At GitLab, we strive to hire smart people who can get things done and the bar to entry is already high with our interview process. However, the interview process is imperfect and later on we may find that someone is not living up to expectations. We want people to be successful and give every opportunity for each individual to work effectively but at the same time, we need to balance the company’s needs and move quickly to manage areas of underperformance.

When it becomes clear to a manager that an individual isn't accomplishing enough or working well with others, here are guidelines for how to handle underperformance. Note that someone may be terminated without undertaking these steps if the damage caused by their actions is irreparable or goes against our core values and expected code of conduct. Please work with People Operations on all cases of underperformance to protect the organization and equally consider the side of the individual involved.

1) Manager communicates to direct report during one-on-one that team member needs to improve. If there are extenuating circumstances some leeway may be granted depending on the situation. This is an area that People Operations can provide a sounding board / voice of reason on.

2) If the lack of performance persists, the manager moves to documenting clear expectations for improvement in a performance improvement plan (PIP). The intention of a PIP is to support the individual in any way required to make their time at GitLab a positive experience but also to make clear that immediate and sustained improvement is required. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has a helpful guide to review when you this step is needed to push past the current performance issues.

A performance improvement plan includes the following:

This basic PIP template will provide a good start to creating the document. The template should be customized to fit the particular situation. All PIPs should be forwarded to the People Ops Generalist or Director for a final review and approval before delivery. This step will help ensure consistency in the PIP process for any affected team member and to protect GitLab should legal claims arise as a result of termination.

3) Team member gets time (e.g. 2-4 weeks; this can be longer or shorter and depends on the role and the circumstances) to demonstrate improvements and meet the goals that are outlined in the performance improvement plan. If insufficient improvements are made, the period for the performance improvement plan may be extended, at the discretion of the manager.

4) Otherwise, the team member is let go or his/her contract is cancelled.

5) Manager writes a debrief:

  1. How could this have been avoided?
  2. Were there early signs that were missed?
  3. In retrospect, what questions should have been asked? For example, "How would you compare yourself relative to your peers?" People are surprisingly honest here.

By using this process, letting people go should not be a surprise to the person in question, but it should be a surprise to the company. If a person does need to be let go, follow the process for involuntary termination and the offboarding steps.