Firing an Employee Without a Lengthy Improvement Plan

by Evil HR Lady on May 15, 2017

In 49 states (Montana is the exception) employment is at will, which means you can wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to fire Bill.” That would be legal, as long as you’re not firing Bill because of race, sex, etc. But, that’s not a great way to do business and no one that I’m aware of really does that.

The gold standard is the Performace Improvement Plan (PIP). This is usually 60 or 90 days and gives the employee a chance to succeed.

But are there times when you should forgo the PIP and kick the employee to the curb without warning?

Over at The Balance, I talk about When and How to Fire an Employee Without a PIP.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Rita M. Rode May 15, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Suzanne – I am a fond fan of your writings. They are so practical and shout “experience”. I definitely recommend your website to all HR friends and at times, I also forward to our Managers when the situation rings home.

I was unable to pull up your recent post, When and How to Fire an Employee Without a PIP. Can you send me this in a different version or email because we just happen to experience this here and I was anxious to read your opinion. Thanks much, keep on writing! Rita


Evil HR Lady May 15, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Rita! Thanks for your kind words. I fixed it so it should be working now. If not, here’s the link:


grannybunny May 15, 2017 at 3:05 pm

The link at the top of the story works.


Its Me May 15, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Oh Suzanne I can absolutely attest to the fact that “waking up one day and saying they are going to fire someone” is 100% real. Not only have I personally witnessed it happen maybe a half a dozen times in my life but it happened to me back in my 20’s. You would hope companies would be professional and want to do whats right for their employees, but there are many managers who act like petulant teenagers and the companies let them get away with it.


m May 15, 2017 at 6:25 pm

I’m also aware of unfair firings. Unfortunately good managers are by far the exception rather than the rule.


Maria Rose May 20, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Whenever I read articles like this, I am reminded of why unions came into existence, –i.e. to protect workers from firings like this. Unfortunately, in this age of political correctness, a union is considered past its time, especially when one hears of all the hand washing done behind closed doors.
But having worked in both a union supported job and a non-union supported position, I would rather deal with the union problems than have my position based on the will of the employer. The reason I say this is that with the growing trend of at-will employment, more companies cut labor cost by firing and hiring at their convenience because of the effects on the profit line, mandated by shareholders. But labor costs are an essential part of any business and can’t be cut so haphazardly as poorly performing employees do effect business, even though they may cost less. (CHEAP GETS CHEAP RESULTS).
There is no problem with evaluating performance of employees to get a standardized result.
If anyone has done an historical look at how labor and business have developed over the years, you would understand what point I am trying to get across. Good business success develops with good employee conditions. When one side gets more than the other, no body profits n the long run.
I see the current work situation becoming very similar to what it was pre-union worker days, with wages and available jobs determined by businesses state of profit.


Blake May 28, 2017 at 4:18 pm

This reminds me of a time 10 years ago when I had to fire someone “at-will” without a 90 day plan. In this case, the employee literally showed up late by 1-2 hours for an entire week. The next week he no-showed one day, but was on time the rest. By the 3rd week, I had caught up with all the paperwork necessary and I was just waiting for him to be late again. Well guess what, he didn’t show up until Friday and was shocked when I immediately escorted him to human resources! LOL, sometimes you just can’t follow the PIP.


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