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Working Wise: How to Respond to a Bad Performance Review

Dear Working Wise,

After receiving years of great performance reviews from different managers I just received a bad one from my new manager. I don’t think he was fair. He minimized my achievements and emphasized a couple of negative things. Can I challenge the evaluation?
Signed, Furious

August 10, 2016

Dear Furious,

Most of us take pride in what we do and how we do it. I can understand why you feel upset—you probably feel underappreciated, attacked, and cheated—but you will have to put your feelings aside to avoid making things worse.

There are some things that you can do to actively manage the issue and avoid another negative review.

First, keep doing a good job, getting along with others, and maintain a positive attitude. Don’t discuss your review—or your feelings about your manager—with co-workers.

Address the Review

  1. Take a day to calm down and separate emotion from fact. Was it actually a negative review or did your new manager simply provide some constructive criticism for you to work on?
  2. Read your review again with an open mind. Try to put yourself in your manager’s shoes—is he at least partially right?
  3. Make a list of the points you agree with and the points you disagree on. Gather proof to strengthen your arguments, such as, commendations, emails, kudos, successes, facts and numbers, etc., that show your contributions.
  4. Find out if your employer has a formal appeal process. If so, follow it.
  5. If not, ask your manager for a meeting to discuss your performance review.
  6. Be calm, respectful, professional and constructive during the meeting.
  7. Reassure your manager that you value your job and that you are committed to ensuring that your next review is great.
  8. Acknowledge the criticisms you agree with and what you plan to do to improve.
  9. Raise the criticisms you disagree with and present your evidence. Ask your manager to explain his concerns—ask for specific examples to help you better understand.
  10. Ask him for specific suggestions how you can improve. Use this opportunity to clarify his expectations and ensure your job description reflects your current role.
  11. Develop an action plan that you both agree will address all the concerns. Capture your plan in writing so neither of you forgets what you agreed.
  12. Don’t wait a year—ask for a 3-month follow-up meeting to discuss your progress. You will avoid surprises and you will be able to remind your manager that you are working to the plan that both of you created. He can also use this meeting to raise any new concerns before they end up on your permanent record.
  13. If your meeting doesn’t go well, ask your manager to attach a response letter to your appraisal. Your response letter should politely, respectfully, and professionally acknowledge the issues you agree with and what you plan to do to address them along with the points you disagree with.

A performance review should not be full of surprises—it is a review, not a reveal. If your manager is not giving you regular performance feedback, start asking what you are doing right and wrong so you can avoid a disappointing review next year.

Check out the Manage Your Manager article on the ALIS website to help you make the most of that important working relationship.

Good luck!

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/rilueda

Working Wise is a syndicated newspaper column prepared by the Government of Alberta to answer work-related questions from Albertans. Do you have a work-related question? You can send it to Charles Strachey (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca), a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services.

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