How to Overcome a Poor Performance Review

Do not let a poor performance review shatter your confidence.
Do not let a poor performance review shatter your confidence. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

A poor performance review can be demoralizing, especially if you have tried your best to do a good job. You may feel tempted to stop trying or, worse still, quit your job. But it is not the end of the world -- or your career. You can overcome a poor review -- and use the experience to improve your job performance -- so take a deep breath and prepare to overcome this temporary setback.

Things You'll Need

  • Completed performance review
  • Job description
  • Performance statistics

During the Review

Listen carefully when your employer expresses dissatisfaction with any aspect of your performance or skill-set, clarifying any points that may be ambiguous. If you disagree with anything she says, calmly explain why. Offer facts -- not excuses -- and remain rational.

Read the review before adding your signature. Do not refuse to sign -- you are merely confirming the content of your discussions -- but do ask for clarification if any of the written points fail to reflect your understanding of the conversation. In the section for employee's comments, explain that you would welcome some time to digest the content of the review before providing specific feedback.

Ask your reviewer to schedule a second meeting to discuss the way forward. Explain that you need time to mull over the review and work out how you can improve your performance. Ideally, the review outcome should not come as a shock to an employee, as managers have a duty to provide ongoing feedback. You need time to reflect not only on the review outcome but also on performance and feedback throughout the review period.

After the Review

Write to your reviewer confirming the date and time of the follow-up meeting. Retain a copy of the communication for your records.

Obtain a copy of your employer's HR policy on performance reviews. There is likely to be a section dealing with poor reviews -- if so, study this. If there is no section specific to poor reviews, study the section dealing with post-review actions.

Reread your performance review. If you feel a criticism is justified, make a note of any reason for the identified shortcoming and detail any mitigating circumstance. Consider how you, or your manager, can act to make the necessary improvements. If you truly feel that a comment is unjustified, make a note to ask your reviewer to clarify by way of example or explanation.

Analyze the performance statistics applicable to your role. If you failed to meet targets, deadlines or quotas, identify the reasons for this and decide whether you could have done anything more, or differently, to achieve your goals. If you feel that organizational support was lacking, decide what your employer could have done to enhance your outcomes.

Compare your job description with the points discussed in your review. If the reviewer has expectations that exceed job requirements, make a note to discuss these. If your job description is open to interpretation, highlight any areas requiring clarification.

Study the information you have gathered and the notes you have made. List the points you wish to raise at the follow-up meeting. Delete anything that is trivial or inconsequential -- you do not want to come across as someone who cannot take even the smallest note of criticism.

Prepare an outline development plan. Describe your personal goals and explain how you intend to achieve them. Include formal training, on-the-job support, personal study, changes in your working practices -- anything you are willing to do to improve your performance. Be clear on how your employer can provide support.

Open your follow-up meeting on a positive note. Explain that you appreciate the chance to review the feedback. Acknowledge any valid criticism included in your review, explaining that you have analyzed the reasons for this and included remedial suggestions in a draft development plan. Where criticism is invalid -- or if shortcomings occurred because of organizational issues -- calmly explain your position. Request clarification or examples where necessary.

Ask your reviewer to alter -- or produce an addendum to -- the performance review document if he concedes any points. Do not gloat. Explain that you appreciate the opportunity to provide and obtain clarification.

Present your outline development plan for discussion. Be open-minded to further suggestions; this is a two-way process. Agree the way forward and schedule interim performance reviews to monitor progress.

Close the follow-up meeting by confirming the agreed plan. Suggest that you draw up a document, setting out the points of action, for approval and signature by both parties.

Set up a file to hold evidence of your performance going forward. In your file, place copies of performance statistics, notes of training and development activities, correspondence regarding performance, dated notes of events that impact your job, notes of conversations with your manager and feedback from your colleagues or customers. Maintain a frank and open dialog with your reviewer and embrace the opportunity to showcase your progress at your next meeting.

Tips & Warnings

  • Decide how much you are prepared to invest in your career with your current employer before agreeing to an action plan. Agree to something that you are unwilling or unable to follow through and you will be heading for a rocky ride at your next performance review.
  • Never tell your reviewer she is wrong -- seek clarification, and if you still disagree, express a different view and back it up with facts.
  • Do not express your discontent to colleagues or engage in gossip about your reviewer.

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