I was put on a PIP at a top tech company. I saw the warning signs but it was still traumatic — here's how I bounced back.

My professional journey at a major tech company based in San Francisco spanned three years, during which I held two distinct roles - first in HR and later as a program manager within a team of five. Unexpectedly, after two years in the latter position, I found myself placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP). This experience marked a pivotal turning point in my career, eliciting significant personal and professional growth.

Initial Roles and Career Aspirations

While initially unanticipated, my time at the top-tier tech company was rewarding, as my roles resonated deeply with my aspirations to advocate for diversity and inclusion and provide opportunities for individuals from underrepresented communities to enter the tech industry. The direct, results-oriented culture of the organization, coupled with its commitment to excellence, presented a compelling environment that I found inspiring and honorable to be a part of.

Signs of Struggle and the PIP Experience

The warning signs preceding the PIP were evident, particularly following a challenging conference where I struggled to connect with others and subsequently received disconcerting feedback about my demeanor. At that time, the workplace culture was strained, leading to a sense of disconnection from the work and the mission of my team. Subsequent advice to update my resume and the subsequent placement on the PIP initially triggered feelings of fear and shame.

Embracing the Challenge: Self-Assessment and Improvement

Upon overcoming the initial shock, I took a candid self-assessment, choosing to focus on the aspects within my control and viewing the PIP as an opportunity for personal and professional development. Engaging a career coach, I worked on addressing productivity limitations, confronting procrastination, and enhancing communication skills. Implementing SMART goals and maintaining a journal to document progress and reinforce self-confidence were pivotal in this journey.

Adapting and Overcoming Adversity

Despite the mental, emotional, and physical toll of the PIP, I persevered, ultimately emerging successfully, proving to myself that I could overcome the challenge. However, it was also a period marked by significant anxiety, leading to noticeable weight loss and concern from those close to me. Receiving positive feedback upon the completion of the project offered validation, but I recognized the crucial role played by miscommunication and a lack of alignment with my new manager in leading to the PIP.

Challenges with New Leadership and Personal Growth

The transition to a new manager brought forth significant challenges due to differing work styles, which resulted in friction and missed deadlines. The increased workload and changes in key metrics, amidst a lean team and evolving workplace culture, compounded the difficulty. As a coping mechanism, I leaned more on my side hustle, which impacted my performance at work. Subsequently, reflecting on these experiences, I gained a deeper understanding of the new manager's perspective while acknowledging the emotional impact it had on me.

Positive Growth Post-PIP

My experience with the PIP underscored the realization that employee roles can be transient, ultimately contributing to my decision to leave the company on my terms. Transitioning to a new role as a program manager at another company, I leveraged the profound learnings from the PIP experience to prioritize my mental health and personal development. Furthermore, the experience emphasized the importance of diversifying income streams, leading me to cultivate my side hustle, which eventually transformed into my current full-time pursuit.

In navigating the aftermath of the PIP, I embraced a tenacious mindset and a proactive approach toward confronting challenges. Rather than fixating on setbacks, I prioritize skill development and agility in addressing adversity. This journey, though arduous, has instilled in me a deeper sense of resilience, self-awareness, and the capacity for personal and professional growth.  

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