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Performance Plan Process

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 we commit to taking at Basecamp when your manager identifies a problem with your performance that must be addressed.

STEP ONE: Identify the problem (ALERT)

Your manager will identify a productivity or disciplinary problem as soon as possible after it occurs. Your bi-yearly performance 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 first. 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! This is the first time something's gone wrong, so you and your manager should work together to address it and move past it. Your manager's complaint may be detailed or a general sense of something being off. During this initial conversation, you and your manager should make a plan for how you can course correct and show your work towards that end.

Manager: Hey, I noticed that things have been slipping through the cracks for the past two or three weeks and I'm not able to get ahold of you for days at a time. Specifically those docs that you were supposed to send on Monday didn't get sent til Friday. That's not like you! Is something going on I should know about? ... For the next 4 weeks, let's plan to check in once a week to make sure you're on track with your current work. I also want you to be extra responsive to the daily check-in questions and answer those every day this month. At the end of the month, let's revisit this and make sure you feel back on track and I am seeing what I need to see in terms of your responsiveness.

STEP TWO: Document

The manager should document this initial conversation. Documenting what was said will help the manager recall:

  1. what the problem was
  2. the steps required for the employee to correct
  3. the timeline
  4. the deadline for the next evaluation

Managers can document this initial conversation and any subsequent conversations in a Google Doc which can be shared within the company as necessary. Your manager should also be clear to you the employee that they're recording these items. Making you aware of that isn't meant to feel like a strike against you! It's meant to create transparency in the process of improving this aspect of your performance. Everyone on the same page, same goals and timelines, and awareness of the severity of the problem.

STEP THREE: Revisit on deadline (TRIAGE)

When you and your manager first spoke, they gave you a deadline for correcting the problem behavior. At that time your manager and you should have another conversation about whether or not they're seeing the improvement they want to see. In this second conversation, your manager should address the initial problem and if you've adequately taken the steps you discussed to improve your performance within the timeline you agreed to.

If your manager feels 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!

Manager: It's been four weeks since we talked about jobs slipping through the cracks and your lack of responsiveness in general. I think our weekly check-ins and your increased participation in daily questions have made me feel more connected to your work, and I'm noticing work is being done on time every time. I'm seeing improvement in your initiative too. I feel totally comfortable letting you get back to it without so much oversight. If you start to feel overwhelmed or that lack of focus again, please reach out to me before it reflects in your work! I'll add a note to my original notes about this that you're back on track.

If your manager feels your performance is not where it should be, they will outline next steps. This is a more critical stage during which you will be asked to more specifically address the standard of your work. Your manager should be available to help you course correct but if after that initial oversight you're still not showing improvement, the onus moves to you to show you understand where you're lacking and how you will correct.

Manager: It's been four weeks since we talked about your lack of responsiveness. I'm still seeing problems here. Last week you didn't finish that write-up you committed to, and you only answered the daily questions a few times this month. At this point I need to step back and ask you to come up with some concrete ways to show your commitment to fixing what's wrong here. What can you produce in the next 6 weeks to show you are getting your work done on time? I'm happy to help where I can, but can't continue such a high touch relationship since it doesn't appear to be helping matters.

STEP FOUR: Document

At this stage, your manager will add to the documentation they created after your first conversation. They'll update with notes from your most recent talk, and note about why they were or were not convinced of your progress. If they are proceeding with the performance plan, they'll add the additional steps you agreed upon to correct course, along with the new timeline and deadline. They'll also inform you of what they're adding to the documentation so again, you're both clear on where you stand.

STEP FIVE: Final assessment (CRITICAL)

When the deadline from your previous conversation approaches, your manager will schedule a final talk to discuss your performance issue.

If your manager feels your performance is back on track, that's the end of this process! The documentation of this process 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 manager feels your performance is not where it should be, this final conversation will be about whether or not Basecamp remains a good fit for you.

Manager: It's been another six weeks since we talked about jobs slipping through the cracks and your lack of responsiveness. You committed to making progress on your kickoff plans, answering daily check-in questions, and having zero dropped assignments. All of these things are still not where you said they would be after now a total of 10 weeks since we first talked about this problem. We have to talk about your future at Basecamp now. You don't seem to be able to manage your work after repeated warnings.

STEP SIX: Document

At this final stage, your manager will add more notes about your most recent talk, and they'll detail why they were or were not convinced of your progress. If you've been terminated, that will be noted in the documentation.

If you haven't been terminated and your manager is happy with your progress, they still may add a contingency plan to the documentation (e.g. "I'm happy with Employee's progress at the moment, but if something similar happens again in the next 12 months, they move immediately to STEP THREE"). You the employee will again be made aware of what your manager is documenting.

Whatever the final outcome of your case, your entire final Google Doc outlining your progress will be moved into Basecamp as part of your employee record.

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

Support.

The examples given above don't 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 it's not three strikes and you're out. The examples above are very convenient (almost... fake!), and real-life is never so perfectly scripted.

We can and have worked with lots of employees to help them manage their workload so they can remain at Basecamp to do their best work. We're not in the game of high turnover. We care about everyone who works here and if you're having performance issues, our first reaction is to help you, not shove you onto a formal performance plan. We only ask that you work with us to devise a realistic improvement plan that elevates you and works for Basecamp.

To recap, there are 3 steps for you the employee to be concerned about if you're facing a problem with your performance:

  • First conversation: alert
  • Second conversation: triage
  • Final conversation: critical

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 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.

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