How to Deal With a Negative Performance Review

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Your annual appraisal is an important career milestone, but if you don’t get the result you were expecting, your motivation is likely to take a serious battering. Performance reviews depend on a lot of work in the preceding 12-month period, and sometimes the outcome isn’t what you are expecting. If you’re not happy with your annual appraisal, use the following strategies to turn a negative performance review into a positive career opportunity.

Get things into perspective

It’s completely natural to feel defensive about a negative review, but it’s important to get things into perspective. Are you really bothered about your performance review result, or are you just generally unhappy in your current role? You must make sure that you really have grounds to feel aggrieved about your appraisal, before you take any action. What is the impact of the result? Will your pay and bonus suffer, or is it really just a paper exercise? It’s possible that you may find it easier to write the thing off, and focus your mind on something more worthwhile.

Gather your evidence

If you want your manager to reconsider the results of your appraisal, you need to find strong evidence that proves the output was unfair. Review the appraisal document thoroughly, and pick out each point that you want to challenge. For each unfair comment, pull together evidence that proves your case. Use feedback from your peers or customers to make your point, and substantiate with data and statistics. Remember that you are challenging somebody’s opinion, so you are going to have to pull together facts, if you want to correct it.

Sit down with the reviewing manager

It’s important to make sure that the reviewing manager knows that you aren’t happy with the results as soon as possible. Try not to react negatively in the initial review meeting, and give yourself time to think and consider your next steps. Book a separate session at a mutually convenient time, and plan carefully all the things you want to say. Don’t batter the reviewing manager with a list of criticisms and complaints. Find things in the appraisal that you can agree with, so it doesn’t look you are not willing to accept any negative feedback. Above all, make it clear that you don’t agree with the results, and that you want an opportunity for a further review.

Consider the outcome you want

Dealing with unfair criticism is difficult because people focus solely on what the reviewing manager has said, and not what they would like to see happen next. If your manager has made a specific comment, think about what you want him or her to say instead. Do you want the manager to completely remove a statement, or are you just looking for more detail to better explain the point? A manager is probably willing to make a number of small, important changes, but it is much harder to get a complete rewrite. Think sensibly about the outcome you want, and the result you are likely to get.

Decide if you’re ready for formal action

When you decide to challenge a performance review, it’s important to remember that you may have a battle on your hands. If the reviewing manager is not willing to budge, you’ll need to speak to HR and or follow the company’s formal grievance procedure, and that’s not necessarily a step you want to take.  In many cases, the best outcome that you can reach is to make your comments known in the response section, or simply lodge that you don’t agree with the document in a formal letter. Long-winded, formal action may cause more damage than good, and savvy career professionals should always know which battles to fight.

An unfair annual appraisal is a big blow to your confidence, but you should always focus on taking construction action. Some changes or redress may become possible, but you may also need to learn how to accept the outcome and move on.

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To learn more about the writer, Jeanette Hannan [click here].