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PIPS and The Threat Against Black Professionals

If you follow us, you will know we’re very clear about our disdain regarding Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) and even dedicated an entire article discussing them from an HR standpoint.

However, I haven’t yet talked about how PIPs can threaten to Black employees. On occasion, managers use PIPs as a weapon to suppress Black voices or simply fire a Black employee in a way that minimizes the risk of being labeled as racist to the company. For Black employees, PIPs are sometimes at the intersection of racism and poor employee treatment; the impact of these types of PIPs is real, very damaging, much more than a “bad grade.”

The first article published on our blog and LinkedIn about PIPs didn’t mention the harms of this practice, even with folks reading it and debating it. This is largely because many in HR see PIPs as the Holy Grail of employee management. And, any threats to this treasured institution (aka ways to reform it) are seen as blasphemy.

Surprisingly, even some people who had been on a PIP and terminated because it, who we assume suffer from corporate Stockholm syndrome, defend the practice. They believe their managers were demonstrating their commitment to them by requiring them to achieve impossible accomplishments to keep their jobs. They don’t see how this practice threatens their livelihoods. Weird, right? We don’t get it either.

Trust us, we have nothing against managers who take a PROACTIVE approach to ensure their employees' success. But, more often than not, PIPs don’t produce employee success. PIPs are more your manager telling you that they had enough and you're being managed out of the company.

When your manager presents you with a PIP, what that translates to is, “You’re being fired but not in an abrupt way that could blow back on me.” It’s a soft kick in the ass, but even a soft kick is still a kick. It hurts.

And you, my friend, are being kicked out. Make no mistake about that.

Someone on LinkedIn put it like way, “PIPs are like cops, not inherently bad, but so thoroughly corrupted by a broken system that their whole justification should be called into question.” Ouch! Truth hurts.

PIPs aren’t all terrible, but when it comes to Black professionals, in particular, PIPs can make a major difference when it comes to our professional development, our livelihoods, and yes, even our mental health.

Taking on a more serious tone, we should have discussed more about the weaponization of PIPs against Black employees in particular because this type of hidden racism is still a real thing. Our interest in covering this subject was sparked by the article “Stop Weaponizing PIPs Against Black Professionals,” so much so, we are dedicating a mini-series starting today, September 20th on our podcast!

The mini-series will focus on when PIPs are weaponized against Black professionals. What do I mean by weaponized? Simple, when a vindictive manager uses a PIP as a revenge tactic against their employees, a “revenge” that is typically uncalled for in the first place This series will be a collection of stories about PIPs from Black professionals (mostly Black women, who are always the bravest when talking about such things), sharing what happens, and the professional and even emotional effects of being treated in such a manner.

The series will start with this article author discussing her experiences, and continue as we interview Black professionals from all walks of life. This conversation is needed because the professional and mental and emotional impacts are real and cannot wait; these impacts often have long-standing implications. From feelings of low self-esteem to corporate trauma, Black professors hit by racist PIPs carry with this baggage for a long time. It is our hope this series serves as a catharsis for our guests and listeners.

Lastly, we will wrap up the series with an informative episode about how employees can protect and advocate for themselves in the workplace.

The series aims to shed new light on PIPs and encourages dialogue with everyone.

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