How To Respond To a Negative Performance Review (With Example)

“I’m disappointed to hear my performance has not met expectations. It’s important to me to keep working on this team.” “I plan to improve my performance.” “I need to hear your feedback as I did not know there were concerns about my performance.”

What the Experts Say Contrary to the stories we tell ourselves about our abilities and strengths, negative feedback frequently confirms our worst fears. But don’t let a bad review change the way people see you. Mitchell Marks, a management professor at San Francisco State University and the CEO of the consulting firm JoiningForces, asserts that “No one bats a thousand.” org. “We’re human beings. And sometimes a reality check is quite valuable. “After all, there wouldn’t be any opportunity for improvement without feedback.” According to Sheila Heen, author of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, “Always getting a glowing review means that you’re not challenging yourself.” A sign that you’re taking on challenges that are stretching you is critical input. ” Still, it doesn’t feel good. Here’s how to bounce back from a negative review.

Consider your response before acting It’s easy to become upset or defensive, especially if you’re used to receiving positive feedback. But Marks emphasizes the need to “hold your emotions in check.” “There is nothing to be gained by berating or disparaging the system or the reviewer,” “Allow the feedback to sink in for a few days.” Heen advises finding a friend to vent to if it helps, but try to do it away from the workplace.

In the feedback, it’s possible that you won’t recognize yourself. Look for your blind spots. That’s because, despite our best efforts, there frequently exists a discrepancy between how we perceive ourselves and how others actually perceive us. Heen asserts, “We need other people to help us see ourselves. Try to find people who will be honest with you rather than letting you know that the advice is false, even though it can be comforting to lean on a sympathetic friend. Consider speaking with friends who can provide constructive criticism as opposed to just reinforcing your perception of yourself, advises Heen. Consider whether your tone comes across as more irritated than you intend or whether coworkers perceive you to be dismissive of ideas too quickly despite your belief that you maintain an open mind. In Marks’ words, “make it clear you are interested in honesty, not consolation,” when asking colleagues for additional feedback if, after some self-reflection, you still don’t comprehend the reasons behind the criticisms.

After you’ve calmed down, ask questions to make sure you comprehend the review. That may involve going back to your boss with questions. “If anything is not crystal clear, ask,” says Marks. Be mindful of your tone; you don’t want to come across as disputing the review. ” “Ask as many questions as possible,” says Heen. Ask your boss for an example of a time when you should have taken the initiative but didn’t, and what you might have done instead. If your team is performing well in some areas but poorly in others, ask what level of performance might be deemed a success and for advice on how to achieve it. Make it clear that you want specific examples of what you should change.

Create a performance plan The goal of feedback is to assist you in improving your work, which calls for a thorough action plan. That might entail picking up new skills, rearranging your priorities, or reassessing how you come across to coworkers. Decide together with your manager what changes you both need to make. Give yourself a month or two to experiment with doing a few things differently, advises Heen. Then check in with the necessary parties and explain that you are changing the way you are approaching this, but please let me know if you are on the right track. Marks advises requesting an interim review with your manager to confirm that you are making the desired performance improvements. Ask your boss if you can schedule a meeting for three or six months from now, he advises. By doing so, you can guarantee that your performance lives up to everyone’s expectations.

Remember that while the outcome of the assessment may not be entirely in your control, how you respond to it is. Give yourself a second score. Give yourself a score for how you handled the review in the event that there is a second evaluation based on how you respond to it. “What matters is what you do with it, not whether you get an A on the exam or an F,” says Heen. What determines whether you receive an A the following time is that. You’ll be reminded that the negative review is not the end of your professional story by striving for a great second score and possibly sharing that with your boss.

Consider the big picture After some reflection, you may come to the conclusion that your poor performance isn’t due to a blind spot, but rather that you aren’t in the right place. According to Marks, “sometimes it takes an incident like a bad review to realize you’re not a good fit for the organization.” Whether you decide to stay or leave, use the review as a launching pad for success and change. According to Heen, “many, many successful people have failed at different points in their careers, and most of them later looked back on it as a real opportunity.” “Thus, despite how awful it feels, remember that this is your chance.” ”.

Case Study 1: Make sure you understand everything before moving on When Denis Coleman was elevated from finance to management at a rapidly expanding electronics manufacturer, he lacked any prior experience managing a group of people. However, as the business grew throughout Europe, Denis was chosen to oversee a new team in the Czech Republic. “To be honest, I was woefully under-qualified,” says Denis.

Denis had always put in a lot of effort and frequently volunteered for tasks. He took the same hard-charging approach with his direct reports. Denis claims, “I believed that being a successful manager required long hours and a variety of activities.” “And pushing my team to do the same. After a year, his manager told him in person that he wasn’t living up to expectations, which shocked Denis. “I actually thought he was joking,” says Denis.

After feeling irate and frustrated for several days, Denis started to believe that perhaps his boss was right. He wasn’t telling his team which tasks should be prioritized in an effective manner. He claims, “I treated everything that came up in front of me as urgent.” As a result, the team had no focus. “I was managing by hours and tasks,” says Denis. “I needed to manage by outcomes and results. ”.

He returned a week later and requested additional clarification to ensure that he fully understood his manager’s critique. “I said, ‘Look. I don’t fully understand this. In the course of that conversation, he was able to gain a better understanding of the organization’s goals in the area and how he and his team fit into those plans. He says, “I cascaded that feedback down so that what we were doing was informed by the organizational strategy.”

Denis also requested more frequent check-ins and feedback from his boss. As a result, he claims, “I got more guidance, mentoring, and advice.” Denis was nominated as the organization’s Employee of the Year for the subsequent three years. And his unfavorable review had a long-lasting impact on him: He is now the founder and CEO of Work Compass, a company that develops software for performance management and online performance reviews for businesses.

Case Study #2: Strive for improvement proactively Stephanie Barnes Taylor had recently been transferred to the contracts department of a Houston law firm. She was just starting out in her career and didn’t have much experience drafting contracts. It was completely different from the work she had previously been doing, she claims.

Even so, a few months later, she was unprepared for the critical performance review. She claims, “I had never received any feedback that suggested there were significant issues.” Additionally, it was her first time ever receiving criticism in general. “My work ethic and performance had always been excellent in college and law school,” she claims. “So it was a double shock. ”.

After she recovered from the “hurt,” as she put it, she resolved to perform better. She discovered a course on contract drafting that was beginning two weeks later, and she enrolled. She worked with other reputable attorneys in the firm to develop a performance improvement plan that addressed every issue brought up during the evaluation.

She then took her plan to her manager. She also inquired about his willingness to give her more one-on-one coaching during that conversation. Over the following year, she carried out the strategy, and her performance increased. Before the following evaluation period, she ultimately accepted a position at a different company, but ever since, she has never received a subpar performance review.

Stephanie now sees the unfavorable review as a defining moment in her career as the CEO of The Fruition Group, a leadership and strategic planning business in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. She asserts that constructive criticism is still valuable because it highlights areas for improvement. Instead of concentrating on the part that you didn’t do well, you now have the chance to significantly improve in a situation where, otherwise, you would continue to be average or failing ”.

How To Respond To A Bad Performance Review (And When To Quit)

Why is it important to respond to a negative performance review?

Responding to a poor performance review might be advantageous for your work output and relationship with your manager. By allowing both parties to comprehend the other’s point of view, talking about the review with your manager may help to avoid any potentially awkward or uncomfortable situations. You might have the chance to advance in your role and find solutions that are advantageous to both you and your team if you and the review’s subject were to be discussed in more detail.

What is a performance review?

A performance review is a manager or supervisor’s formal evaluation of an employee’s job performance. It is also known as a performance appraisal or evaluation. It identifies the position’s strengths and weaknesses, provides feedback for improvement, and establishes goals for future performance. Throughout the year, managers may give performance reviews frequently or infrequently.

How to respond to a negative performance review

Follow these instructions to learn how to react to a poor performance review:

1. Set up a meeting

Your performance reviews can be given by managers via software platforms, emails, written reports, or one-on-one meetings. Consider contacting your supervisor to schedule a meeting to go over the information if you receive your review outside of a meeting. If you receive the performance review in person, think about scheduling a new meeting to go over the details or rescheduling your current one. This may give you some time to deal with your feelings privately and make your conversational style seem more mature. You can also prepare a response and follow up with a preparedness to accept change and seek out solutions.

2. Read your review

Read your written evaluation carefully and several times if you have one. Give yourself time to consider the information’s contents as you process it. Try to understand your supervisors feedback. If the review makes you uncomfortable, consider whether your discomfort is due to your emotional reaction to the outcomes or your perception that the criticism is unfair.

3. Gather your information

Gather as much information as you can about your own work performance and company policies before your meeting. Some preparation tactics may include:

Learn more about the company’s performance review process by consulting the employee handbook and other resources, such as a human resources contact. Find out if managers adhere to a manual or set of guidelines when conducting reviews. For instance, some policies may stipulate that a manager must identify at least two areas that an employee’s performance needs to be improved. Knowing the procedure may enable you to determine whether the review you submitted was actually unfavorable or just typical for the system.

To compare your self-evaluation to your performance review, you might want to. Analyze previous examples of your work, such as projects, papers, programs, or other materials, using a rating scale or checklist if necessary. Compare the two reviews for consistency to determine where you can make improvements.

If you discover discrepancies between your performance review and self-evaluation, gather proof to back up your claims. You could provide statistics, encouraging letters from clients or customers, notes from coworkers, or other tangible evidence of your success. Your manager may receive new information from this that they were not aware of when they conducted your performance review.

Make a list of the questions you want to ask so you won’t forget to bring up the important issues during the meeting. Note any feedback that you dont understand. Ask for more specific illustrations of general or ambiguous responses. Try to frame your inquiries so that they reflect your desire to comprehend your manager’s perspective on the circumstance.

4. Listen

Attend your meeting and pay close attention to your manager’s comments. Let them speak until they ask if you have questions. Before formulating a response, make an effort to understand what they are saying. You can discuss your worries and the information they presented after their initial explanation.

5. Take notes

As your manager speaks during the meeting, make notes so you can refer to them later. Make a list of specific instances in the workplace that you should be aware of. Getting as much information as you can may aid in your efforts to identify areas for improvement or situations that could present difficulties.

6. Focus on solutions

If you and your boss agree that there is room for improvement, talk about how you can make the changes. You might even decide to bring a list of potential solutions to discuss to the meeting. Make it clear that you want to collaborate with your manager to improve. This might be crucial if you weren’t aware of a performance issue at first. Consider expressing your desire to advance and work for the organization.

7. Ask for suggestions

Inquire about possibilities to pick up new abilities and perform better. Some suggestions include reading particular books or articles, going to training sessions, following other workers around, or doing similar work. By doing this, you may not only discover areas for improvement that you hadn’t thought of, but it also demonstrates your dedication to your team and job.

8. Be organized

Choose a system to monitor your development as you strive for improvement. To assist you in setting and achieving milestones and getting back to your peak performance levels, think about drafting a performance plan with guidance from your manager.

9. Control your emotions

Think about being mindful of your tone, as well as the material you bring to and present at your meeting. Try to be open to new ideas and concentrate solely on getting better rather than dwelling on the past or any issues you may have had with your supervisor. Practice speaking with a steady voice and reserving any negative emotions for after the meeting.

10. Send a follow-up email

Consider sending a follow-up email after your meeting to reiterate some of the main ideas you heard. This could make it easier for your manager to see in writing how you took the evaluation and the conversation. It might enable them to explain things to you if there was a misunderstanding. Think about including any follow-up queries you had following the meeting.

11. Clarify expectations

Keep in touch with your manager as you strive to improve your performance. Before beginning a project or completing a task that is unclear, consult with them. Ask them to elaborate if you have any questions about what is expected of you in a particular program. This demonstrates your dedication to raising your game and your desire to live up to their expectations for you.

12. Ask for more feedback

During the course of your reevaluation process, think about asking your manager for more frequent feedback. Additional meetings in between performance reviews or notes about actions specific to a project might be included. Making changes as soon as possible may help you realize where expectations and reality are out of sync.

13. Take time to grow

The reevaluation and growth process may take time. To see improvements, it might take weeks or months. Discuss a timeline for your short- and long-term goals with your manager.

14. Talk with human resources

If you still vehemently disagree with your manager’s evaluation of your performance after your meeting and discussion, think about speaking with your human resources division. Make an appointment with a human resources representative, and bring your supporting materials, notes, and a copy of your review. They may advise you to pursue additional options for resolving your dispute, such as a mediated meeting with your supervisor.

Sample response to a negative performance review

Use the following illustration to see a hypothetical example of how a worker might react to a poor performance review:

Angelica works for a mid-sized software company. She is a three-year member of her quality assurance team. Angelica’s manager received a promotion and a new supervisor six months ago. She learned that her performance review was available in her online employee portal on the last day of the quarter. Angelica was upset and angry after learning that she wasn’t meeting her production goals and that she lacked collaboration skills.

She waited a day before emailing her manager and setting up a meeting. Then, in order to comprehend what her new supervisor was seeing, she read her evaluation three more times. The evaluation revealed that she preferred to work alone in a team-based environment, not that she lacked collaboration skills, she noticed. Because she liked to leave early on Fridays, Angelica knew there were times when she preferred to work in her cubicle during the team lunches.

According to Angelica’s investigation into the company’s performance review guidelines, all new managers are required to identify at least one area for improvement in order to encourage their staff to set more varied goals. When she later assessed herself, she realized that while she could probably do a better job of mingling with her coworkers, her production targets were still above average. She later gathered statistics data reports and printed out copies of client appreciation emails for her quick turnaround on some projects. She also drafted inquiries about specific scenarios in which she could work more effectively with teammates.

Angelica took notes and listened to her boss’s comments during the meeting. Although Angelica prefers to work alone or in silence, they both agreed that she might benefit from spending more time with her coworkers. They decide to see if Shell’s relationships with her coworkers improve by having her attend Friday lunches twice a month for three months.

Angelica then requests information from her manager regarding specific instances where she fell short of her production targets and by how much. Her manager provided numbers that were different from the figures she obtained from her own records. Together, they discovered that the old supervisor’s records from the earlier quarters were not accessible to the new supervisor, which caused Angelica’s production rates to appear to have decreased noticeably in just six months. Her manager agreed to note the mistake in her review so it wouldn’t harm her chances of getting a promotion.

Angelica wrote a written improvement plan and sent it to her boss as a summary of their meeting in an email. Her boss thanked her for scheduling the meeting and urged her to keep getting better.


How do you return from a negative performance review?

Accept any legitimate criticism and describe your improvement strategy. Then bring up points you believe are incorrect, supporting them with specific examples. For instance, if your manager criticizes your time management abilities, show that you have in fact met all of your deadlines.

How do you address negativity in a performance review?

Here are seven tips to get you back on track:
  1. Allow Yourself to Feel Bummed Out. …
  2. Aim for a Sense of Perspective. …
  3. Set Clear Goals. …
  4. Create a Development Plan. …
  5. Ask for Ongoing Feedback. …
  6. Rebuild Your Other Relationships. …
  7. Be Consistent.

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