Dealing With a Bad Performance Review

By January 12, 2021 Business Coaching

It’s easy to take a poor performance review personally.

It can feel like a real kick in the teeth, in fact.

You’ve worked hard and you aced your job this year as far as you could see.

A manager should be able to deliver criticism in a way that doesn’t upset you too much. In an ideal world, your manager will be able to highlight your shortcomings in a constructive manner.

That said, in some cases, you might still receive negative criticism.

Harsh criticism can come unexpectedly and leave you reeling and feeling undervalued.

If so, don’t panic and stay cool.

Here are some tips on dealing with that kick in the gut.

The Review Might Not Be As Bad As You Think

Your performance review might not be as negative as you thought. A little disappointing perhaps, but not disastrous.

It is pretty typical for people to think they are better at their job than they are.

Keep in mind that any disappointing comments may not be that important. Often, performance reviews are an administrative requirement. They get signed, filed, and don’t get used for anything.

Additionally, you don’t necessarily know how your manager appraises your colleagues. Some managers tend to be a little miserly with good comments. It may be that you are doing well, but your manager is hesitant to give you a lot of compliments.

Stay Cool

If you can, avoid any strong emotional reactions. The criticism may not be so important. So keep it in perspective.

A big tip to keep your cool if you start to feel angry is to slow down your responses. This is the best way to keep control of your anger and frustration.

Keep breathing, relax your muscles, and take a pause.

Stay in control of your emotions so you don’t blurt out anything that you might regret later.

Listen Carefully

Your manager might have some important comments about what you can do in the future to improve your performance. Whether you agree or not, there will always be some hints on how you can become a more productive employee.

Get Clarification

Push your manager to be more specific about his or her comments about your performance. Managers aren’t always that great at giving feedback.

They may say that for instance, you haven’t communicated well. In this case, ask for specifics with questions such as, “When did that happen?” and “Can you give me an example?”

If your boss says you don’t take enough initiative ask them, “What exactly do you mean?” or “What does taking initiative look like?” Taking initiative can be an ambiguous term of phrase. Get your boss to spell out how they expect you to take more initiative.

The more concrete information you can tease out of your manager, the better you can understand their criticism.

Be A Problem Solver

During the review ask questions and show a willingness to learn. Ask “What can I do in the future?” and “What can I improve?”

Your manager will see you in a positive light and turn negative criticism into a positive.

By showing that you’re willing to work on certain areas, you’re showing that you’re willing to accept the comments and be proactive in working on them.

If you get defensive and angry, this will only confirm the worst thoughts they have about you. Be future-orientated and proactive.

Get A Written Copy of The Review

Getting your review in writing can help you if you feel your boss is trying to scare you into quitting. If you know you’re a star performer you can use this to gather evidence and build a case to defend your position.

If your boss isn’t trying to get rid of you, this is a working document that spells out specifically what you need to improve on.

When you come to your next appraisal you can refer to this document and explain how you’ve managed to nail each one.

Get The Due Dates and The Timelines

It’s a good idea to work with your boss and note down all due dates for action. After your meeting, email your boss with them so that they know you’ve taken them on board and you are showing willingness.

It also helps you to back up your case if you suspect a constructive dismissal.

Ask For Another Performance Review

When you’ve delivered on all of those expectations your boss is looking for, get another review right away.

If you get another review in the next 3 months, this will put you in a position to continue performing until your next review. Then you can ask for a raise or a promotion.

What Not To Do

It’s vital that you keep calm and poised during your review. You want to use this as an opportunity to learn about any areas you need to improve so that you get a glowing review next time.

Whatever you do, don’t do any of the following.

Don’t Compare Yourself To Your Colleagues

Never defend yourself by comparing yourself to co-workers or putting them down. You may feel that you are better or work harder than your colleagues, but it’s not relevant.

You must focus on your performance and not what anyone else does.

The minute you start pointing the finger at other people, you’ll come across as petty and the type of person no manager wants.

Don’t Accuse The Manager of Bias

If you accuse the manager of personal bias, you’ll alienate them and will have negative consequences.

Don’t take any criticism personally. Ultimately, it’s there to help you improve productivity and be a better employee.

Final Thoughts

All of this might be a little tricky when you feel blindsided. It’s ok to make mistakes and ok for others to point them out. Try not to take it personally.

If you nail this, you can go on to be a star performer and get closer to your boss and develop the relationship.