How to Respond to a Bad Performance Review

What to Do If You Feel an Evaluation is Unfair or Inaccurate

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Getting a bad performance review from your employer is devastating. No one enjoys learning their boss isn't pleased with their work and having that information in writing to live indefinitely in your employment file, makes it so much worse.

While worrying about losing your job is very stressful, receiving a bad performance review can also be very productive, as long as you respond appropriately. Feedback from your boss is important. It can reveal a lot of information about yourself and also about your boss.

If the review is accurate, use it as an opportunity to figure out ways to improve your performance. If however, after being brutally honest with yourself, you decide that the assessment is inaccurate, it may reveal that your boss is—either unintentionally or purposely—overlooking your accomplishments. These are the steps to follow after getting a bad performance review.

Wait Before Responding

The first thing to do is...nothing. Give yourself some time to calm down before making a move. In the immediate aftermath of the review, you may feel sad or angry. It can be dangerous to respond to your boss while in this state of mind. You may say something that you will regret later on.

Read and Analyze the Review

Take at least 24 hours to go over your boss's evaluation. This will give you time to carefully—and hopefully honestly—consider everything in it. Try to understand the feedback and come up with a list of questions about things that are confusing. Ask yourself if the criticism they gave is truly unjustified or if it just offends you. Don't let your feelings get in the way of objectivity.

Decide Whether to Meet With Your Boss

Meeting with your boss may not be mandatory in your organization, but it is usually a smart move. A face-to-face talk should provide a chance to share your point of view. Forgo a meeting if there is absolutely no chance your boss will listen to anything you have to say or any discussion will escalate into an argument.

When the criticism is fair, use the opportunity to create a plan, along with your boss, to improve your performance. Demonstrate that you are proactive by coming up with ideas to share during the meeting.

Make an Appointment

Don't just walk into your boss's office and demand to meet on the spot. Disrupting their workflow will set a negative tone for the meeting. Instead, follow your workplace protocol to schedule an appointment.

Present Your Case or Plan

The purpose of this meeting is to either refute your boss's negative feedback if you disagree with it or to present a plan to improve your performance if what they said rings true. Prepare for this step even before scheduling the appointment should your boss want to sit down with you sooner than expected.

Here's what to do if you disagree with a bad performance review:

  • Acknowledge any valid criticism and talk about your plan to improve.
  • Then bring up things you feel are inaccurate, using clear examples that back this up. For instance, if your boss says you have poor time management skills, provide proof that you have, indeed, met all your deadlines.
  • Be willing to change your mind. Your boss may bring up valid points during the meeting. If so, ask them to suggest ways to improve.

If you agree with your boss and the goal of the meeting is to present a plan to improve your performance, here's what to do:

  • Acknowledge you understand and agree with your boss's points.
  • Present a plan for improving your performance and ask for suggestions to help you do that.

During your meeting, do not:

  • Lose your temper no matter how angry you feel.
  • Cry regardless of how sad you are.
  • Blame your coworkers.
  • Make excuses.

Follow Up After Your Meeting

Send your boss an email reiterating everything discussed during the meeting. If there is a plan for improvement, put it in writing. Print the email out and keep it in a safe place. If you need evidence to back up claims that you are taking steps to improve your performance, you will have it.