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Creating a PIP: 4 Performance Challenges with Performance Improvement Plan Examples

Nicole Klemp

When an employee consistently fails to meet expectations, managers must intervene to uncover what’s causing the performance issues and help the employee improve. This is where a performance improvement plan (PIP) can come into play. 

In this article, we’ll share four of the most common performance issues that create the need for a PIP and provide sample plans for each that managers can use as a development guide.

What is a PIP?

A PIP is a performance management tool designed to help underperforming employees by outlining clear goals, focus areas, and timelines for improvement. It addresses specific performance deficiencies, identifies training gaps, and sets expectations for development. 

The goal of a PIP is to hit performance improvement goals within a defined timeframe. If the employee fails to meet those goals, there will be clearly communicated consequences, such as demotion or termination. 

A PIP is typically implemented as a last resort, when performance issues persist despite consistent manager feedback and coaching. While termination may be the final outcome of a PIP in some cases, it should be seen as a strategic effort to guide employees toward success—not a way to “get your ducks in a row” before letting an employee go.

What to include in PIP documentation

Once all other development efforts have been exhausted and it’s decided that an employee should be put on a PIP, their manager (along with HR) should create a comprehensive document to share with the employee. 

The document should list their specific performance issues, areas for improvement, improvement goals to achieve, and a clear timeline. (PIP timelines generally span 30, 60, or 90 days from start to completion.)

Here are a few items to include in a PIP:

  • Name of employee
  • Name of manager
  • Date
  • Reason for plan
  • Performance expectations
  • Actions
  • Metrics used to measure success
  • Plan duration and review date(s)
  • Consequences if expectations are not met

4 performance improvement plan examples

The following examples each cover a different performance issue that may require the use of a PIP, along with some potential root causes and solutions. We’ve also included a performance improvement plan template for each scenario.

1. Performance issue: Low work output

Low productivity is a common reason for putting an employee on a PIP. While there are often a number of contributing factors to low output, employee disengagement is often a major culprit. When employees become disengaged, they often stop caring about their work and disconnect emotionally. 

Employees can only perform at a high level when they’re set up for success, with the right tools, processes, and guardrails in place for optimal productivity. Creating an engaging, motivating, and supportive employee experience goes a long way in increasing productivity. In fact, research shows engaged employees are 17% more productive than their peers. 

Employee engagement is comprehensive and involves a person’s perception, feelings, and beliefs about the business, the people they work with, leadership, and the work itself. The drivers of employee engagement are highly personal, dependent on the company culture, and vary for each individual. 

Find out what’s working in your organization (and what’s not) and uncover actionable strategies to improve employee engagement with 15Five’s holistic suite of performance tools.

Learn more about measuring engagement with 15Five >

Low work output sample PIP 

Employee name: Creed Bratton

Manager name: Kelly Kapoor

Date: [Date]

Reason for plan:

For the past several months, Creed has consistently had low work output and fallen below the expected productivity level for his role.

Performance expectations:

To improve work output and meet or exceed expected productivity level.


  • Creed will meet with Kelly each week to discuss current projects and set specific, measurable, and achievable goals.
  • Creed will attend a time management workshop to improve his efficiency and productivity skills.
  • Creed will seek guidance from Kelly when faced with challenges or blockers that prevent him from making progress.

Performance metrics:

Weekly productivity report data, project completion percentages, and general feedback from Kelly.

Plan duration and review period:

The performance improvement plan will be in effect for 30 days, with weekly manager check-ins. A final performance review will be conducted on [date].

Consequences if goals are not met:

If Creed does not meet his improvement goals within the 30-day period, disciplinary action, including potential termination, will be considered.

2. Performance issue: Poor quality of work

When an employee’s work quality isn’t meeting expectations, it may be a sign that they lack the proper training and resources for the job. By offering ample training and development opportunities and encouraging employees to take on challenging (yet realistic) individual goals, you pave the way for improved performance. 

Incorporating continuous skill development, cross-training, and mentorship programs allows employees to develop their skill set and stay engaged in their work.

Invest in technology and tools that make it easy for employees to learn and grow. This includes offering various training options, like e-learning platforms, webinars, workshops, and self-paced modules. 

Learn how Clearbit manages performance & development with 15Five >

Poor work quality sample PIP 

Employee name: Kevin Malone

Manager name: Oscar Nunez

Date: [Date]

Reason for plan:

Kevin has consistently struggled with attention to detail and his work quality has been lacking, which is affecting overall team performance.

Performance expectations:

To deliver thoroughly reviewed, high-quality work that meets or exceeds expectations on a regular basis.


  • Kevin will participate in a personalized training program to improve his skills and quality of work.
  • Kevin will ask for regular feedback from team members and his manager to identify areas for improvement.
  • Kevin will allocate more time to review his work for errors before submitting it.

Performance metrics:

Reviews by the quality assurance team, error percentages, and general feedback from Oscar.

Plan duration and review period:

The performance action plan will be in effect for 60 days, with weekly manager check-ins. A final performance review will be conducted on [date].

Consequences if goals aren’t met:

If Kevin does not meet his improvement goals within the 60-day period, disciplinary action, including potential termination, will be considered.

3. Performance issue: Unprofessional behavior

Sometimes, performance issues aren’t related to an employee’s work performance but rather their personal behavior. These folks may need more intervention from their manager, who should provide them with the tools and support to become more effective and respectful members of the team.

Managers should be regularly checking in on the employee’s progress toward goals and address any challenges they may be having. They should offer constructive feedback, guidance, and support to struggling team members.

To enable more effective managers, you should thoughtfully incorporate software that enables your talent development initiatives and accelerates behavior change. Tools for one-on-ones, engagement surveys, and goal setting make it a lot easier for managers to initiate these growth-oriented activities. 

Are your managers leading effectively? Find out with the Manager Effectiveness Indicator (MEI) >

Unprofessional behavior sample PIP 

Employee name: Michael Scott

Manager name: David Wallace 

Date: [Date]

Reason for plan:

Michael has exhibited unprofessional behavior in the workplace, including inappropriate language and actions toward colleagues and subordinates.

Performance expectations:

To conduct himself in a professional manner, treat colleagues with respect, and maintain a positive work environment.


  • Michael will attend a professionalism and workplace etiquette training program.
  • Michael will participate in leadership training and manager coaching.
  • Michael will actively work on improving his communication and interpersonal skills.

Performance metrics:

Observations from colleagues and feedback from team members and managers.

Plan duration and review period:

The performance improvement plan will be in effect for the next 60 days, with weekly manager check-ins. A formal review will be conducted on [date].

Consequences if goals aren’t met:

Failure to meet the expected improvement may result in further disciplinary actions, including demotion or termination.

4. Performance issue: Time management/missed deadlines

There are many potential reasons why an employee consistently misses deadlines, but often, they could be dealing with a capacity issue. When an employee is struggling with capacity, their workload is not being properly managed, or they’re not equipped with the right tools or processes to work efficiently. 

Before putting an employee on a PIP, be sure their manager is effectively helping them manage their workload and providing them with ample opportunities to provide feedback when they’re facing challenges. They should also be very clear on their priorities and have role clarity

For true role clarity, the manager and employee should work together to define the job expectations, agree on personal goals and timelines, and determine how the employee can be empowered to complete their work.

Learn to help employees set realistic, achievable goals with the OKR framework >

Time management/missed deadlines sample PIP

Employee name: Jim Halpert

Manager name: Dwight Schrute

Date: [Date]

Reason for plan:

Jim regularly misses project deadlines and demonstrates poor time management skills, often goofing off on company time.

Performance expectations:

To effectively manage time, focus on work tasks, and meet project deadlines.


  • Jim will attend a time management and prioritization workshop.
  • Jim will work with Dwight to create a personalized task prioritization plan.
  • Jim will provide regular updates on project progress and any potential challenges or blockers.

Performance metrics:

Project completion rate, activity tracking data, and manager assessment.

Plan duration and review period:

The performance improvement plan will be in effect for the next 90 days, with weekly manager check-ins. A formal review will be conducted on [date].

Consequences if goals aren’t met:

Failure to meet the expected improvement goals may result in further actions, including potential demotion or transfer to the Utica branch.

Unlock high performance with 15Five

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