- A bad performance review can be extremely disheartening. The harsher the criticism, the harder it feels to bounce back.
- Bad performance reviews can be transformed into a positive learning experience. Look at the situation from your manager's perspective to better understand the criticism.
- Develop a plan on how to improve your work performance after a poor review. Chat often with your manager to confirm that you're on the right track at work.
When you go into your annual performance review, you might have sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach. Typically, these meetings aren't as painful as we anticipate – at least, not for most. Some workers aren't so lucky.
5 terrible performance reviews
Reflektive, a performance management platform, asked individuals to share their most cringeworthy experience with reviews. Check out these five worst performance reviews ever.
1. "My ex-manager: 'Your greatest strength ... your listening abilities. Well, there might not actually be anything going on in your head, but you seem like you're listening."
2. "Higher-level position years ago – boss spent 70% of the review talking [about] her husband, [and] 30% was in-the-weeds process recommendations like, 'If a team member removed paper clips from incoming documents, that's a big process improvement.'"
[Read related article: 6 Tips for Writing an Effective Performance Review]
3. "I resigned two days after my performance review. That says it all, surely? I was working for a big corporation at a time when, yes, I was starting to question my role and next steps. As part of a leadership coaching course, I was given my boss's boss as a mentor. I arrived quite excited at the idea of being mentored and discussing the next steps. Instead, he looks at me and says I have huge potential, but he feels like I have one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake. Then he looks at me and says, 'Are you in or are you out?'"
4. "In one of the organizations I worked in, we were asked to fill out pages of answers to open-ended subjective questions. We did … only to find out later that our manager had already filled in his ratings before he left for vacation a week before we started writing the reviews. Our painstakingly written answers and responses had absolutely no purpose apart from making us feel like we were writing something up."
5. "I went in for my 30-day review all excited about all I'd been able to do in a newly created position. I was told that I hadn't done anything they had wanted me to do even after he admitted that they hadn't decided what they wanted to measure the position on; they just knew I hadn't done it. I had been meeting with my supervisor for a one-on-one every week and he'd never said anything. I upped my documentation, reporting, project management, asked for more feedback and clearer expectations, only to sit down at my six-month review and get told a similar story: My work was exemplary, but it wasn't what they wanted. I left that company, and the person after me lasted six months too."
For more, read Reflektive's blog post on the worst performance reviews. Do you have a story to tell? Share your own experiences and tag us on Twitter!
Tips for dealing with a bad performance review
The most important thing to do after a bad performance review is rein in your initial reaction. You may feel hostile or angry after a poor review. However, if you react hastily, you could end up saying something you regret. Instead, take at least a day or two to consider the feedback before deciding how to respond. When you're alone, feel free to recognize your disappointment. Don't wallow in despair over the review, but you can allow yourself to feel upset that it didn't go well.
When you feel calmer about the situation, create distance in your mind from the review as a way to better evaluate your performance. Imagine you have switched places with your manager and try to see things from their perspective. When you try to remain objective, you may find that the manager had some valid points.
Follow up with the reviewer. After taking some time to reflect, reach out to your manager. Ask follow-up questions that you may not have thought of during the performance review. For instance, you may want more concrete examples of times you didn't handle a task well. Look for suggestions on what you could've done differently to achieve a better outcome.
- Set goals for yourself. No one wants two poor performance reviews in a row. Instead, develop a plan to improve your work ethic. Talk to your manager about your goals to confirm that you take the feedback seriously and want to focus on moving forward.
- Ask for more frequent performance reviews. Your initial instinct may be to avoid future performance reviews completely. However, you will benefit more from collecting feedback often to help you stay on track at work.