Can my boss set unrealistic work goals?

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I work in a production area where the goals are intentionally set too high. (One supervisor once said, “They’re going to go up on the goal because too many people are meeting it.”) Employees who are deemed troublesome (or perhaps too expensive) are placed on Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) and ushered out the door a few months later.

My own production goal is going up to 150 percent of the current goal, without any known data that would justify the increase. No one else doing the same work is reaching nearly that high a number.

Two questions: 1) Is this kind of environment legal? 2) How does an employee best defend against being unfairly placed on a PIP?

To answer the question, click here: Can my boss set unrealistic work goals?

Related Posts

5 thoughts on “Can my boss set unrealistic work goals?

  1. “No, good management is not required by law.” This is great advice…from the perspective that I think it would help me just accept that it is what it is, etc. should I ever be in this situation. And then I would start looking for a new job. But I do have to share, the only time I was ever placed on a PIP was immediately after I made a claim about harrassment…by a person that had a known history of this. I have colleagues that share similar stories, as well in those in management positions that were instructed to find violations as a route to reduce staff. I think the PIP is abused as a way to create a paper trail to lay off people…which is nuts right? Isn’t there at-will where they don’t need a reason to do so anyway? I wish I could see a PIP in use in the proper way, where it is really meant to help improve the employee, but amongst my peers we always refer to it as a death sentence with impossible goals attached. I guess the only positive is that it’s a heads up to what your fate may be as opposed to getting laid off without any advance notice.

    1. “Lay off”? I think we mean “fire” in such an instance.
      I agree that PIPs need to be used as intended.

  2. In this case, it may well be that the company is using these unrealistic work goals as a pretext to discipline/fire anyone who might be a “troublemaker”, thereby attempting to avoid legal trouble by being able to point to the employee’s poor work record.

    In my younger years, I worked in a factory where everyone was expected to work 12 hour days, five days a week and six hours on Saturday. If you worked only ten hours, you were “leaving early” and the company wanted you to sign a sheet every quarter acknowledging this.

    Of course, the real reason for all this was to have paper trail in case anyone ended up being a “troublemaker” for things like union activity or reporting the company to OSHA for their numerous violations.

  3. Absolutely legal and essential for any business. I’ve worked in several companies where a culture of creating stretch goals was common, and the ones that did it best were also the most profitable. And, incidentally, also the best paymasters (to employees who met the goals, at least).
    Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes the organization is trying to keep up with new constraints, which make some major changes necessary. For example, at one plant I worked, we used river water for our production process. One day were told the area was going to go through a drought and so the government was cutting off water supply to factories. We had to go from using millions of gallons a year to using NO fresh water – something which had never been done anywhere in the world before. To any reasonable person, it would seem that we were setting absolutely insane goals: reduce fresh water use by 100%. (One scientist told us it was scientifically impossible.) Ultimately, we managed to do it and even started selling fresh water back to the government. If we hadn’t, the plant would’ve had to shut down.
    Sometimes you need goals which sound scary to really find out what you’re made of.

  4. Awesome example Varun.
    A good rule to consider is you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

    I’ve spent a lot of years in production and the people who move forward are the ones who make things quicker, better, and more cost efficient. The ones who don’t are may as well live in Detroit.

Comments are closed.

Are you looking for a new HR job? Or are you trying to hire a new HR person? Either way, hop on over to Evil HR Jobs, and you'll find what you're looking for.