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After 9 months of employment at a company, I've been told my performance needs to improve in some areas, and have been put on a personal development plan because my performance has been inconsistent in some areas.

The usual advice on this website is that if you've been put on such a plan, then you should look for new employment. I like my job, so my preference would be to not have to do that, but I understand why the advice is given.

Fair enough, I can do that, but how does one explain wanting to leave after 9 months of employment? "I've been put on a personal development plan and workplace.stackexchange" told me to look for a new job won't really cut it.

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    You say you understand why the advice is given, but you strongly imply that you either don't know or don't believe it. It's not about whether you like your job or not because a PIP is often a prelude to dismissal for poor performance. Your choices aren't "stay at a job I like" or "move to a job I might not". They're "look for a new job now while you have options and a strong bargaining position" or "risk having to look for a job on very short notice with the stigma of dismissal and unemployment." Jan 12 at 15:58
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    I do believe it, it's just that I like my job and thought I was doing alright, and don't like facing the truth about having to consider leaving Jan 12 at 16:01
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    That's understandable. I'd definitely recommend following the PIP whether you do decide to look elsewhere. You'll probably get a better idea where it's going with time. Jan 12 at 16:03
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    Absolutely, thanks - I'll follow it, and will be actively on the lookout for other opportunities too Jan 12 at 16:07
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    You'll hear that generic advice re PIPs/PDPs but it really does vary dramatically from company to company. For some it's the first part of ushering you to the exit; for others it's meant to be a "kick up the backside" to get you to improve; for others it's a thoughtful process to genuinely develop you into a useful team member; for some it's even the way to get a training budget! You need to try and do a bit of digging and find out which it is in your company before making any drastic decisions.
    – Alan Dev
    Jan 12 at 21:34
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Before taking any rash decisions or listening too much to the advice here I think it's really important to find out what exactly this "PDP" means in this case.

The term I hear more often associated with employees considered to be sub-standard is "PIP" (Personal Improvement Plan). Personal Development Plans seem to be a more general thing given to all employees to further develop their skills/talents.

However within each company the meanings of these terms might differ. So first find out what is the case. Are they so unhappy with you that you need to improve very quickly or you will be fired? Or are they, despite some points for improvement, generally happy with you?

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    @ignoring_gravity that wording does make it sound more like a development plan than the dreaded PIP. Even so I'd advise that if you want to stay there do your utmost to exceed anything they've asked you to improve. Also - brace for impact just incase.
    – motosubatsu
    Jan 12 at 17:06
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    I can attest. I used to work at a company where everyone was encouraged to have a PDP. It was just a list of things you wanted to do to grow your career and be a more valuable employee. Everyone has room for improvement. A PIP is different. That (should be) a list of specific goals you must reach by a specific time in order to stay employed. Find out what you actually have.
    – Seth R
    Jan 12 at 17:28
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    My performance review said that I wasn't meeting expectation in some parts of the role though, so I don't think it's the same as when everyone has a PDP. Jan 12 at 21:44
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    @ignoring_gravity If you're unsure, it's always a good idea to talk to your manager and ask them to clarify, as per this answer. If they feel like they're giving you a last chance through this plan and you treat it like they're just nurturing your personal development, you're likely to end up unemployed, but if you treat your personal development like it's your last chance you're just causing yourself undue stress.
    – Cronax
    Jan 13 at 13:43
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    I thought "PIP" was more commonly "performance improvement plan" rather than "personal...", not that it really matters what exactly it's called in this case.
    – David Z
    Jan 14 at 0:35
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Say something which is the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth. Depending on your circumstances, some combination of the following may work:

  • I realised I was more interested in [industry X] than [industry Y]
  • I realised I was more interested in [tech stack X] than [tech stack Y]
  • [old company] really needs someone with a slightly different skill set from mine
  • [new company] has much better pay/benefits/culture/location
  • [old company] needed a more experienced employee than me, despite advertising the role with a "junior" title

Obviously be prepared to follow any of those statements up with explanations which present you in at worst a neutral light (and also without criticising your current employer if you can manage that).

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If you don't have a history of job-hopping, you can say "It wasn't the right fit" and likely be taken at your word... After a few questions.

You've been told bluntly

I've been told my performance needs to improve in some areas

No matter what they call it, this is a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Your best strategy to survive is to get another offer.

Most people have had a job that didn't work out. You are right, they probably will ask why you're leaving so soon. Start with

It's not the right fit

Good interviewers will ask follow-up questions related to specifics of what happened, and why it's a bad fit for you. The interviewer will want to see you've put thought into the type of new job you need, and you won't make the same mistake twice.

Be as objective as possible. Don't blame your current boss or company. Think about this before the interview. Answers like "They needed more technical management and I focus more on soft skills" are good. They let you segue into talking about the job you want.

I would consider your job over. Even if you manage to survive, you're likely out of the running for raises, promotions, and transfers for the year thanks to the PIP.

EDIT

From the OP's post, it sounds like Personal Development Plan is the next phrase on the euphemism treadmill for PIP. He was told explicitly his performance was lacking. Normally I'd suggest asking for clarification, but in this case, HR may have mandated the manager lie and say you have a chance.

Because the downside cost is very high (job-loss), and the chance your company will not be honest is high (stupid, but common HR procedures), you need to assume your job will go away.

No smart company would have a written document with words like "performance needs to improve" in it unless it was a PIP. Yes, the company could have a stupid HR executive, but that's a big chance to take. Get out while you can say you still have a job.

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  • Your assertion that OP is on a Performance Improvement Program is false. A Personal Development Plan is NOT a Performance Improvement Program (they serve very different purposes, any employee can have the former), and neither is simply being told your performance must improve. A PIP is a very narrowly defined procedure overseen by legal, one of the common laws surrounding it is that you must explicitly be told that you are on a PIP, and that you must sign a document stating that you understand and agree to said PIP. it usually cannot be given a fancy buzzword and must be called a PIP. Jan 18 at 7:46
  • If you just started a job, then some jobs require you to learn a lot. It's quite possible that the company is happy with your improvement over those nine months, and points out what else you should try to improve - so that after two years on the job, you are good at everything. There are twenty new things OP needs to learn, and he mastered 9 which is good, so they give him a list of the other 11.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 18 at 12:53
  • @gnasher729 - addressed in edit Jan 18 at 19:31
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Awesome question, especially love the last part :)

PDP usually means that you may not be best fit for the position and, in most cases, are on the short list for company "streamlining" its expenses.

Suggestion here is to have a backup plan for when it happens.

You may not get fired, or fired in a year or two.

You may pass PDP and get better at your position, but experience states that PDP is a fast lane out, curtailed only by hiring a replacement.

In my opinion, places that use PDP, are not the best to work for anyway.

As to your question, your explanation to when you asked why you want to leave your current position is "not the best fit for me" :)

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  • you're mistaking Personal Development Plan (PDP) for Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). PIP is what you describe, whereas any employee can have a PDP regardless of current performance or standing within the company. Jan 18 at 7:52
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how does one explain wanting to leave after 9 months of employment? "I've been put on a personal development plan and workplace.stackexchange" told me to look for a new job won't really cut it.

You don't have to explain anything before you accept an offer somewhere else. Start looking around, and, if you really want to leave, when you have a signed contract from another company, communicate to your current employer that you have "found a new opportunity" or something like that.

You have no obligation to communicate that you are starting a job search. You only need to say something to your employer in case you actually quit.

And in that time when you're looking, you might find that this "personal development plan" isn't as bad as it sounds now and you might want to stop searching. Or, maybe you still want to quit, but it takes you 6 months to find a suitable position... and, in that case, why would you give your current employer a 6 months heads-up?

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  • What I meant was - how do I explain it to prospective employers. Thanks anyway for your input, this is useful Jan 13 at 11:43

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