How to Respond to a Bad Performance Review

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

Businessman sitting in front of a laptop in an office
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Many employers conduct annual performance reviews of their workers. If you are like most people, this is something you probably dread. A positive evaluation can leave you feeling great, but a negative one can devastate you. It can make you worry about losing your job, which will cause a lot of stress.

Your fear may not be unfounded. In many cases, however, a bad performance review can be very productive. You can learn a lot from the feedback, both about yourself and your boss. It can help you figure out how to improve your performance, but it can also tell you whether your boss is impossible to please. Here is what you can do if you get a bad performance review:

Wait Before You Respond

After receiving a bad performance review, you may feel sad or even angry. Beware of responding to your boss while you are in this state of mind. Your emotions may make you say something to your boss you will regret later on. Hold off at least until the next day before you do or say anything.

Read and Analyze the Review

Take at least 24 hours to consider your boss's evaluation carefully. Try to understand the feedback. Ask yourself if the criticism he or she gave you is indeed unjustified or if you are just offended by it. Your feelings may get in the way of being objective, so try to set them aside.

Decide Whether You Should Meet With Your Boss

Unless he or she requires it, you don't have to meet with your boss after receiving your review, but you should consider doing it anyway. If you disagree with your boss's feedback,  a face-to-face talk will give you a chance to share your point of view. If you decide his criticism is fair, you can use the opportunity to create a plan to improve your performance. Come up with ideas on your own that you can share during the meeting.

Make an Appointment

Don't just walk into your boss's office and demand to meet on the spot. You will disrupt her workflow and doing this will set a bad tone for the meeting. Instead, schedule an appointment following the protocol in your workplace.

Present Your Case or Your Plan

When you meet with your boss, you will need to either explain why you disagree with his assessment or, if you think it is fair, present your plan for improving your performance. Prepare for this step even before you schedule your appointment just in case it happens sooner than you expect. Here are strategies to use, depending on your opinion of the review and the goal of the meeting.

If the goal of meeting with your boss is to refute his claims, here's what you should do:

  • You should acknowledge any criticism you feel is valid and talk about how you will make improvements.
  • Then bring up the points you think are untrue. Explain why you feel that way making sure to use clear examples. For instance, if your boss says you have poor time management skills, provide proof that you do, indeed, meet deadlines. Present email and any other concrete evidence to back up your statements.
  • Address any feedback you receive during this meeting and ask for suggestions for improvements.

    If you have come to the conclusion that the bad performance review is, in fact, valid, here's what you should do:

    • Acknowledge that you understand your boss's points.
    • Present a plan for improving your performance.
    • Ask her for suggestions to help you do that.

    Be sure not to do any of the following things during your meeting:

    • Don't lose your temper no matter how angry you feel.
    • Don't cry regardless of how sad you are.
    • Don't blame your coworkers.
    • Don't make excuses.

    Follow Up

    Send your boss an email that reiterates some of the things you discussed during your meeting. Repeat the improvement plan you developed. Print it the email and keep it in a safe place in case you need evidence that you are taking all the right steps to do a better job.