A management academic who was placed on a performance-improvement plan while working in the corporate world told Business Insider that it is just a roundabout way of your company quiet-firing you.

Catherine Rymsha, a lecturer in management at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, previously worked in the human resources department of a global software company. Before that, she worked in different marketing and communication roles.

Having received a performance-improvement plan herself, Rymsha understands just how brutal the process of getting one can be.

She said she was unexpectedly put on a PIP by her manager several years ago when working in marketing. Rymsha told BI that the pair did not get along professionally.

"There was no way no matter what I did that I was going to have the upper hand," she said. Her position in marketing did not survive the PIP.

She was then offered a job in human resources.

"In that case, having been in HR and having it happen to me, you can see how they are used to pigeonhole or to put somebody in a corner," Rymsha added.

'We know we don't want this person at the company'

PIPs help HR to cover itself if there were ever to be a legal issue, she said.

Rymsha explained that many of her former HR business partners hated putting people on them.

"It just spelled like we're doing this, and we know we don't want this person at the company, so it almost feels like a fool's errand," she said.

"They had to go through the actions to protect themselves and protect the business, but ultimately, they were going to find a way to push the person out of the organization," she said.

Quiet firing

For Rymsha, a PIP is an invitation to leave a company.

"If you get that PIP, you've been quite fired, probably three to six months ahead of time," she said.

Rymsha said often, before a PIP is even issued, employees will gradually see things being taken away from them. This is a sign that the company is hoping you will take the hint and leave on your own so they don't have to go through the process of giving you a PIP, she said.

"If you're not getting great feedback, you're being taken off projects, you're not getting put on new or exciting work or initiatives — those are all the subtleties that [a PIP] could be coming, or they just don't see as much value in you, and they don't want to invest in you as much, basically," Rymsha said.

Once you're on that path, it's time to leave your company, she advised.

Can a PIP ever work?

Despite seeing PIPs as a means of quiet-firing, Rymsha also said she has seen a PIP achieve its true purpose before, especially when someone has had issues at home or even just become a little bit complacent with their job.

She said some managers take a 50/50 approach, where half of the employees who receive a PIP the organization wants to keep and develop, and the other half it wants to fire but most legally and respectfully possible.

For other HR people, it's more like 80/20, Rymsha said, meaning 80% will be terminated, and only the remaining 20% will stay. It varies between companies, but she is still wary of their use.

"I see most not working for anyone's benefit," Rymsha said.