You can't fire me, I quit!
July 30, 2018 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Today I was informed that I'm now on a performance improvement plan at work. I was planning on leaving this job to move to another state in the next couple of months anyway. What's my best course of action here?

I've been at a job for about five months and, up until a month ago when there were some organizational changes affecting my position, it's been a dream. But in the last month I feel like I've been set up to fail, and the executive who originally fought for the creation of my position is no longer around to justify my existence. It all came to a head today when my boss handed me a performance improvement plan. I know this is essentially a 30 day warning to getting fired.

However, I already made the decision about two weeks ago that I'm moving to another state to be closer to family and have started applying for jobs there. I was planning on moving before the fall/winter whether or not I had a position lined up. I can stay with my mother for however long I need to get settled there. I would have likely given my notice to my job at the end of the month anyway.

What is the best way to handle this whole situation? Moving is expensive so I want to draw a paycheck for as long as possible before I leave. But at the same time I feel like this PIP is complete bullshit (I won't get into the details why) and sets unrealistic goals. Should I attempt to perform up to expectations, and at the 30 day mark if they want me to stay, do I tell them I'm leaving instead? Or do I just coast and expect to get fired? It would be easy to take this job off my resume with little consequence, I was freelancing for years before and could just consider this a longer term freelance position of sorts. What balance should I strike for the next 30 days?

Also, if I do get let go at the end of this, am I eligible for unemployment? Is there any possibility for severance? I don't know how any of this works.
posted by Argyle Sock Puppet to Work & Money (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Some of this is value judgment that I will leave to you. Assuming you are in the US, I believe if they fire you, you are eligible for unemployment. Severance is at their will. Usually if your departure is on good terms. I've known people to get laid off (which counts as firing, so gets you unemployment), who also got severance. Internally your company may make a distinction between getting fired for a grievance and getting laid off. You'd have to ask your HR department for more info, which, of course, might show your hand (your plan to leave soon).
posted by kalessin at 5:29 PM on July 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Your employer can block unemployment in many states if you were fired for cause. Most employers will not but I did once work for a place that had an owner with a libertarian bent that made it unwritten policy to do so.
posted by kzin602 at 5:33 PM on July 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

You need to call HR and have them walk you through this. I'm not even sure it works the same way for every business that uses them. Keep in mind this could be nothing. Businesses that use plans like these often force their managers to give them to a percentage of employees. Still, it's not exactly a vote of confidence. Personally, I wouldn't work for a company that uses a system like this. They've been shown to be horrible for morale and don't work. I would pretend to be getting with the program, but my real job would definitely be looking for other jobs.
posted by xammerboy at 5:38 PM on July 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Do you know how your company usually handles these situations? I’ve worked at some places where it’s pretty standard to give severance in exchange for the employee agreeing to quietly resign and promise not to sue. Other places, not so much.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:45 PM on July 30, 2018

I will say I would be VERY surprised if you cannot get unemployment. Also, going to HR will not tip your hand. You simply want to understand in detail what it means to through this Employee Improvement Process. I also have a feeling there may be an option for you to voluntarily leave under more generous terms than usual. Be sure to ask about that. This could end up being a good thing for you. Ask what will be said to other companies if you list them as a reference, etc. This is simply you understanding what this program means and what options are available to you. Anyone in your situation, even if they were planning on staying, would be foolish not to do their due diligence. In any case, I doubt HR will talk with your manager even if you did reveal your plans to leave. Blame it on your wife, your parents, your lawyer, if you must, but ask about all your options.
posted by xammerboy at 5:46 PM on July 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

(Potentially) Important factors: this is a (somewhat well-established) startup. There is not an actual HR department to go to. There is no precedent that I know of. I am in the US.
posted by Argyle Sock Puppet at 5:50 PM on July 30, 2018

Your employer can block unemployment in many states if you were fired for cause.

I'm not aware of any state where this is true. Many states don't pay out unemployment in cases of terminations for negligence or misconduct. However, negligence and misconduct is radically different than "for cause" - think "accidentally burning down the workplace because you spilled your tequila all over the floor while simultaneously smoking" rather than "not getting along with executive management."

Or do I just coast and expect to get fired?

I see no reason why you should voluntarily turn down unemployment (by quitting) when instead you can put in minimal effort into your work and spend the extra effort in finding a better suiting job.
posted by saeculorum at 5:52 PM on July 30, 2018 [17 favorites]

Your employer can block unemployment in many states if you were fired for cause.

Also, your employer doesn't make the determination about whether you are eligible for unemployment or not. Your state does. Your employer can appeal the state's determination, but they need an actual reason to do so (and in this case, I don't see one).

The general principle in unemployment determination is that it's the employer's fault if they hire someone who can't do the job, not the employee's fault.
posted by saeculorum at 5:58 PM on July 30, 2018 [12 favorites]

Should I attempt to perform up to expectations, and at the 30 day mark if they want me to stay, do I tell them I'm leaving instead? Or do I just coast and expect to get fired?

Split the difference - take the parts of the PIP you think might be valid, and work on improvement of those (or improving the visibility of the value of the work you do); ignore the parts you think are bogus, and if someone asks in a couple of weeks how you're doing, point out the parts you're working on.

Don't give notice until you are ready to leave. If your contract doesn't say you must give two weeks notice, don't. (Or: Don't, unless you can afford to be fired that day. A lot of places respond to a two-weeks notice with "come in tomorrow and hand over your projects to someone else, and then you're out.") If they're giving you a bullshit PIP, you don't owe them any loyalty.

About removing the job from your resume: In two years, it's not likely to matter. Odds are, nobody still around will be answering phone calls from potential new employers to report how you left.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 6:05 PM on July 30, 2018 [9 favorites]

Email your manager and ask if there is documentation and / or anyone that can walk you through exactly what the process is, what will happen if you do and don't meet the criteria, and what your options are. An easy explanation for this line of questioning is that you were talking with your wife and realize there's a lot about the process you're not clear on.

A couple things:

One: Your basic questions such as "if I fail am I fired?", "will I be eligible for benefits?", "am I being offered a package of sorts if I choose to leave?" are all normal, basic, healthy questions to ask for your peace of mind and it is necessary for you to have clarity. Your manager should expect and respect such questions. I think in most cases, asking such questions can only improve your outcomes in this situation.

Two: I think it's probably not in your best interests that there is no HR department. HR is extremely sensitive to how layoffs, firings, etc. can potentially hurt the company. They are usually employee advocates. Your manager, on the other hand, could have a very dim view of these matters. Consider asking if you can talk to legal, because some of your questions involve legal matters such as benefits and you want to make sure you're understanding correctly.

Three: Just thought of this. With no HR department, it's possible your manager is aware that there are legal and business pitfalls to any layoffs and firings and is going through this process because they are concerned. This is leverage of a sort. It might not be a bad idea to ask them directly what the business is offering if you choose to leave voluntarily. You can couch this many ways - "I love this job and want to keep it, but...." If he does really want you to go and thinks you want to stay and jump through his hurdles, this may spur him into making you a better offer.
posted by xammerboy at 6:18 PM on July 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

Personally, I'd try to kick the ass off the PIP and rise to the occasion and crush it, giving your eventual notice will be that much sweeter. You have the ace up your sleeve, show these ham and eggers what they are losing. Also xammerboy's third point above.
posted by vrakatar at 7:59 PM on July 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

Should I attempt to perform up to expectations, and at the 30 day mark if they want me to stay, do I tell them I'm leaving instead? Or do I just coast and expect to get fired?

I'd go with (c) attempt to perform up to expectations in hopes of stringing along a paycheck as long as you can just in case, but realistically expect to get fired anyway. Also, then feel satisfied if you are able to quit before they can you, I guess.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:30 PM on July 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

I highly recommend you coast and expect to get fired. I tried to perform up to a PIP once, and they kept moving the goalposts. The performance items were all arbitrary anyway, but they kept making my life hell until I made it through. Turns out the policy was if you failed a PIP, you got severance/a package. If I quit (I was VERY CLOSE) I would have lost out on quite a bit of income.

I found a better, higher paying job in a better city the next week and got double pay for a few months due to severance. If I quit, that wouldn't be there!
posted by bbqturtle at 5:25 AM on July 31, 2018 [8 favorites]

I'm with vrakatar. You're talking about only a month here. Unless it would kill you to do it, why not try to kick the ass off the PIP? If this is just a pretext to shitcanning you anyway, you make that situation more difficult for them and put yourself in a better negotiating position for severance. On the other hand, if it works out you have bought yourself another month of income before your planned departure and, if you're me, when you give notice you have the added bonus of being able to say that it's because it's a shitty place to work.
posted by slkinsey at 5:31 AM on July 31, 2018

"Personally, I'd try to kick the ass off the PIP and rise to the occasion and crush it"

"why not try to kick the ass off the PIP"

Why would you? What a waste of effort. You're leaving the job anyway. It's not like improvement would benefit you in any way whatsoever. You're not making the decision more difficult; the decision has already been made. The PIP is just a formality.

"I highly recommend you coast and expect to get fired. I tried to perform up to a PIP once, and they kept moving the goalposts. "

This is the correct answer. Neither of you have any interest in the relationship long term, so don't waste time putting effort into it. Put that effort into finding something in the new city instead. That's where your future is. You're unlikely to get fired before the PIP term expires, so that extra month of income is yours even if you just show up and drool on your keyboard.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:03 AM on July 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

I like the idea of getting clarification from your boss, write out a list of questions for them. You may not have an HR department, but your manager is giving you a PIP, and they have to know what that means (or if they don't know, they should, so you should ask them and make them find out, and if possible try to verify their answers in writing, just via the classic follow-up email "this is what I understood from today, can you confirm this is correct")

I love this job and want to keep it, so I wanted to clarify:
- who set these goals, who judges whether I've met them
- this doesn't seem like a 30day goal, is this intended as making-progress or a full-completion?
- how will I be checking in about progress over the next 30 days
- is there a case in which I could be let go before 30 days are up

What are the possible next steps:
- if I do satisfy/complete the PIP, will the "on-trial" continue, will this be followed by another PIP?
- if I don't satisfy these goals in 30 days, what happens then (ask here about severance and unemployment and benefits)
- if I left the company before the 30 days were up, how does that affect severance/unemployment?
posted by aimedwander at 7:39 AM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

You said it was a dream job and that must be, in part, because you were having success and enjoying it. Don’t strike something from your resume that you can speak glowingly about. In your remaining time there, focus on the skills and interests and info that you want to take away from this job and into your next job. Figure out what things you can do now, this week, to sharpen a skill or learn something new. Also, make sure you are quietly gathering examples of your work product and getting them home.

Definitely take seriously the PIP and get information about what it means but personally, I wouldn’t take the content of it too deeply to heart. There’s ways to make it look like you are doing the thing without actually spending much effort on it. If some part of it was attitude? Be Mary Fuckin Poppins while you work on the stuff that you know will put you on better footing for the next job. Be absolutely strategic about your exit and leave no money on the table. Whether that’s severance or unemployment or paying out vacation days, know what your options are. Don’t be a jerk about it and, ideally, don’t quit until you have something lined up. And if you know you can get severance and you have a job lined up, do that one.
posted by amanda at 8:57 AM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

This sounds very much up to what feels right to you. I don't think there's a clear right or wrong answer. Personally, I'd probably coast a bit knowing there may not be much I can do, but I would also keep in mind that things can change so I'd put in some effort to hold onto the job, if possible. I certainly wouldn't stress myself out and run myself into the ground over it but if there's a way to prove your worth or finagle the situation, I'd do that.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:41 AM on July 31, 2018

Actually, this could really work in your favor.

If they dismiss you following a poor performance review, its very likely you'll get unemployment. They are not going to dismiss you for anything egregious and its almost certain your state unemployment will cover you. I can't imagine a place (in today's economy) that would pay you any severance at all for five months.

DON'T QUIT. Then you won't get unemployment.

If I were you, I'd keep your eyes on the prize: you are moving in a few months. Keep focused on that, the new positions you are applying to, and do the best you can at this current job. Your stated goal is to "draw a paycheck as long as possible" but you acknowledge its not crucial. Even if its puzzling, don't spend your emotional/professional energy trying to fix whatever silliness they put on the PIP, just roll, hope you keep the gig as long as you need.
posted by RajahKing at 11:06 AM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Why would you? What a waste of effort. You're leaving the job anyway. It's not like improvement would benefit you in any way whatsoever.

Because they can decide to fire you at any time, they aren't obligated to keep you just because your PIP goes for a month. They can can you after 2 weeks of coasting. I otherwise concur with you, but the idea is to get money for as long as you can before you leave (one way or another).
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:56 PM on July 31, 2018

To clarify, I think the OP should still do the basic functions of the job as long as possible. Don't go full Office Space and just not show up for work half the time, and filet fish when you do. But don't go above and beyond. Just run out the clock.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:23 AM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

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