The company has a very direct and results-oriented culture: no excuses are tolerated and excellence is the norm. This, combined with impeccable execution on such a scale, created a unique ambiance that drew me in and made me an honor to be part of the team.

Before I was placed on PIP, I saw the warning signs

After returning from a conference, I was told that a senior manager was unhappy with my behavior. I felt out of place at the event while others were making connections, and it was hard for me to fake my emotions. No one commented at the conference, but I knew I hadn’t been mentally present.

The company’s corporate culture was not at its best at the time and team morale was lower than in previous months. I felt disconnected from the work and mission of my team.

An HR manager suggested I prepare my resume, which I interpreted to mean I could be fired. Instead, in a meeting shortly after, my manager told me that I was subject to a performance improvement plan and asked me to document all of my upcoming work, including Weekly actions, meetings and interactions into a weekly report related to my next big project. conference project.

Fear and shame were my first reactions. Taking responsibility for my mistakes was easy; The hardest part was not dwelling on my disappointment or blaming myself for it.

Once the shock wore off, I gave myself an honest self-assessment. I decided to focus on what I could control and use this as an opportunity to improve my communication, focus and working style.

I tried to see PIP as an opportunity

I began working with a career coach to assess my work habits and uncover blind spots that were limiting my productivity, including overcoming procrastination and understanding my communication style.

We developed a plan around SMART goals and set healthy boundaries, did exercises to help me handle confrontation, and discussed ways to improve task management.

As outlined in the PIP, I documented my progress and tracked my wins. I found it helpful to journal as much as possible each day and write down the things I was proud of to help build my confidence and self-esteem.

I also prioritized networking and relationship building. I volunteered for projects, participated in committees, and met colleagues from different departments and peers from different companies. I told some peers I was close to – and a few senior colleagues I trusted – about my PIP.

My PIP was a well-deserved kick in the butt, and I came out on top

I was on PIP for about two months. I treated it as a challenge I was determined to complete, but the anxiety led to significant weight loss. It was a mentally, emotionally and physically demanding experience. My partner at the time noticed this and was concerned about my well-being.

In the end, I was not fired. After the project was completed, my manager gave me positive feedback.

Although I accept my responsibilities, I believe that a significant factor in my joining the PIP was poor communication and a lack of alignment with my new manager, with whom I began working less than two years after my arrival in the company.

I struggled to adapt to the restructuring of the service and did not feel sufficiently supported. I really missed my original manager, who was a great mentor and someone I trusted.

Friction with my new manager was difficult to overcome

My new manager and I had different work styles, which sometimes led to friction. My new manager’s deadlines were aggressive for me, and I missed a few early on when they joined the team, which didn’t give the right impression.

The team was quite small at this point and we had many internal organizations that needed stakeholder management. My manager asked me to take on the extra workload on top of my other projects, and I didn’t feel equipped to do it effectively. I felt like my scope was growing rapidly and my performance was rigorously tied to a new set of key metrics overnight.

I learned that this is what can happen when new leadership comes in and sets a new tone for a team. I was not prepared for the sudden change of pace.

To cope, I leaned more into my side hustle, which fueled me creatively but also sometimes impacted my performance at work. Relying more on my side hustles while enduring the harsh workplace culture made me less motivated to go the extra mile in my job.

Looking back, I understand and appreciate the changes my new manager made even though they were uncomfortable at the time. Our post-PIP dynamic was pleasant, but the circumstances left me confused and more on guard than I would have liked when reporting to someone.

My PIP Experience Ultimately Left Me Disheartened

Having a PIP solidified the reality that employees are replaceable. I left the company on my own terms about two months after my PIP ended. PIP wasn’t the only reason, but it accelerated my thinking.

I found a new job at another company as a program manager. My PIP was not addressed during my interview and was not a factor, even with the references I gave.

PIP made me realize the importance of prioritizing mental health and personal development

After going through the initial trauma of PIP, I learned to confront the areas of my life that needed improvement so that I could perform at the highest level possible. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it gave me a clear roadmap to improve and lessons I can share with others.

My PIP experience also solidified the importance of having multiple sources of income by highlighting the vulnerability of relying solely on a salaried position. I continued to build my side hustle, which eventually became my current full-time business.

Today, I manage conflicts with tenacity and a more positive mindset. Instead of dwelling on the negatives when things go wrong, I focus on the skills I can develop to lead to a better outcome.


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