Home » What to Do When You Get a Bad Performance Review
By ☆ Published: October 24, 2017, 3:00 am (updated 7 years ago)

What to Do When You Get a Bad Performance Review

Got told your job performance isn’t up to par? The answer isn’t at the bottom of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Your response can change everything.

There are certain feelings you start to leave behind after adolescence. The intense anxiety of a first date. The raw shame of being scolded by a parent. The unbridled excitement of Christmas morning.

You might think the churning feeling in the pit of your stomach after failing a test goes away, too. Until you get a bad performance review at work.

There’s nothing worse than being told you’re doing a bad job. It’s a confidence killer and can leave you questioning your entire career. It just sucks.

But a successful career comes from moving past adversity, and a bad review isn’t the end of the world. What really matters is how you move forward from it.

If you got torn apart on your latest review, here’s how you can put yourself back together.

Commiserate and cool off.

I remember my first official performance review. I was so excited. Growing up, I remembered my parents getting performance reviews once a year, usually followed by a hefty annual bonus or raise.

When I sat down, I expected to get a glowing review, full of remarks about my hard work, dedication, and ingenuity – followed by a nice fat check.

Unfortunately, that’s not what I got. While my boss was complimentary, he was also quick to point out my flaws, many of which I hadn’t noticed. I was blindsided and furious, but in the meeting, I remained stoic and professional. I considered that an emotional triumph, even if I wanted to go cry in the bathroom.

I went back to my office, closed the door and took a few moments to breathe. Then, I went to the nearby CVS to pick up some chocolate and call my mom.

I was so disappointed in myself. I remember staring at the official performance review with my total score on it, a 3.5 out of 5. Didn’t my boss like me? Wasn’t I doing well? I felt like a high schooler again, freaking out after a bad test score.

Venting to my mom made me feel better, as did inhaling a bunch of junk food. After I returned to the office, I decided that I liked my job and wanted to get better at it, even if meant facing some things I didn’t know about myself.

If you get a bad review, take time to cool off before you respond to your supervisor. Responding well to criticism is a key component of being a good employee. Pouting or whining about your review will only make you look worse, feel worse, and fail to improve.

Instead, look closely at what your boss said. Realize that more than likely, they’re just trying to help you become better at your job. The more you improve, the better off you’ll be, so try to see a bad review as an opportunity.

Talk to other people at work.

If you’re still not convinced that your boss is on point with her criticism, talk to other people at work to see if they agree. Remember that they may hesitate to be honest with you, hoping to avoid hurting your feelings. Make it crystal clear that you really want the honest-to-goodness truth.

Even if your coworkers do agree with your supervisor’s assessment, they should be able to remind you of your strengths and valuable contributions as well. Maybe they’ll be able to share their own stories of bad reviews. Getting an outside perspective can help you see that this isn’t the worst news you could possibly get.

Ask your boss questions.

When you get a bad review, it can leave you spinning. You might be too focused on getting out of the room ASAP instead of trying to understand what you did wrong. However, it’s important to leave an evaluation with a clear idea of what you’re doing badly and how to correct it.

For example, if your boss says your presentations aren’t persuasive, you need to figure out why. Are they too boring? Are you not identifying your client’s pain points? Where exactly are your weak spots?

It might seem embarrassing to ask for a breakdown of your flaws when you’d rather highlight your strengths, but it’s important to dig deep into the criticism. Your boss needs to know you understand how you can improve or they won’t feel confident in your abilities. They’ll be impressed if you clearly want to get better, and disappointed if you try to walk past any criticism.

Follow up later.

Once you’ve had a chance to look over the review and implement the necessary changes, find your boss a month or so later and ask them if they’ve noticed any differences. You want to make sure what you’re doing is working, and make your desire to improve clear to your boss.

You can schedule a formal meeting to determine if the changes are working. Even if you’re still falling short, your boss should appreciate your resolve to find a solution. Remember, employers like problem solvers, so always come prepared with other ideas that might work.

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What to Do When You Get a Bad Performance Review was last modified: October 31st, 2017 by Zina Kumok

One thought on “What to Do When You Get a Bad Performance Review”

  1. If you were blindsided in your review then your boss isn’t doing his or her job. A manager should be providing regular feedback throughout the year, both good and bad.

    That said, in my company a 3.5 out of 5 is pretty good. Only the very top performers get a 4 or above. 3.5 is considered steady and valued. Of course that depends on your company’s philosophy.

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