5 Important Things to Do After a Write Up
Being written up isn’t the end of the world — or even your job.
Whether you call it a write up or, as most companies do, a “Performance Improvement Plan” (PIP), very little strikes fear into the heart of most workers more than being disciplined (with paperwork). It’s an unpleasant but sometimes necessary part of most work environments. Sometimes, truly bad employees need to be dealt with, and the PIP is usually the best way to do that.
Most of the time, though, the employee receiving the PIP is not actually a bad employee. Sometimes they’re simply at the mercy of a bad boss, but more often than not there are some true performance deficiencies that need to be addressed.
So, let’s assume you’re not a bad employee and are receiving a write up. Your first instinct may be to become angry and question the sanity of your boss or whoever is administering the PIP. It should go without saying that this isn’t the most productive course of action.
Here are some things you should do instead.
Being calm and professional throughout the entire PIP process is vital to coming out on the other side with both your job and your sanity intact. This can be difficult in the early stages, especially during the PIP conversation itself. If you have some prior inkling you’re going to be written up, even the walk to the manager’s office can be nerve-wracking and can set the stage for a poor reaction to the write up.
Just try to remember that no matter how you react, the write up is a done deal. I’ve never known anyone who’s been able to talk their way out of a PIP once it’s being presented to the employee. Usually, the PIP is the result of more than a little activity on the part of your boss and maybe even other members of your organization. You can’t make it go away once it’s in process, so the best option is to simply accept it and work with your boss to address the deficiencies noted in the PIP.
If you react poorly, especially with anger and denial, things will not go well for you. I’ve seen employees react with vitriol over a write up, and the best-case scenario when this happens is your boss simply won’t feel any sympathy towards helping you work through the issues.
The worst-case scenario is you’re adding evidence for another PIP down the road.
Remain calm, even if you think the reasons for the write up are bogus. Act professionally, even if you think the PIP is unjustified.
Ask for documentation
Most leaders will give you a copy of the PIP during the discussion itself. If they don’t, be sure to ask for a copy. Also, ask if you can see the documentation for your alleged performance deficiencies. Reports showing hard numbers to back up the company’s assessment of your performance should be easy to come by, but your manager’s documentation of conversations they’ve had with you may be harder to obtain.
If they’ve done their due diligence and true performance issues exist, they should be willing to share their documentation with you to help you improve. If they have an adverse reaction to you asking for this documentation, that may indicate the problems aren’t entirely on your side of the equation.
Take some time for honest reflection
This may be the most difficult action to take after being written up, but it’s arguably the most important. In most cases, there will be at least some justification behind a PIP, which means you may actually have some performance deficiencies that need to be addressed. This is a tough pill to swallow for most people.
You may think you’ve always done your best at work, and maybe you have. But is there a possibility you could do more, or do better? Or something you could do a little differently that might make a difference in your employer’s evaluation of you?
It’s possible you’re not a good fit for the job, or your boss, or the company. It’s possible the company’s needs or their expectations of you have changed, so if you were once a great fit that may not be true anymore.
And, again, it’s possible that maybe you have let things slip a little bit.
None of this means you’re a bad employee or even that you can’t regain your status in your employer’s good graces. But it does mean you need to take some time to honestly reflect on your performance and determine what, if anything, can be done to turn things around.
Improve what you can
Nobody’s perfect. We all have things in our lives upon which we can improve. Read over the write-up and any other documentation you’ve been provided. Make a list of areas listed for improvement.
If you spent some time doing an honest assessment of your performance and abilities from the previous step, you should have some idea of how to start improving on some or all of these areas. Start listing some things you can do to improve, as well as some concrete measurements to which you can refer to show progress.
If your boss is a good leader, you should be able to work with them on your action steps. If you don’t feel comfortable working with your boss on this, perhaps you can seek out a leader from another department or even a peer who’s had some experience navigating the PIP landscape. You’ll probably find at least one or two people with whom you work who will be happy to give you input or guidance.
Start (continue) a job search
In today’s working world, very few people should feel so confident in their job so as to not have at least one eye open for new opportunities. While the modern job search leaves much to be desired, you should always be thinking more of your own needs and those of your family than what’s best for your boss or your company.
This is especially important if your PIP opportunities point to you not being a good fit for your company anymore. But sometimes even if you do everything you can it won’t be enough.
The best time to find a job is when you already have one, as the saying goes. It’s much easier to go into an interview without having to explain why you were terminated from your previous job.
The Performance Improvement Process isn’t pleasant for anyone, especially the recipient. It doesn’t mean your job is lost, however. By remaining calm, getting documentation, assessing yourself honestly, improving where you can, and having a backup plan for your career path, you can make it through. As a bonus, you’ll probably have learned a few valuable lessons about yourself or your company in the process.
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