What to Do if You Receive a Bad Performance Review

A bad performance review—especially one you are not expecting—can be devastating. The emotions you may experience include anger, embarrassment, denial, disappointment, confusion, or shock. You might even be worried that your job is in jeopardy. For certain, your confidence will be shaken.

What should you do to make the best of the situation?

1. Maintain your professionalism.

While it’s tempting to get angry or defensive, especially if you feel the review is unfair or inaccurate, you need to control your emotions. Nothing will be gained by reacting poorly toward your boss.

Your best approach in the moment is to listen, ask questions, and gain as much detail as you can about why your boss gave you this review.

2. Ask for a follow-up meeting.

Once you’ve calmed down—at least a day or two later—you should ask for another meeting with your boss to better understand the review.

You should assure your boss that you are not there to contest the review but rather to learn how you can improve your performance. Come with prepared questions and always ask for examples of what you should be doing differently.

3. Develop a performance improvement plan.

Maybe you have to change certain behaviours, learn new skills, take further training, or try new approaches. Whatever the steps, work jointly with your boss to develop this action plan. You should also include measurable outcomes as part of this plan.

4. Obtain feedback from others.

There is usually a difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us. This is why you should seek advice from trusted colleagues who have observed you in the workplace. Share the performance review comments with them and ask for their unbiased feedback.

Close friends or family will help comfort you, for sure, but they are not the best in giving objective advice.

5. Ask for an interim review.

Most performance reviews (unfortunately) are only done annually. If you’ve received a bad review, you cannot wait until next year to find out how you are doing. Ask for an interim review, say, in a month or three months, to check in with your boss. They will appreciate your desire to get feedback on how things are going.

One last thing.

Many successful people have failed at one time or another in their careers. Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs were all fired from their jobs but used those failures to go onto bigger and better things.

The true test of your character is how you use your bad performance review to get better.