It is indeed frustrating to see a bad performance review when you were not expecting one. Getting a bad performance review is stressful and not something to be ignored and brushed under the carpet.

Howsoever rattled or tormented you are feeling now, it is time to plan diligently on what to do next. Do not take an unfair performance review lying down and feeling there is nothing you can do about it; it is time to act but good planning must precede action. There is always a possibility to change the decision in your favor.

Here are some steps to help you towards your next plan and action:

Initiate further Meetings to Clarify Review

Contact your boss to talk to him personally on the performance review. Not over phone or Email but a face to face meeting is recommended to initiate clarifications on the review. In this meeting try not to be on the defensive and do not let emotions overcome you.

Meeting preparation: Before this meeting take time to carefully analyze the performance review you have received and also research on company’s policies on how to respond to bad performance review. Often organizations have a comprehensive HR webpage on the intranet or don’t feel shy to contact the HR on tips on how to respond to the performance review.

It is very important to first acquaint yourself with the review policies and process, prepare a list of points on which you were assessed during the review and compare with the goals and expectations previously set for you for the year.

Preparing in advance will make this meeting more meaningful and successful. Just a random discussion might get you nowhere – prepare and present facts during this meeting. Don’t arrange for this session in a hurry, think about the time you need to prepare and research for the details and then suggest a time frame to your boss to discuss the performance review. Keep in mind that it should not be delayed for a long time. Ask your boss if he is on vacation in the coming days or not, if yes, then schedule this meeting before he leaves for one.

When to request meeting – Make sure that the boss is not in a hurry to end this meeting and getting ready to attend another one.
It could be your one last chance to change the review in your favor, prepare well beforehand.

Discussing with your Boss

Use effective communication skills during the discussion with your boss. You must prepare before.

[Read more tips here: Are you Assertive or Timid at Work?]

Some tips on this crucial discussion with your manager:

What’s the problem? Make sure that there was no miscommunication towards expectations put upfront. Is the assessment / review based on the goals put forward at the beginning of the year, or were there some expectations you were truly unaware of? (See Paraphrase the Accusations topic below)

Defense – but on the right foot. Defend your case logically and present written evidence in support of your argument, do not get emotional or agitated in such meetings.

Curb emotions. Howsoever you have the urge to vent your bridled emotions on an unfair review, do not do so. If you have mentally prepared yourself on remaining calm and taking notes during this meeting, you can get favorable results out of this meeting.


Paraphrase the Accusations

Miscommunication often results in a bad performance review, it could be on your part your boss’s or comments through other managers which have filtered in the wrong sense to your immediate supervisor. Spend time with your boss to clarify the accusations and also ask for specific instances where you have been accused of negligence or poor performance. For example, if your boss has written in the review of delayed project submission or under performance, do ask him to pinpoint the dates or the projects he/she is referring to.

Follow-up on the Meeting

If you and your boss are reaching arbitration on re-evaluating the performance review, ask your boss to schedule a quick follow-up meeting within a week or so. If your boss has agreed to change the performance review based on the discussion and facts you have presented so far, use your best persuasion and negotiation skills requesting him/her to incorporate positive feedback.

Don’t think of Quitting on one Bad Performance Review

Bosses come and go. Teams dissolve and the company goes through various reorgs. A bad review does not mean it is time for you to start looking for a new job. Analyze the situation and see if there are some valid points perhaps you can do your best to perform better next time. Else if there have been unjustified accusations that reaching out more to the manager and the HR could be a possible solution.
Just remember to be more proactive towards your career in future.

When to let it go

If you think you have been wrongfully accused and there is no way that your boss is ready to change or discuss the performance review, then think about the worst case scenario.

– What is the worst that can happen with such a performance review?

– What would happen if you just let it go?

If the answers do not bother you and you truly love your job, think about getting over it and trying to see the positive side – perhaps the others in your team have got worse reviews, maybe it is not you it your boss who just has to be a terrible critic at the workplace.

  • Discussing with your career coach or your colleagues in this issue is also a suggested step. Perhaps your co-workers have received bad reviews from this manager before and maybe it is his/her working style to see a better performance in employees (though not a good way for sure!). A second opinion and a second look might clarify things more than how you have been looking at it so far.
  • Having a positive attitude also helps – once you have accepted that there were some areas where you need improvement, move on and take on the challenge to do better. Make your goal to excel at your next performance review.

But if it is an unfair review, then definitely do not let it go just because you do not feel like fighting back.

Don’t let it go before a good discussion (not a fight!).


Consequences of a Bad Review

But be cautious of all consequences, if you cannot afford to be out of job or be in the bad books of management of HR re-think your steps towards the protest. It is a good idea to talk to your colleagues who have been in the company longer to find out if there were any actions taken against those who “revolted” against a bad performance review.


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