According to a Wall Street Journal article, companies can cut workers without imposing layoffs by issuing subpar performance reviews or requiring relocations.
As a career coach, I’ve seen this happening to a number of clients.
Amazon is notoriously known for its brutal Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) process. Lately, as it has laid off people, it’s also leveraging the PIP mechanism to get rid of even more people.
Google is asking its employees to work hard and raising their performance while putting more people on Support Check-In.
Meta had given subpar ratings to a lot more employees during the recently completed performance review process.
When you get a bad review, it’s a warning sign. It’s stressful, particularly in the current environment, and it should be taken seriously. Your job security is at risk.
What should you do if you received a bad review and/or are put on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)?
Over the past 15 years, I’ve helped many clients navigate this challenging process. I’d like to suggest the following course of actions to help you survive and beat this brutal process.
First, be brutally honest with yourself. The bad rating/review might or might not be fair, but the reality is that you have to deal with it. Feeling sorry or angry will not help you. You need to try to be as calm and rational as possible to deal with the situation.
You must keep your emotions in check. Don’t make decisions or take actions when you’re angry and mad. I had a client who quit on the same day he was informed that he was put on a PIP. He got no severance and lost access to medical benefits by the end of the month. He could have gotten a severance and continued his medical benefits for a few more months if he had played out the PIP process and tried to negotiate a better severance.
Your focus and priority are protecting yourself and your family. At the end of the day, that is what matters most.
If you’re having trouble controlling your anger, I recommend you read this New York Times article: “The Lost Art of the Unsent Angry Letter.” “Whenever Abraham Lincoln felt the urge to tell someone off, he would compose what he called a ‘hot letter.’ He’d pile all of his anger into a note, ‘put it aside until his emotions cooled down,’ Doris Kearns Goodwin once explained on NPR, ‘and then write: “Never sent. Never signed.” ‘”
Second, you must have a backup plan. The odds are against you to overcome the PIP and stay at the company. When you’re put on a PIP, the employer wants to get rid of you, but it wants to do it in such a way that it can protect itself against any lawsuit. The writing is on the wall—the company wants to get rid of you in a legitimate way. Although a small percentage of employees do survive PIPs and end up staying, they’re the exceptions.
You need to be realistic about your chances. It’s your job, your career, your income, your financial security, and your well-being. You should not take a chance. This means you should have a plan, get your personal finances in order, get your resume and LinkedIn profile updated, aggressively work your network, and land a job offer elsewhere as soon as possible. You might not take the job, but you’ll feel a lot better if you have a job offer in your hands.
Third, buy yourself as much time as possible. Employers like Amazon might offer you two options: take a severance and leave or go through the PIP process. Normally, the PIP process takes 30 to 45 days, and they will make it very difficult (if not impossible) for you to hit the goals in the PIP. The majority of PIPs are designed for you to fail. Your strategic priority is to get as much runway as possible. You need to know your rights, identify any mistakes HR and your manager might have made to increase your negotiation leverage, and legally deploy certain tactics to protect your rights. We offer specialized coaching help to guide you through this process. Fill out our coaching form to schedule a 15-minute free initial consultation.
Fourth, it’s important for you to recognize that there is an opportunity behind every crisis. In fact, the Chinese expression for crisis consists of two characters: crisis and opportunity. The current environment reminds me a lot of 1993 (recession before Netscape IPO in 1995 and the Internet boom), the 2000 dot-com crash, and the 2008 financial crisis. Many strong companies such as Netscape, Amazon, Google, and Facebook became huge successes after going through a difficult time. The next boom with AI is around the corner. If I were you, I’d use this time as an opportunity to re-calibrate your career and figure out a strategy to ride the next wave. Instead of feeling depressed, you should be excited about what is ahead. The heyday of FAANG is behind us. The next wave is in front of us. You want to stay ahead of it.
Fifth, your ability to master your emotions is critical in navigating this process. It’s not going to be easy. You’re going to be frustrated, angry, sad, and experiencing many forms of negative emotions. But, the ability to manage and change your state and the personal power to take actions will be the difference-maker. I can write a whole book about how to master your emotions. It’s hard, but it’s also the single most important skill for your career. If you can truly master your emotions, you’ll be unstoppable. How to get better at managing your emotions? A simple advice I can offer you is to compile a list of personal development and motivational speeches on YouTube and listen to them throughout the day when you have a few minutes of free time. It’ll help bring you back from your negative thought cycle.