Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

Not a first step to letting someone go

Many companies use a PIP for most involuntary terminations, as documented support for releasing a team member. At Obvious we think that giving someone a plan while you intend to let them go is a bad experience for the team member, their manager, and the rest of the team. A PIP at Obvious is not used to "check the box" a PIP is a genuine last chance to resolve underperformance. You should only offer a PIP if you are confident that the team member can successfully complete it. The team member should also be committed to successfully completing the PIP and maintaining the level of performance arrived at through the PIP. A PIP will not be successful unless the team member and the manager believes they can succeed.

Remember that a PIP needs to be very tightly tied to measurable goals. Use the SMART Goal format.




Day 0

Create and share PIP

1-1 with team member and walk through the PIP

Day 15

Formal Check-In 1

Day 30

Formal Check-In 2

If negative, possibility of termination

Day 31

Refine 60 and 90 day goals

Day 45

Formal Check-In 3

Day 60

Formal Check-In 4

If negative, possibility of termination

Day 61

Refine 90 day goals

Day 75

Formal Check-In 5

Day 90

Formal Check-In 6

If negative, possibility of termination

How to deliver a PIP

  • Once the PIP is documented schedule a meeting with the team member outside of the regular 1-1

  • Present the PIP to them and go through it with them. Read it verbatim and don't deviate from it or think of other things to add during the meeting

  • Re-iterate that you want them to improve and you're there to support them. You will be checking their progress each week (or day if really necessary)

  • Ask them if they have any questions

  • Inform People Ops that the PIP conversation has taken place and the document have been sent to the team member.


The PIP process is between a manager and their direct report. Information shared in a PIP should be kept confidential by both participants. The only other set of people aware of the PIP are the manager of the manager, the senior executives of the organisation, and people ops. If underperformance becomes a reason for the person's exit, the individual should not be taken by surprise. For the rest of the company, the announcement of the person's separation should be a surprise.