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Chapter A8:

Performance Improvement Plan Process

Next: State FMLA Laws →

We don’t want any of our employees to feel unclear on where they stand, should they find themselves in need of improving their performance. So below are the steps take at Basecamp when your manager identifies a problem with your performance that must be addressed with a performance improvement plan (PIP).

Identify and Document

Your manager will identify a productivity or disciplinary problem as soon as possible after it occurs if it’s a specific incident, or as soon as they can when they sense a general problem with your ongoing performance. Your semiannual reviews may be helpful in identifying a problem, but managers shouldn’t wait for those reviews to raise a problem with you.

Your manager will have a conversation with you about:
1) what the exact problem was if it was a specific incident (e.g. an inappropriate comment to a co-worker), or what the general problem has been if it’s an ongoing performance problem (e.g. not contributing at the level you should be)
2) the clear expectations and the steps required for you to correct
3) the timeline for correction

The idea is for you and your manager to openly and honestly address what went wrong and why. Your manager will approach the conversation with curiosity, not frustration! During your conversation, you and your manager should make a plan for how you can course correct and show your work towards that end. Your manager will also document the steps above and your conversation to share with you.

Revisit Throughout Timeline & On Deadline

When you and your manager spoke, they gave you a timeline for correcting the problem behavior. Depending on the nature of your performance problem, that may be a month, it may be much longer! In any case, during that timeframe, you and your manager should check in periodically about whether or not they’re seeing the improvement they want to see.

When you come to the end of your PIP timeline, you and your manager will have a formal 1:1 to discuss your progress. If your performance is back on track, that’s the end of this process! Your initial conversation and related documentation will remain logged for future reference, and your manager should add a note indicating they’re happy with your improvement at this stage. Case closed!

If your performance is not where it should be, your manager will outline next steps. If they feel you’re putting forth good effort and could use more time to show improvement, they may extend the timeline of the PIP. If your manager feels your performance has not improved at all and you haven’t met the requirements outlined in your PIP, they may decide to terminate your employment with Basecamp.

If you are terminated, we try our best to prevent that from creating a crisis for you. Basecamp offers a severance package that pays out immediately upon your termination: one month’s pay for every year you’ve worked at Basecamp (up to 4 months). That severance package also includes medical and dental insurance for you and your dependents if you’ve been on our policies. And when you begin looking for work, your manager and the company will provide references or recommendations when possible.

What’s the biggest, most important detail missing from everything above?

Support.

The process outlined here doesn’t fully illustrate the level of care and support Basecamp is able to give to you before and during this process. We know lots of stuff comes into play when it comes to work performance. If you’re having personal or professional issues that are impeding how you’re working, please tell us! Tell your manager, tell Andrea, tell Jason or David, tell someone who has the resources to help. This process is not hard and fast, and we want to work with you.

Lots of employees who still work at Basecamp have been on PIPs. We’re not in the game of high turnover. We want to see you through the process and see you come out energized on the other side. We care about everyone who works here and if you’re having performance issues, our first reaction is to help you. We only ask that you work with us to devise a realistic improvement plan that elevates you and works for Basecamp.

Exceptions

The process outlined above is for employees who are dealing with manageable performance or disciplinary issues. If an employee is negligent in their duties or commits fraud or insubordination to the point that a performance plan won’t serve Basecamp or the employee, we retain the right to immediately terminate at-will as stated in our employment contracts. Basecamp also retains the right to bypass steps outlined above, including offering a severance package, if the severity of performance problems warrants that. In either of these cases, the reasoning will be spelled out in detail to the employee prior to termination.

We don’t just make Basecamp, we run our entire business on it too. It puts all our project communication, task management, and documentation in one place where everyone can work together seamlessly.