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4 Tips to Handle a Bad Performance Review

In an ideal scenario, you go into your year-end review prepared, after 12 months of regularly meeting with your boss and getting her feedback as she observes your behavior on the job. You know what you're going to get and you're ready for it. But quite often, this is not the case – your manager hardly has any time to stop, you're caught up between projects and putting out fires, and you're lucky if you can catch a breather. So what do you do when you're having your performance review discussion with your manager and it isn't really going so well?

In an ideal scenario, you go into your year-end review prepared, after 12 months of regularly meeting with your boss and getting her feedback as she observes your behavior on the job. You know what you’re going to get and you’re ready for it. But quite often, this is not the case – your manager hardly has any time to stop, you’re caught up between projects and putting out fires, and you’re lucky if you can catch a breather. So what do you do when you’re having your performance review discussion with your manager and it isn’t really going so well?

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(Photo Credit: Hub/Flickr)

1. Listen before you speak.

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Understand the feedback that your manager is sharing. What is the concern? Before you try to defend yourself, listen to what your manager has to say. The way you accept and act on the feedback can actually work in your favor in the future. If you are receptive and earnest in achieving the best results, you are less work for your manager – she will see that you are actually keen on bettering your performance, which is a good thing.

2. Understand that you are (hopefully!) not the problem.

Separate the issue from yourself. The problem is with something you did, not with you. So stop beating yourself up and figure out a way to fix it. If it’s the way you handled a project, for example, ask your manager and your teammates to give you feedback on what went wrong and how you can avoid it in the future.

3. Tone that temper down.

Some managers do not do the necessary research to find out what’s at the crux of the matter. Performance reviews are just a checklist for them and they want to just get done with them. Other managers will give weight to a difficult client’s review rather than consider the problems you’ve had during the project.

The thing to remember here is, the review is already done. Your rating has been recorded and you’re only receiving the review. Unless your organization has a policy where you can contest your review, your outburst is not going to help; on the contrary, you will be perceived as a belligerent employee. So wait for your turn to speak and offer your counterpoints to what your manager has brought up as calmly as possible. You can express your disappointment, not your disgust.

4. Be proactive.

It’s your career, your review. So make a conscious effort to seek input about your projects, at least until you’re able to figure out your manager’s work style and preferences.

Let your manager know that you want to set up some time to seek ongoing feedback. Considering that you are already acting on your review and are proactively reaching out to better your performance, your manager should be happy to comply. If you are unable to get regular one-on-one time, reserve some time during your project update meetings to get a sense of what your manager thinks of your work.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever had a bad performance review, and if so, how did you handle it? Tell us your story in the comments below or by joining the conversation on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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