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How to Handle a Negative Performance Review

It Can Happen to Anyone

Negative performance reviews can happen to even the most hard-working and successful employees
Today, we live and work
in a world of feedback

Negative performance reviews can and have happened to even the most hard-working, successful and diligent employees.  Criticism and critiques can be hard for anyone to take, especially in your job where you are constantly striving to do your best. If you have received or think you are on the road to receiving a negative review, we offer up some helpful tips below to best deal with the situation and hopefully come out on top.

Managing and rising above a negative performance review:

  • Maintain your composure and professionalism, at least until the review is over and you are outside the office. You can let your boss know you are surprised or disappointed, but don't get emotional or defensive.  If you do get overly emotional, try to buy some time to react to your review by requesting the opportunity to mull things over. Set up another meeting as soon as possible, and come back with a plan for how to address the issues raised during the review.
  • Listen intently to what your boss has to say, and take notes. Don’t interrupt. The more you understand the expectations of your boss, her view of what you do very well and what she would like to see improved upon, the greater the opportunity you have to succeed. If you become defensive or try to justify, you will miss the opportunity to understand your boss and how to turn this situation into something beneficial for you.
  • Ask for clarification regarding situations, behaviors, or recommendations that could be open to interpretation, or ones you feel unclear about. Ask questions to help you understand your boss’ perspective, rather than defend yourself.
  • Don’t try to argue points, defend, or justify anything. It's not a debate. By the time you hear your review, it's too late to fix it. The past can’t be changed, so focus instead on the future and what you need to do to fix things.
  • Keep an open mind. Consider the criticisms as useful and meaningful feedback that you can utilize to grow and develop your skills and abilities. Remember – perceiving setbacks as opportunities actually helps make them so.
  • Ask for your boss’ input and get advice on how to resolve any negatives discussed in your review. Once you’ve figured out what you can do to improve your work situation, you need to convey that plan to your boss so she knows that you took the criticism seriously and that you’re willing to change.
  • At the end of the meeting, thank your boss for her feedback. Tell her you understand her points, even if you do not agree with all of them, and that you are going to spend some time thinking about ways to improve in the areas she mentioned.
  • Keep communications open even though you may want to go into hiding. Talk more to your boss to ensure he is aware of the steps you're taking to improve your performance. Keep him informed of instances where you solved a difficult issue. Meet with your boss in a few weeks or a few months to see how your new approach is working and if there’s anything you need to tweak or change.
  • Don’t define yourself by a negative review. Remember the ancient Chinese proverb, “Failure is not falling down, it’s refusing to get up after you’ve fallen.”


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