Bad Performance Review? 6 Ways to Bounce Back

Ago 31, 2023 | Performance Management

It happens to everyone at some point in their career: a performance review that doesn’t go as planned. You may feel discouraged, but there are steps you can take to bounce back from a bad performance review.

Let’s take a closer look.

Table of Contents

1. How to Deal With a Bad Performance Review

2. How to Prepare for a Negative Performance Review

3. How to Learn from a Bad Performance Review

4. Preparing for Your Next Performance Review

5. How to Defend Yourself During a Bad Performance Review

6. How Not to Fear Your Next Performance Review

7. Signing a Negative Performance Review

8. Examples of a Written Response to a Bad Performance Review

9. Performance Review Software

10. The Bottom Line

How to Deal With a Bad Performance Review

First, take a deep breath.

A bad performance review isn’t the end of the world. It also isn’t the end of your career. Even constructive criticism can be difficult to hear. But, approach it with a growth mindset.

Here are some steps to help you bounce back from a bad performance review:

  • Acknowledge your weaknesses. Listen to what your supervisor says about your performance. Be open-minded. Is there merit to any of the criticisms? Are you under-performing?
  • Find the positives. It can be easy to focus only on the negative. Be sure to also acknowledge positive feedback you’ve received.
  • Make a plan for improvement. Create an actionable plan to address the points brought up in the review. Set specific goals and timelines for yourself. And, make sure to revisit the plan regularly. 
  • Take initiative. Make sure your supervisor knows about your plan for improvement. This allows them to offer support. Show your supervisor you’re serious about improving by responding positively to any ideas they suggest.
  • Follow up. Keep your supervisor in the loop. Give them updates on how your performance has improved or any progress you have made on the tasks they have given you.
  • Know when to walk away. If you have repeated bad performance reviews, your position may not be a good fit. There could be a better role for you in the company. Or, perhaps the office culture at the organisation is not right for you. In that case, you may want to start looking for opportunities elsewhere.

How to Prepare for a Negative Performance Review

If you’re expecting a bad review, there are some steps you can take to prepare. 

  • Talk to your supervisor. Take the time to speak frankly with your supervisor about any concerns they may have about your performance. This will give you an opportunity to address any problems that may come up during the review.
  • Know your strengths. Remember to focus on your strengths and the areas where you have been successful. Highlight your successes over the course of the year. Come to your meeting prepared to show where you shine.
  • Have a plan ready. Be prepared with an actionable plan for how you can improve upon any weaknesses that are mentioned in the review. This will show your supervisor that you are taking feedback seriously. It also shows you are working towards becoming a better employee. 

How to Learn from a Bad Performance Review

Hearing negative feedback is difficult. That said, it’s also an opportunity for reframing. Negative feedback can help you grow as an employee. In the end, a bad performance review may make you stronger.

  • Reflect. Take the time to digest the feedback and think about how you can use it to become a better employee. Don’t reflexively respond. Instead, take time to process what is being said.
  • Ask questions. If there is anything that you don’t understand, ask your supervisor for clarification. Questions show that you are engaging with the feedback. 
  • Don’t be defensive. Try not to take a bad performance review personally. Your value as a person is separate from your value as an employee. Focus on what you can do to improve your standing.
  • Self-evaluate. Evaluate yourself honestly and without bias. Look for evidence that supports your supervisor’s point.

Preparing for Your Next Performance Review

Naturally, after a bad performance review, you’ll feel anxiety about your next one. Follow these tips to make sure your next evaluation goes smoothly.

  • Listen to feedback. Take feedback seriously and strive to meet your supervisor’s expectations.
  • Demonstrate progress. Track the progress you’ve made since your last performance review. What wins have you had? How have you grown? Bring a list of talking points. Hard data and documentation are helpful.
  • Check in often. Rather than waiting for a performance review, check with your supervisor on a regular basis. Not only will this help you stay on track, it will also help you know what to expect during your review. Regular workplace feedback means you won’t be caught off-guard.
  • Ask for help. If you need support to improve your performance, ask your supervisor. A proactive approach shows you’re committed to doing better.

How to Defend Yourself During a Bad Performance Review

There’s a fine line between defending yourself and being defensive. Naturally, you want to state your case. But protest too much and you may come across as uncooperative. Here’s how to stand your ground and still stay professional.

  • Remain calm. Even if the conversation gets heated, keep control over your emotions. Nothing positive comes from a hostile confrontation. 
  • Stick to facts. Base your arguments on facts rather than emotion. Use data to make your case rather than your feelings or the opinions of others.
  • Be assertive but respectful. Defend yourself, but also be respectful of your supervisor’s opinion. Just as you wish to be heard, your supervisor also deserves to be heard. Don’t dismiss what they’re saying.
  • Take notes. You don’t necessarily need to defend yourself in the moment. Take notes during the review. And, ask for clarification on anything you don’t understand. If needed, collect yourself and address the feedback later.
  • Get another opinion. Ultimately, it may be necessary to get additional feedback from a third party. If your supervisor isn’t willing to back down on certain points, you may need to seek out a mediator.

How Not to Fear Your Next Performance Review

Man and woman meeting to talk about a bad performance review
Credit: Amy Hirschi/Unsplash

Anxiety is often a fear of the unknown. For some, grappling with situations they cannot control can be difficult as well. Try to focus on what you do know and can control. Here are tips for how to approach your next review without fear:

  • Focus on the positive. Remember all of the successes and achievements that you had during this period. In addition, think of how you’ve grown since your bad performance review.
  • Take action. Remind yourself that you can take action to address any areas of improvement. This will help you feel empowered and in control.
  • Be proactive. Don’t wait for the review to come around before you start making improvements. Instead, be proactive and work on making positive changes throughout the year. 
  • Meet with your supervisor often. Circling back to a previous point, regular meetings will help you know what to expect during a review. Better still, it will increase your comfort with your supervisor.

Signing a Negative Performance Review

In short, no. You are not required to sign a bad performance review. That said, the Society for Human Resource Management warns that there may be negative consequences.

Before you make the decision not to sign a bad review, consider talking with someone in HR about your options. Depending on the content of the bad performance review, you may wish to seek legal advice.

If you decide not to sign the review, it is important to keep a record of all your work and successes throughout the year. This will help support your claims that your performance was satisfactory. Ideally, it will also ensure that negative reviews don’t overshadow the good work that you did.

Examples of a Written Response to a Bad Performance Review

A written response is a good idea if you have trouble responding in the moment. It gives you time to gather your thoughts, along with any documentation that makes your case. 

When responding to a negative review, keep your message professional and respectful. While you will want to respond to specific criticisms, here are some general ideas for beginning a written response:

  • Thank you for taking the time to provide me with feedback on my performance. I understand there are areas where I need to improve. I am eager to learn from this experience and work towards becoming a better employee.
  • I appreciate the constructive feedback in this review and I am committed to improving in these areas. Moving forward, I am eager to meet your expectations for my work.
  • Thank you for your thoughtful feedback on my performance. I would like to discuss further what steps I can take going forward to improve upon the areas discussed in this review.

Performance Review Software

The advantage of performance review software is that it offers objective metrics and documentation. In addition, it adds transparency to the review process. Anonymous feedback and 360 reviews bring in the opinions of others to bolster a supervisor’s feedback.

Performance review software can be used to track performance, set goals, capture feedback from employees, and measure progress against those goals. Consistent use of this software means no bad performance review feels like it’s coming out of left field.

This type of software is also helpful in keeping employees on track and motivated. Employers are better able to reward employees for their successes. This helps employees feel that their efforts are being recognised. Also, any weaknesses can be identified. These gaps can be addressed by providing additional support.

Overall, performance review software can help create a more efficient review process. It allows organisations to ensure that reviews are being conducted fairly and objectively. This is beneficial for employee morale. It ensures that everyone is held accountable for their performance, without any personal feelings getting in the way.

The Bottom Line

No matter how negative a bad performance review may be, you have an opportunity for growth and improvement. Use the review as a catalyst to become better at your job. And never be afraid to ask for help when you need it. With dedication and hard work, you can overcome the disappointment of an unexpected bad review.

Ready to take your employee performance reviews to the next level? Demo our performance management software!

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